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- This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we visit a renowned horse trainer over in Woodbury, then meet an apple doll carver down in Giles County and discover some truck restoration tricks at the Possum Hollow Garage. Hi, everyone. I'm Joe Elmore. All that and more on this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. Sure glad to have you. Horse training has always been a big business in Tennessee. Our equine industry is the sixth largest in the nation. What you might not know is people come from around the world to get training time with a woman over in Woodbury. As Laura Faber tells us, she trains horses and drivers in a most unique sport. - [Laura] In the heart of Woodbury, Tennessee on a 135 acre farm is where you can find an internationally acclaimed driving center. But it has nothing to do with automobiles and everything to do with horses and an equestrian sport called carriage driving. Since 1987, Valhalla Farms has been home to Elizabeth Keithley and her family. Keithley is world-renowned in the horse world. - I'm very lucky. It's a passion. It's a passion that I guess has grown into my gift. - [Laura] Elizabeth Keithley is a professional trainer for carriage horses and their drivers. All she ever wanted to be was the horse girl. - I went to Middle Tennessee State University. I entered into the horse science program, but to be 100% honest, school was very difficult for me and I remember coming back home one afternoon and I asked my parents and begged and pleaded with my parents actually, if I could just make it in the horse world that I would do everything I could. - Go, Elizabeth! - I used to be a rider. I did the hunter jumpers and I loved it. The horse is actually just what's always kept me going, so I have been going ever since. There we go. - [Laura] On this day, Elizabeth is working with two clients, getting ready to compete in the Middle Tennessee Carriage Driving Club Derby. Brenda Rocker is from College Grove and competes with the stunning 15 year old Morgan named Bunny, the perfect age for a carriage pony. Carol Grimsley of Chattanooga drives a pair of Welsh ponies named Max and Lucas. - She's wonderful with horses, but she's better with me than anyone I've ever worked with. - [Laura] She's been training with Elizabeth for five years. This form of driving takes tremendous skill and strength. The horses are absolutely athletes. - [Elizabeth] With a good driving horse, you want a good brain. You want a good heart. It doesn't have to be the fanciest horse. - [Laura] Elizabeth is getting Brenda and Bunny ready to compete in the pleasure ring. Carol and her ponies are training for a driving event. There are three phases in combined driving. Dressage, cross-country marathon and an obstacle cone course. This sport is similar to figure skating in that it's all about form and style. - Good boy. - [Laura] And sometimes speed. - The marathon course is similar to roads and tracks. We have a particular distance that we have to do, and it's all timed. So you get penalized if you come in too early and get penalized you've come in too late. So there's an actual time window that you want to come into. And then some of your bigger shows you'll have a section A, and then you'll have a walk section, and then you'll have section B, and that's where the obstacles come into play. So not only do we have our overall time that we have to finish, but then we have our obstacles. You do not have to make the turn. I enjoy the training aspect, but I really love going to the show to see how my training's working out. Because going to a horse show, you'll find out your flaws. - [Laura] Elizabeth is no stranger to competition herself. Carriage driving, an internationally recognized equestrian sport since 1970, basically changed her life. Rows and rows of ribbons in her carriage house speak volumes about how successful she was. But it was one horse and one cone competition that made her a national champion. - I've had my mare bred when I've raised a couple of babies and I've been very lucky. I have a pony in the barn, Rolling With Bay Nut, that I have taken as a foal all the way to the advanced level. There's nothing more rewarding. That particular pony was in my pair, and we made the reserve national championship with a pony that I raised. That's passion. - Everything about this sport is special, from the connection between driver and horse, the costumes worn in competition to the carriages themselves. In Elizabeth's 30 year career of competitive carriage driving, she has accumulated a museum's worth of carriages. In fact, this one was the very first carriage she competed in in 1991. Elizabeth's dad also competed. He used to use this carriage from 1890, a Hackney show cart. What made Elizabeth a fierce competitor has also made her a world-class horse and driver trainer in an industry dominated by men. She has an extraordinary ability to connect with these animals. - [Elizabeth] Every horse will teach you. I'm shy by nature, and the horses, they can speak to you if you just kind of stop and listen. I felt like I understood the horse because they speak to you in different ways. - [Laura] Whatever language Elizabeth and her horses speak, it's working. Both of her clients, Brenda and Carol, went on to have a successful competition after their training with Elizabeth. Brenda and Bunny placed third in their event. Carol and her ponies Max and Lucas won their class and were named overall preliminary champion. - [Elizabeth] I have no plans to retire. I absolutely love what I do. I'm loving right now taking care of my students and their horses. This is something that I wanted. This is something that I picked, I worked hard for. This is what I do, this is all I know, and I can't imagine doing anything else. - [Laura] Just a girl with a gift. Elizabeth Keithley is the horse girl. - Thanks, Laura. Now, for those of you wondering what my friend Will Pedigo is doing here, I'm gonna tell you. It's that time of year we encourage you to support Tennessee Crossroads and keep us out there finding great stories to bring you each week. - Joe, it's great to be kicking off the new year with you. We want to start 2021 out on a firm foundation for the 34th year of Tennessee Crossroads, covering the highways and byways of our great state. And that is where you come in. Over the next four weeks, we will be asking you to support the show. And if we can get 350 donations at any level, we'll keep Tennessee Crossroads on the air during our March membership drive. I hope you'll pitch in. One easy way to contribute is by visiting the show's website at TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate. - Maybe you're a long time viewer, or maybe you're new to the state and find the show to be a fun introduction to the best Tennessee has to offer. Either way, you can help us make our goal of 350 contributions to keep Crossroads traveling in 2021. You've already made Tennessee Crossroads one of the most watched locally produced programs in the entire PBS system. Now we're honored to be a part of your lives and we want to say thank you, because we could not produce this show without your support and loyal viewership. To say thanks, we've got some Tennessee Crossroads gifts to send you for your pledge of support. You can call the number on your screen to make a pledge or pledge online like Will said at TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate. - If you're a Tennessee Crossroads fan, we have some exciting new ways to say thanks this year and encourage you to support the show that you love. Call the number on your screen, contribute online, support Nashville Public Television, the station that brings you Tennessee Crossroads. Now here are all the ways we want to thank you for keeping Crossroads traveling in 2021. - [Joe] You can help keep Crossroads traveling with a financial gift that's just right for you. Donate at any amount and you'll receive a Tennessee Crossroads Official Traveler sticker. At $60 a year or $5 a month, we'll thank you with a Tennessee Crossroads baseball cap. At the $72 level or $6 a month, you can show your support and keep Crossroads traveling with this polyester blend short sleeve T-shirt. Another way we have of saying thanks for an $84 annual gift or $7 a month is this 16 ounce glass tumbler with a Crossroads logo. You can put that pint glass to good use at NPT's Tennessee Crossroads Brews and Bites on Thursday, February 11th at 7 p.m. You'll enjoy a three-course dinner at home paired with a curated selection of craft beer all for a contribution of $50 for one ticket or $75 for two tickets. For more great pairings, you can choose both the Tennessee Crossroads T-shirt and the pint glass for an annual gift of $144. That's $12 a month. Or you don't have to choose at all. You can have all three of our Tennessee Crossroads thank you gifts at the $204 level or $17 a month. - Joe, you mentioned NPT's Tennessee Crossroads Brews and Bites event at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 11th. Let's share with viewers how that'll work. It sounds like it's gonna be a lot of fun. - You bet. We know how much the Tennessee Crossroads family loves great food, and so we're excited to share that Butchertown Hall will be creating a three course dinner you can enjoy at home. Each course is paired with a craft beer selection, and folks at the Nashville Brewing Company will be guiding us through the tasting event starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, February 11th. - And Joe will be hosting the virtual event. For those of you that would like to participate, we'd be honored to send you a ticket as our way of saying thanks for your gift of $50, or we'll send you two tickets for a contribution of $75. Either way, you'll be enjoying a great night of food and drink and you'll be helping us meet our goal of 350 contributions to Nashville Public Television as we keep Crossroads traveling in 2021. Joe, speaking of hosting virtual events, 2020 was a challenging year of adaptation and change for all of us. Early on in the pandemic, in order to keep Crossroads on the air, you took us into your home to host some of those episodes while we were figuring out how to adjust. - That's right. Viewers may recall I had to host the shows from my home and record them myself. Sure made me appreciate our production personnel even more. - Yeah, and I seem to recall you even creating a short video about what that was like. Let's take a look. - Like many of you, it all starts with coffee to get the day going, and occasionally I have to ask myself, is this Tuesday or Wednesday? No problem. I'll just consult my calendar, and while I'm at it, check my schedule. Yeah, just as I thought. Well, now's a good time to do some of those things I've been putting off so long, like learning a new blues guitar lick. Well, I've had plenty of time to practice the guitar, but hopefully those times are behind us. Fortunately, with a few extra safety precautions, we've been able to keep creating stories and we've had some exciting new folks join the Crossroads crew. Together, we continue to bring you incredible heartwarming stories from across our great state. We will be highlighting some of those stories from the newest members of the Crossroads family in the next few weeks. You'll want to tune in for that, for sure. - You know, I'm definitely proud of the work that you all have put in to keeping the show going. You know, now's the time for you to step up. Help us meet our goal of 350 contributions to keep Crossroads traveling in 2021. Pick an amount that's right for you and enjoy some great ways that we have to say thanks for your support. We cannot make this show without you. Give us a call or pitch in at TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate. - We'd love to hear from you. We're excited about what Crossroads has in store for 2021 and we're looking forward to a great year with your help, of course. Give us a call or visit us at TennesseeCrossroads.org/donate. - And don't forget, you can find out where Crossroads is traveling next at our Facebook page @TNCrossroads. But right now, Joe, I think it's time for you to tell us where we're headed right now. - All right, Will. We're headed to Giles County where Tammi Arendar meets a lady who makes unusual dolls by hand. You won't believe your eyes when you see the fruits of her labor. - [Tammi] Sallie Swor swears apples are the best, not just for snacking, but relaxing while she carves the fruit into a work of art. - Well, you can use Granny Smith, but I eat the pieces that I cut off and I don't like sour apples, so I don't use them, simple as that. I use Galas and Golden Delicious, and really like the way the Golden Delicious works. - [Tammi] Sallie shapes and shaves the juicy flesh into a face. - [Sallie] It's just one thing and the other, you know, just the ideas just come up. I never know when I start what I'm gonna end up with. - [Tammi] When she's happy with its facial features, it's submerged in a salt and lemon solution. This helps to keep them from turning brown. Then the little heads are hung out to dry. - So don't come in my house when I'm not here and walk down in the dark and flip on a light, 'cause you'll see shrunken heads hanging everywhere. - [Tammi] After about four weeks at room temp or four days in a dehydrator, the fruits of her labor are revealed. The natural shrinkage has turned the apple into something resembling a person. - It's just fun. It's fun to watch how they develop, and then they all have their own characteristics it seems like once they're done and I can look at them and try to figure out what I need to make out of it or want to make out of it, and then sometimes it'll let me and sometimes it won't. It's like they have their own little personalities or something. - [Tammi] And Swor has made hundreds of these apple dolls, each one with its own persona. There are grandmas and grandpas, witches and warlocks. Now they do age and grow darker over time, but can last for years. One of her favorites is this group of Christmas carolers. - So I had to figure out how to make their mouth to look like they're singing. Some of them look a little funny, but anyway, their mouths are open like they're singing. I wanted those to be less money and less work so that people could spend less on them, so I started using thread cones, those big cardboard cones, and just wrapping fabric around in something to look like a shawl or a coat for a man, but they don't have any arms or anything. - [Tammi] Part of the craft is creating the body out of fabric scraps and handmade caps. Some bodies come in the form of glass bottles. - There's some, I started out years ago putting some old bottles, so a Clorox bottle, an old brown Clorox bottle might be a cleaning lady. Depends on the theme of the bottle. - [Tammi] Sallie's love of sewing and doing anything by hand was something she fell in love with as a little girl growing up on a farm in east Tennessee. - I grew up with a lot of traditional values and watching my older siblings and my grandparents and my parents make things the old way and do things that way, so I've always been influenced by that and enjoyed it. - [Tammi] Swor has even done a couple of commissioned pieces. One was for an artist friend named Bill who wanted his likeness done in apple perpetuity. He was thrilled with the result. Plus, she says the hippie dolls have been very popular. - [Sallie] The hippies, for instance, I make hands and feet out of apple, and so they're kind of interesting sometimes. And they're kind of hard to do. It's kind of hard to get two that match. - [Tammi] But not everyone thinks the dolls are adorable. - [Sallie] The response from the people who see them is what's funny. Now, some people think they're creepy and they will not look at them, and that's okay. I understand they don't appeal to everybody. All art doesn't appeal to me. - [Tammi] Once known as the soap lady because Sallie would make the cleansing bars from scratch and did demonstrations at the Tennessee Agriculture Museum for years, but these days, she just wants to get all dolled up. So she says even though she's been doing this for two decades, it never gets old because the response she gets from people at arts and craft shows is priceless. - People will walk up and they'll look, and even though I have signage and I have artificial apples sitting around here and there with them, they'll look and they can't get it for a few minutes. They can't figure out how they're made or what they're made out of, and they'll see me sitting there peeling apples and they'll look at them. And then all of a sudden, a light bulb will go off and you see the expressions on their faces. Oh, that's what they are. And then they start asking questions, so that's really interesting. - [Tammi] So on many an afternoon, Sallie settles into her sofa ready to grapple with an apple, hoping that a doll face will emerge. And one thing's for sure, as long as she has a desire to carve, she'll never starve. - [Sallie] No matter how I carve it, it's gonna change. I always say too, I get to eat the scraps. The woodcarvers and the stone carvers can't do that, can they? - Thanks, Tammi. Say, have you ever been to Sawdust, Tennessee? Well, neither had I, until I hit the back roads of Murray County. That's where I found Max Davis, a talented guy who never met an old truck he didn't like. Max can transform one into a show quality masterpiece, and it all takes place off the beaten path at the Possum Holler Garage. You might call this a burial ground for retired, rusty old trucks, once faithful haulers of people and such now fated for eternal neglect, or just maybe they're candidates for the next incredible conversion at Possum Holler Garage. - We call them brand new old trucks. - [Joe] Max Davis and his Possum Holler team transform junk into jewels, mostly pickup trucks from the 1950s and 60s, showroom shiny and original looking outside but with modern technology under the hood and body. - Is that lined up down there? - [Joe] When Max and his wife Margaret went into business in 2008, well, they needed to make a name for themselves, so Max decided to build the ultimate showpiece. - And I just said to myself, I said, you know, I'm gonna make this truck the best that it can be and we're gonna go to an auction and either A, we're gonna sell the truck and make money, or B, we're gonna come back broke and both of us are going to have to go back to work. - [Joe] They took their truck to one of the largest classic vehicle auctions in the country, and the gamble paid off. - We had the highest selling truck at the auction. We left the auction, we had five trucks to build. - [Joe] Wow, what'd you think then? - I said, I need some help. - [Joe] Max got his help, all right. A team of skilled, always busy craftsman. - [Max] These guys know what they're doing. They've been around old school. I'm the youngest one of the bunch. It's kind of odd, but we're all like one big family. - [Joe] Max also partnered up with Don Van Rye, a master of the dying art of media or sandblasting. - At one time I was employed by my rich uncle Sam when I was in the Navy. They said to me, you're a pretty good sized guy. Get down there. We're gonna be sandblasting the bottom of that ship. So that's how I got started back in 1956. - [Joe] Today, Don's working on a couple of projects using glass beads for his cleaning media. - [Don] If you build a house, if you don't have a good foundation it's not gonna stand, so that's basically what you've got to do. You've got to start at the bottom and come up. - [Joe] In addition to vehicles, Don has worked on everything from the goalpost from Nissan Stadium to a 1950s double decker bus, restored and raised to the top of Nashville's Bobby Hotel to serve as a one of a kind lounge. - [Don] Well, it's fascinating out here because there's a lot of nostalgia. There's a lot of nice people, and it seemed like everything that Max brings to me is a little bit different. Max and I have a really good working relation, and he likes my work and I like his, and we get along very well. - Let's take this inside. We got a project for you. - [Joe] After Don brings each old part down to bare metal, it's thoroughly cleaned. Then comes a solution of etch primer. Max will apply several coats of primer and paint before it's clear coated and finally buffed. - And then you got to put it together without scratching it or dropping something on the floor or somebody running into it. And then if all that works out and you get it together, then you can go to a show and hopefully somebody will buy it. - [Joe] Clients from all over the world have sought out Max's magic, including many country music stars like the late George Jones, who bought three Possum Holler trucks. - [Max] There's a truck in here that's getting ready to head out to California, and I can just say that it has something to do with the go ahead punk, make my day. - [Joe] Hmm, that sounds familiar. The garage walls are filled with old original parts that now have become like lost treasures. - [Max] I collect old parts. A lot of the parts you can't buy or find for one, and number two, if you find them and they reproduce them, they don't fit right. I've got so many parts that I have to hang them up so I remember what I have. If you put them up in the attic in boxes, you actually forget. - [Joe] Oh, and that so-called junkyard outside? - [Max] That's my redneck 401k. Everything that's junk now people repurpose. They can turn it into something. - [Joe] Repurposing vintage trucks is a challenging, meticulous process, and each one is unique. Max Davis is both an award-winning master of his craft and a visionary of what might be coming down the road someday. - As crazy as it sounds, and this has got nothing to do with trucks. I've always wanted to build a UFO that you could drive on the highway. - [Joe] A UFO? - I don't know why, but that's on my bucket list. - Well with that, we put the wraps on another Tennessee Crossroads, but before we leave, some reminders. Check out our website TennesseeCrossroads.org, follow us on Facebook of course, and don't forget to keep Crossroads traveling.
January 14, 2021
Season 34 | Episode 22
This week on Tennessee Crossroads, Laura Faber meets Equestrian Trainer Elizabeth Keathley in Woodbury. Tammi Arender meets an artist who carves dolls out of apples. Joe Elmore visits Possum Holler Garage in Sawdust, TN. Presented by Nashville Public Television.