- This time on "Tennessee Crossroads" we take in a kayaking adventure on the Harpeth River, then travel the back roads to a popular diner near Fort Campbell. We will discover the craftsmanship of Clear Branch Woodworks in Manchester and explore how history's on display at Cragfont Mansion in Castalian Springs. Hi everyone, I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome again to another edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." The famous environmentalist John Muir once said that with every walk in nature, one receives more than he seeks. That also goes for paddling too. That's what Cindy Carter discovered along with her trusty kayak on the beautiful Harpeth River near Kingston Springs. - [Cindy] In a busy world, the path to inner peace just may be a peaceful waterway, one that meanders through middle Tennessee. The Harpeth River is that mostly gentle ride that beckons kayakers, canoers, anglers, and anyone else longing to unplug. A day on the Harpeth is a beautiful alternative to the daily grind. - Life is hard enough and if you can find a place where you can find solace or peace, even in everything that's going on in the world today, we can come here and it seems like nothing is going on at all. Jennifer Anglin and Page Sigmund are frequent floaters on the Harpeth. - Yes, I like the scenery. I like that it's constantly flowing. - [Cindy] The ladies join a multitude of locals who never pass up the opportunity to slow things down. - We prefer to get into a flowing river so that we don't have to worry about actually paddling. So we get out here to just relax and enjoy ourselves and talk about life and solve all the world's problems. - [Cindy] The Harpeth stretches more than a hundred miles. It's proximity to Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee means plenty of people test these waters, where the river flows through Cheatham, Davidson and Williamson counties. - There's like enough Rapids to where it's fun, but it's not like overly, not like too much for some people. - [Cindy] The Harpeth's fun-for-all-ages reputation keeps kayak and canoe rental businesses like Foggy Bottom pretty busy. - Could you also give me your phone number, please? - [Cindy] Especially in the summertime. - On a average summer day, you could describe it as a big wide creek because 99% of it, you could wade it, and there's a few places over your head, but most of it's waist deep. - [Cindy] Owner, Pat Hutcherson, started with six canoes and never dreamed her little business would grow this big. Her employee, Mason Smith, says these days, people from everywhere want to play on the Harpeth. - The majority are family, but we do have some country folk that come out and just wanna have fun and then city people, who've never done it before and that's the most interesting. We even have some people out of the country who come here and it's really fun. - [Female] Oh, this is hard to balance. Okay. - The steady stream of paddlers launch into the river and let the current carry them away for as long as they like. The Harpeth is scenic. No, truly it is. The state has officially designated it as so. And not only that this river has played a significant role in Tennessee's rich history. For hundreds of years, the Harpeth was an important resource for Native Americans. Later, the areas iron industry grew strong along its banks. The river also played a prominent role in the Battle of Franklin. Though time moved on beyond the Harpeth's banks, when you're on the water, it seems to stand still. - [Mason] When you're on the river, it's just, no one has anything to worry about because they're just thinking like, Oh, we're just on the river. They're not worried about work or school or anything like that. - [Cindy] Our "Tennessee Crossroads" crew wholeheartedly agrees. This assignment felt little like work and more like fun as we captured the sounds and sights this river is famous for. - There's a lot of hawks that fly by. I've seen tons of turtles on the logs. It's really cute. Few snakes I don't wanna see, but there's been a lot of wildlife. - If you go early, you'll see the deer and all the the cranes. What else? Groundhogs, you'll see everything. Oh, and the Bald Eagles. That's what you'll see if you go early. - [Cindy] And as cool as the critters and changing scenery can be, it's also fun to cool off and take a dip whenever the mood strikes or pull over for a picnic on a gravel bar or sit back and soak up the sun. Simple pleasures are simply the best. - Fish flopping is a sound for me personally, that I find to be very therapeutic, that little noise that they make when they flip over so it's just fun to be out in wildlife. - [Cindy] So when you feel like leaving the fast track, the scenic Harpeth River is only a stones throw away. The gentle journey past wildlife and picturesque scenery could be the escape you're looking for. - Thanks Cindy. Next, we stop in the little town of Lafayette, Kentucky, and the only business I've seen where you can buy a sack of nails and a home cooked meal. The Brick Oven Grill and Deli is a popular road trip destination near Clarksville and it's all thanks to three family members who found the right recipe for home cooked hospitality. Welcome to Main Street in Lafayette, Kentucky, population 167, the quiet hometown of a bustling business, the Brick Oven Grill and Deli. - We get them from Hopkinsville, Clarksville, Dover, Bumpus Mills. We had a couple and two different people in this week from Nashville that came just to try our fried pies. - How are y'all? - [Joe] So what's the secret to this little surprising success story? Well, first a little history. The building goes back to 1937 when A.B. Lander opened it as the largest hardware store in Kentucky. Back then Lafayette was a lively town with several businesses and even a movie theater, but in 1942, the U.S. Army came along and built nearby Fort Campbell. Soon Lafayette was no longer a major thoroughfare. The hardware store survived though and eventually Becky Nichols, her mom, Carolyn and Aunt Kathy decided to make a bold move. - We bought it in 2011 and we bought it as a general store and it was John Henry's general store, we named it after my grandfather, and we served a few hamburgers and cold sandwiches and deli meats and stuff and then the end of last year, we decided to go full fledged restaurant. Still kind of a general store, as far as we are so far out, we try to keep nuts and bolts and a few hardware items for the farmers around here so they don't have to go into town to get stuff like that. And we don't do any advertising. All of our business is through word of mouth, we have very loyal customers that tell everybody they know and we've got a good little business going. - [Joe] Well that kind of defies, the old adage, location, location, location. - [Becky] Yes, it does 'cause we don't have the location, but people will drive for good food, good atmosphere. The funny thing, in here on Friday and Saturday nights, most restaurants you go into, everybody's on their phones looking down, and there's no conversation. In here, it's a different story. We don't have cell phone service in here very good so that works to our advantage. They just come in here and they have conversations. They talk, they tell stories. - [Joe] Of course, they also come to eat and they can choose among everything from daily specials to old favorites. - We have phenomenal burgers. Our burgers are really good. If you just want a good old fashioned cheeseburger. All of my desserts are homemade. I make every one of those. The fried pies are made as you order them. So they're not pre-made. We make those as you order them and that's probably our biggest seller on dessert. - [Joe] We were lucky enough to drop in on a Friday, the day for a Brick Oven favorite, fried catfish. - [Becky] It is farm-raised catfish, yes, sir. We don't get the imitation stuff. We get the real farm raised catfish and our filets are five to seven ounce. So they're quite a bit bigger than your average. We don't do all that fancy stuff too. We do it like my grandmother taught me. We roll it in cornmeal and put it in oil and that's the only way to do it. - [Joe] While her mom, Carolyn Hancock, primarily keeps the customers happy, Becky leads the charge in the kitchen with a passion that's downright inspirational. - She's always trying to do something extra or bringing in something new or, she just gets high on watching people eat her food and that's kind of contagious. Kathy is, she mainly cooks in the background. She cooks our fish on Fridays. She does our barbecue. We do our own barbecue. I don't know if you all have heard of burgoo but Becky makes our own burgoo. We have a smoked pork loin we've added to our menu that she does that's fantastic. So she's pretty much an expert on the meat cooking. - [Joe] This tight knit family trio has found the secret to attracting loyal diners. Customers willing to travel the back roads to this dining treasure in the tiny town of Lafayette, all thanks to good food and a special ingredient that's not on the menu. - People tell me when they walk in this building, they can tell that we care. You know, you're not just another number, come in, eat, get out. We want you to sit back, relax, have a conversation, talk and we try to talk to every one of our customers and make them feel special and we just treat them like family. I love to cook and I love to have people enjoy their meal. It just makes me happy. - When asked how he created one of his sculptures, Michelangelo said that he saw an angel in the marble and just carved until he set it free. Rickey Chick recently met a Manchester artist who has a similar approach when it comes to carving wood. Here's the story of Roger Bennett and the Clear Branch Woodworks. - [Rickey] Roger Bennett has always loved working with wood. - Actually, I started underneath the shade tree with my grandpa whittling on Cedar. He taught me how to use a knife. - [Rickey] With his grandfather's mentoring and several years of shop class, he quickly mastered the basics of woodworking, but it was his passion that transformed him from craftsman to the talented artist he is today. - Perfect. - [Rickey] Born and raised in rural coffee County. Roger has a connection with nature that results in an almost indefinable ability to find works of art hidden in the trees that have been an integral part of his life's landscape. - I see it. It's hard to explain. I can be driving down the road and see a tree and say, "Oh, I wanna see what's inside of that tree." But it's amazing what you can see inside of trees that the normal public never sees. It truly is. - [Rickey] Amazing also aptly describes the exquisite works of art Roger lovingly liberates from the scraps of locally sourced wood, wood that he ironically describes as- - Ugly wood. I got a good friend, his name's Randy. He's got a bandsaw mill. He saves me the ugliest part of the trees. I love the ugly wood. He cuts it out, I stack it dry it. It takes a year for every inch it's thick to air-dry. I've got wood, 20, 30 years old, stacked up out back. - [Rickey] You may not think letting a future work of art essentially rot outdoors would be a good idea, but the results of the process, known as spalting, speak for themselves. - Spalting is where you leave the wood outside in the weather and rotate it every so often. You pile leaves and stuff on top of it and let mushrooms grow, let the bugs enter it and leave it. As it rains, the woods sucks the dirt and stuff into the wood and out the wood as it ages. It takes months, sometimes years and that's what causes this spalting. That's gonna be a pretty vase. That's, what this is gonna be is a vase. - [Rickey] Roger can make just about anything he can imagine but the depth of his artistic talent might best be showcased through a 1400 year old technique called Intarsia. - It's the process of taking all different types of wood or one wood and making pictures out of it by turning the grain and the shades in the wood to get your picture and their overall look. No two are identical 'cause I'll just get a thought or I'll lose a train of thought and I'll eliminate a piece or I'll add a piece, but they all vary. 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 pieces. I said, it's like a puzzle. Like you got red Cedar, you got walnut. You got poplar. This is Oak. As you can see, I've been doing it so long, I am good at puzzles. I'd say on an average small piece, it takes me about two, three days to get it all cut out, sanded, shaped and then gluing it together. I glue them to a backer so they'll stay together. It's about a week process to finish one or somebody'll send me a picture of their tattoo, can you make this tattoo then I'll find the woods that match as close as possible to the color and I'll go from there and cut it out. Ain't no problem. - [Rickey] Roger is more than a match for any problem that might arise while creating his artwork. After he's finished, well, that's another story. - My wife likes to keep a lot of it. She supports me all the way. My wife inspires me a lot. - Perhaps Misty's inspiration and support is also behind Roger's philanthropic pursuits, for children, at least. Rumor has it that you actually are known to give these away from time to time. Tell us about that. - I couldn't tell you how many I have gave away. If kid comes into the booth, if they touch it, a kid wants it and it's just amazing what a simple rocking horse will do for a kid. - Well, they're beautiful. They are really, really beautiful. - 26 years I've been making them and giving them away, to kids only, no adults get free rocky horses. - [Rickey] This gentle giant offers so much more to anyone with an eye for detail and appreciation for the sublime and a respect for humility. - I'm nowhere near as good as I wanna be. You always want to make yourself better and better and better. It's never ending. - [Rickey] Roger's inspirations his family, his community and the trees that provide the of his art shine through his creations and are deeply rooted in the man. - There's a piece of me in every bit of it. I love doing it. - Finally, you can go to places and see artifacts from the past, and you can go to places and experience a bit of how the past actually was, but sometimes, well, you get to do both. Rob Wilds was lucky enough to do that recently when he traveled to the Cragfont Mansion in Castalian Springs. - [Rob] So many historic homes in Tennessee, but the flag is flying today at one of the most historic, Cragfont Mansion, tucked away in Castilian Springs. Lowell Fayna, site director here, says this was a marvel of its time. - Cragfont was built back in 1798. It was completed in 1802 by James Winchester. James Winchester was a fighter in the Revolutionary War of 1812. More importantly, he and Andrew Jackson and John Overton were the three men who surveyed and created the city of Memphis. They built the largest home in Tennessee with this one. - [Rob] Inside, visitors have so many interesting things to see. - They will see the house completely restored to its original grandeur. Stencil walls, stippled risers on the steps, but it's fully furnished with authentic federal antiques. We have his original hat and epaulettes that he wore in the War of 1812. We have his rifle that he used in the Revolutionary War, the land grant signed by President James Monroe, which gave him 300 acres for his service during the revolution and also the original commission, signed by President James Madison, which made him a Brigadier General. - [Rob] And something that is really rare. - We do have a 1706 doll house in here and although it is not original to the Winchester home, it is 1706, it's actually older than the home and the figures in it are made of wax and wood and real human hair or for the wigs, and so it's an interesting piece. - So many interesting pieces inside the house and here in the fields behind the house, history often comes to life like it is today in the form of these reenactors of soldiers from the war of 1812. Steve Abolt commands this group of reenactors modeled after a real regiment from 1812. - These men were called up. They had very little training and what the government and the army realized, they would have to establish more professional standards for these men and that's what we're out here doing this particular weekend. - The right to left tell all! - [Participant] Right! - [Man] Right, left! - [Rob] Well raw recruits, you know. - From right to left. Tell of! - [Participant] Right. Left, right, left. - [Rob] And while these reenactment soldiers wanna look and act the part, nobody takes it too seriously. - [Man] If you're taller than the guy in front of you, step past him, you're taller the guy in front of you. Just go to the back of the line, dude. Yeah. - [Rob] And before you know it, these reenactors are looking sharp - Form to the front! March! Ken, just come up. There you go. - [Man] Ken, nicely done, buddy. 90 degrees guys. Bill, beautiful! Brad, beautiful. Guys, make a 90 degree turn. 90, here, ah, feet. Excellent. Excellent! - [Rob] Just like the real thing, the reenactors camp has more than soldiers in it. - Diagnosis, we got a treatment, we got followup, we got surgery. Venereal disease. - [Rob] The camp doctor, Frank Curtley, from Mississippi prepares. This unit would later face the bloody British at New Orleans, but the more deadly foe is closer to home. - Diseases is the biggest problem. Camp sanitation then, and a group of soldiers coming together in one place at one time. - [Rob] So while the doctor prepares and the soldiers drill, back at the Cragfont house- - [Myers] Citizens of Sumner County, we stand at a great precipice, sir, and ladies. - [Rob] Myers Brown portrays a politician who does what politicians have always done, makes a speech. - There are our new England brethren who even now are contemplating a separate piece with the British. - [Crowd] No, no, no! - [Myers] We will not yield in Tennessee. - [Rob] During this point in the war of 1812, things weren't going so well for the U.S., so it was important to keep morale up and wait for Andrew Jackson, fresh from victory, to take command of these troops. - [Man] Three cheers for General Jackson! Hip, hip! - Huzzah! - [Man] Hip, hip! - Huzzah! - [Man] Hip, hip! Huzzah! - [Rob] After all of that emotion of a political speech, perhaps a walk through the gardens to calm yourself a bit, maybe even dream of a wedding. Why, this is where many modern day folks choose to get married. Speaking of modern day folks, lots of them come out to take a look at the reenactors encampment, which is part of the point. - [Man] What we try to do is create a portal to the past so that the visitor can leave the 21st century behind, step into the back, actually see, smell because the smell is a big part, especially after you get rained on in wool, to allow the visitor actually to see in a small way what America was like 200 years ago. - I think it's an excellent way to convey the history to the public. It's something that you can see, touch, feel. It's a little bit different than reading it in the history book. You can actually experience it a little bit more. I think it's a great way to communicate to adults and to children. - Now that appeals to the child in me. I know you'll find something that appeals to you at the Cragfont Mansion in Castilian Springs. - Well, with that, we gotta say goodbye, but not without the usual reminder to check in on our website, frequently, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, of course, and I'll see you next week.
September 10, 2020
Season 34 | Episode 09
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, Cindy Carter kayaks the beautiful Harpeth River. Joe Elmore discovers a restaurant in LaFayette, KY where you can find tasty Southern fare, groceries, gifts, and even some hardware. Rickey Chick meets a talented wood working artist in Manchester. Rob Wilds visits the Cragfont Mansion in Castalian Springs. Brought to you by Nashville Public Television.