- This time on "Tennessee Crossroads," we'll discover how a Nashville man found his creative calling as a pencil artist. Then go treasure hunting at Doc's Architectural Salvage in Springfield. We'll stop for some lunch at a popular Monteagle smokehouse and wind up at a Portland museum full of motorized memories. Hi, everybody. That's the lineup for this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome. The pen is mightier than the sword. That's an old adage penned by an English author named Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. Don't you love Wikipedia? While that may be true, wait till you see what a talented young Nashville man can do with a simple pencil. It's mighty impressive. Let's pay a visit to the home studio of Richard Bowers, a very busy full-time pencil artist. They say beauty's in the eye of the beholder. Yet when most people behold a bare naked wintertime tree like this, they don't see too much beauty. However, they don't see this tree through the eyes of pencil artist Richard Bower. - I kind of developed this affection for 'em over the years, and you can kind of see their raw beauty and kind of all their curves and flaws. I think I was always drawn to that. And I love the leaves as well, but there's something about it being exposed, I think, that really drew me to the bare trees. - [Joe] When Richard Bowers left Sanford University in Birmingham with a degree in business, Billy brought home something even more exciting, an ambition to pursue a career as a pencil artist. And while trees would become his calling card, it all started with landscapes and portraits. - That was the first thing that I sold was a portrait. So I guess I started as a portrait artist, and they've still been a great source of income, and I actually really enjoy kind of mixing the trees and the portraits. They're really fun. And I do a lot of portraits, mostly children, and I'll do dogs. I'll do whatever. - [Joe] You don't have a lot of different materials you have to buy, right? - Nope, just pencils, and I use some brushes to shade, and that's about it. An eraser. - [Joe] While no two trees are alike, the process of capturing one with graphite and paper is the same. - [Richard] First is pick the tree, and then I'll photograph it. Pick a good one or two, and I'll do a rough outline. And I pretty much just start shading, and I try to make it look as close to the photo as possible, in general. And about a hundred hours later, I'm done. - [Joe] By the way, when deciduous trees, like maples and oaks lose their leaves and go dormant, their metabolism and energy consumption slows down. That way they can survive the harsh winter season when water and sunlight are more scarce. - [Richard] I think the process is part of what draws me to it. It's slow and it's hard sometimes. And it kind of makes me really see every detail of the tree. And I think that's part of what I love about it. - [Joe] Any different technique involved in doing a portrait versus a tree? - There is. Mostly just, I have less freedom, I think, in the portraits, because if you kind of go crazy on somebody's nose, everybody's going to notice. But I can have a little more freedom with the trees. I can make up a branch or fix something easily. Portraits are much more concise. - [Joe] Since Richard went full time with his pencil art in 2015, his uniquely detailed work has attracted national recognition and a roster of A list collectors, including music stars and professional athletes. He sells his works through his website, and, when travel permits, at art shows throughout the southeast. - [Richard] You know, I would bring a handful of art, too, and meet people and sell some art, and make a lot of connections for commissions. And then the third avenue is through designers. A lot of interior designers will be redoing a house, and they know my name and they'll show my art to the client. And you can kind of put them in the traditional homes or the modern homes because, change the frame, and it changes the whole thing. It's just black and white. - [Joe] Future artist, I can tell. In 2020 Richard and wife, Jordan, were blessed with a third family member, Beau. Now Beau likes to draw too. And whether or not he follows in his dad's footsteps, well, he's destined to be the subject of his favorite portrait someday. - [Richard] What do you think about all this, Beau? You don't know? You like that camera, though. - [Joe] When winter changes to spring, the trees will again start blooming and flowering until the woods are full of green, warm weather beauty. While Richard will photograph and draw many in full blossom like this, he will spend most of his spring and summertime turning old winter photos into new creations of pencil artistry, capturing trees in their raw naked beauty. - Huge blessing to be home and make my own schedule. And I kind of have to adapt to Beau and sometimes work at night, but I love doing it so I wouldn't change anything. - I'm sure you've heard the old saying that one man's trash is another man's treasure. That's especially true if you know exactly what you're looking for. Miranda Cohen found one such man with an eagle eye for antiques in Springfield, a place where the doctor is always on the lookout for bargains. - [Miranda] In the heart of Robertson County is a 36,000 square foot history lesson of sorts. - People need to get out of the city and they need to come out to some of these little towns and stuff because they're just great. - [Miranda] Doc Keys is the owner of Doc's Architectural Salvage, and the treasures hidden within this two story warehouse are true gems. - There's certain things when you see it, that just, you just fall in love with it. We get a lot of people, they'll come in and they'll say, "Oh, Grandma had this," Or, "Grandpa had this in their house." - [Miranda] The Indianapolis native started working in the construction business with his father and immediately learned to recognize the quality of a bygone era. - I worked with my pop all my life, and he was just a master carpenter. He's a craftsman. You don't find that today. We worked in a lot of old houses. You know, my dad just taught me an appreciation for the old product, kind of stuck with me. And it's just, it's all fun. - [Miranda] Doc has been full time in the salvage business for more than a decade. He buys mostly within a 600 mile radius. With his trained eye and keen sense of quality, he knows exactly what he's looking for. - You look for houses that are, say, 1920s back. I look for tall doors, you know. It's just super fancy trim, stain glass, that of type of stuff. - [Miranda] What was so special about the workmanship back then? - They took pride in it. It's just, I mean, pride's the word. Over the years, I've become very particular on property that we'll salvage. - Doc, everywhere you look in here there is something else incredible to see. And obviously, every piece has a story. So tell me about this amazing portrait of Abraham and Isaac. - What's cool about this is I had somebody actually call me from southern Indiana, southeastern Indiana and said, "Hey I know where this nice painting is." It was in a lodge. It just hits you. It just gets you right to your heart there. It's just awesome. And look at his eyes. - [Miranda] At Doc's Architectural Salvage, you will find a little bit of everything. But he is particularly fond of lights and unique doors, with some dating back to the 1800s. - It's getting so strong where people are coming in and buying so many doors and lights and putting them in houses and just finding out that, wow, does this ever make a difference? - [Miranda] And he does have his favorites. - [Doc] I love Newel post lights, lady lights. You know, you can tell a good one from a bad one by just the expression and the quality of their face. So they're just, I mean, they're awesome. I mean, you just look at it. They're just mesmerizing. - [Miranda] But Doc's finds don't always come in such pristine condition. Things that were once exquisite have often suffered from years of neglect. This chandelier from France was severely damaged in a house fire, but Doc and his lighting expert, Sandra Humphrey, restored it to its original beauty. - I let it sit back there for about a year and a half. Ask Sandy, our lighting guy. I said, "Hey, you want to take a challenge on and try to get this thing clean?" And I didn't know she was going to take the whole thing apart because I would never think about taking that puppy apart. And I walked in the lighting room, and here it is, every arm, every crystal, everything is off on this thing. Wires are cut. And I looked at her and I said, "Oh my goodness gracious." And she goes, "Oh, I can get it back together." - I asked him, "Can I take it apart? It deserves to come apart." And then he came in the next day and he was like, "Oh my God." But it turned out perfect. - And I tell you what? You saw when you first walked in here. Is that just incredible? - [Miranda] It's magnificent. - [Doc] It's just, it's over the top. - [Miranda] And for Doc's clients thirsty for a little more adventurous nostalgia, Doc's large vintage bars are in high demand. - You know, they're just cool. I like beer, but it's just, you know, you go into a new bar and you're sitting there and all this shiny stuff and you go into an old bar. It's, you know, it's not as lit up as much, and it's just, there's craftsmanship back there. And not everybody does the bars. So it's just, it's a good niche for us. - [Miranda] And with the help of the internet, Doc will chase things all over. And sometimes, even he is surprised by what he finds, like this 200 year old wooden cupboard. - It was just amazing. You pulled those drawers out, and this was made in 18 something. And I mean, dovetailed drawers, and it's an old farmhouse cabinet. It was just incredible. - [Miranda] And thanks to modern technology, Doc can also offer his vintage pieces to a vast audience. - I put something on the internet, and within 15 minutes, I had 172 people look at that product. And so you've actually got millions of people looking at that product. I just like saving it. I put my heart and soul in this for 10 years, and it's fun. I love coming to work every day. - [Miranda] Doc Keys is a man on a mission, taught quality and a love for craftsmanship by his father, finding diamonds in the rough and long forgotten treasures in the hopes of bringing their exquisite beauty and attention to detail to a whole new generation. - Thanks, Miranda. When you're driving down the road, do you pass the same places, time and time again? And maybe it takes years before you finally decide to stop. Well, after all, if they survive for decades, they must be worth a look, right? Well, that's true for Jim Oliver's Smokehouse in Monteagle, which has been in the same location since 1975. Here's Rob Wilds. - [Rob] Jim Oliver's Smokehouse is a busy place these days. And it's grown a lot since Jim Oliver established the place back in the mid 1970s. Jim is gone, but his son, JD, remembers the beginning. - It started out with 14 employees, and I think we could seat about 50 people. They had built a building next door to it, which they were using as a antique mall. At that time, people were building antique malls around, renting out the space and using that as an attraction to get people to come in. - [Rob] JD and his sister, Betsy, have always loved being around the restaurant and around their dad. - He was a boisterous, happy, love people kind of person. Yeah, he liked to be around the public, and he loved to feed people. He loved food. He loved food and people. So I mean, you know, the restaurant thing goes hand in hand. - [Rob] Since JD and Betsy were always around, well, it wasn't long before they were on the payroll. - As kids, we liked to hang out at the restaurant. And then as we got old enough to pick things up, we started working. - [Rob] And they're still at it, growing and building, but keeping the centerpiece their daddy loved, barbecue. - [JD] He developed a good reputation for cooking and just loved it. - [Rob] Is that, do you sort of still follow his recipe? - Oh yeah, yeah. We add a few things, but we don't take away anything that he got started, because it's just so popular. - [Rob] Still popular and out front. - [JD] We have everything out, out front there, where people can see us smoking and cooking and taking it off the smoker, which really adds to the whole experience of eating here. - [Rob] Of course, Dad is not at the grill any longer. Now, it's Michael Bradford, better known as - - Smoking Man Mike. - [Rob] Yeah, that nickname pretty much tells the story. - Yeah. I smoke a lot of different things. Everything, actually, yeah. - If you can get it in there, you can smoke it. - I can, yeah. Brisket, ribs, chicken, pork belly, jerky. It's pretty much everything. - [Rob] Smoking Man Mike is not one of those snooty sort of chefs who doesn't like anyone peeking over their shoulder. Oh, no. You come into this restaurant, you're likely to hear the smoking man yelling a greeting. - Hey, come here. Where are you going? Come here. And they get a rib out of it too. Sometimes it helps them make a decision because the menu is really quite large, actually, and the buffet's delicious as well, too. So, I like them to try the ribs. That makes them come back for ribs again. - [Rob] Ribs or whatever else might be on the smoker. - You gotta try this. Brisket burnt ends. Watch out. It's hot. - [Rob] If it's not coming off the smoker, chances are pretty good Betsy has prepared it. - This is the vegetable beef soup. - [Rob] She loves to cook and has cooked for some pretty picky eaters. - Yeah, I got my cooking from a long line of cooks. We have the saying in the Oliver family, you can't cook for another Oliver. You know, they gotta tell you how to season it and everything. - [Rob] Well, sure, of course, yeah. - How your seasoning went wrong or how they would've done it their way. - [Rob] Betsy's way is pretty good, comfort food, for sure. But with a healthier twist. - [Betsy] I went to a reversing diabetes class and learned a lot, yes, about how to cook healthier. And I, our food is easy to take and make it healthier but still make it taste good. So we quit using, you know, a lot of this stuff and started experimenting with yeast biases and new ingredients and stuff. So we get a lot of vegetarians and vegans that come in that have a lot more options now. - Once you've had your fill of some fine food here at the restaurant, you might need a little walk to sort of, you know, let that lunch settle. Luckily, there's a great big general store right here you can wander around. - [JD] Over the years, we've had a lot of different things in there from souvenirs to coonskin caps to games and toys that people play with. And these last 10 years, we've kind of evolved more into our own products, like the barbecue sauces and the jams and jellies and the spices. - Thank you. - Oh, hey, thank you. You think I got enough pork rinds to get me through the afternoon? - I think so. - Well, once you've had your dinner and you've walked around the general store, you might be a little tired. They can take care of that here for you, too. There's a lodge here and cabins. Oh, people really like the cabins. - [JD] There's a lot of different things that go on up here that people like. They like to have a cabin versus a room. The cabins always seem to capture interest because you got fireplaces and jacuzzi tubs and front porches and kitchens in them. So, we get a lot of family reunions that come up here, and they'll rent four or five cabins and 15 or 20 rooms and have a weekend get together, you know. - [Rob] Travelers who stop at Jim Oliver's can sense that get together feel. - Experience the hospitality. We have great servers and people that work for us, and the food's good and the atmosphere is comfortable. And it's just an easy place to be. Easy place to eat in, you know, easy place to come in from a trip and just relax and eat and get your kids fed. We don't care if they run around or, within reason, but everybody has a good time. The family does. - [Rob] Makes sense since the Jim Oliver family has been running this place for almost half a century. - Many people love to look at old tractors and antique cars, conjures up a bit of nostalgia and reminds us of a time before GPS and satellite radio. One Portland, Tennessee man is making it easy for us to remember those days gone by. Tammi Arender has the story. - [Tammi] Joey Collins of Portland, Tennessee is a mechanic's mechanic. If it has gears and a motor, he can fix it. - I got bit early, and I hadn't got no better. - [Tammi] Collins was raised on a farm till he was about six. That's where his love affair with old tractors started. - This started out as a hobby, just collecting a few old pieces. I kind of liked to take an old piece that somebody considers junk and try to bring it back to life. One thing led to the other, and this is where we are today. about 30 years later. That's the second truck we ever got. I think I traded a garden tractor for that thing. - [Tammi] For three decades, Collins has restored, rescued and rekindled America's affection with antique machinery. It's now all housed in his Days Gone By Museum. - [Joey] Every time I got a chance, I'd either pick a piece up or swap. I've done a lot of horse trading over the years, and this is just the love of the old pieces and trying to preserve history, I reckon. In my own opinion, these pieces is what helped make this country, because we had this stuff, compared to what they had worldwide. They just couldn't compare to what we had. - [Tammi] Collins is fond of farm equipment that's in its basic form. He doesn't always pretty up a piece with new paint when the mechanics are mended. He says he and others from his generation like these pieces in their work clothes, as he calls it. - A lot of people see it, like seeing it painted up. But majority of people I found out like them original. So, this is more of a working museum. Everything is not shiny and bright, but everything's mechanically sound. - [Tammi] Collins focused on John Deeres for a while and amassed an army of green and yellow. Tractors may take up the majority of the space in the museum, but he also has 45 antique cars and trucks from hot rods to Model T's, all revived by Collins. Some of those on display were built from the ground up. - [Joey] These were built out of stuff just laying around the shop. That's a little 23 T. It's got a four cylinder Chevrolet motor in it, you know. Built it to sell, but my wife here kinda took up with it, so I reckon that's her car now. - Collins and his wife also like to collect farm implements from hay balers and tillers. He has many tools of the agriculture trade that predate the engine. One of the most interesting implements they have is this seed potato cutter, where you would put your potato right there. Press down on the foot pedal. Potato comes out there. You plant them. You got your potato crop. And the ladies have something to look at, too. Joey's wife has quite a collection of antique dolls, furniture, clothes, and even an old timey wire recorder. He says, if it wasn't for his family and friends, the Days Gone By Museum wouldn't exist. - And they decided it. I don't do all this by myself. I have a lot of help and a lot of friends and a lot of support from the family and my wife. Well, you know, so without them, this wouldn't be possible, without the help of friends and family - [Tammi] From the very first truck he tinkered with, a 1919 GMC, to the very first tractor he resuscitated, Collins can't pick a favorite. He says it would be like picking a favorite child, but there are a few that stick out in his mind when asked which of the 135 tractors is his pet project. - I got a big Tyler tractor that I'm real proud of. They never was used in this area, but it's really a unique piece. I've got a couple one off John Deeres. I got one that they didn't build but two of, but it's not restored. It's kind of sitting over the side waiting for me to get to. - [Tammi] This collection of vintage machinery is put into action during the annual Days Gone By Tractor Show and thrashing each October. The steam engines loop the grounds and put on quite an exhibition. - [Joey] I had this stuff scattered everywhere, and it probably worked where we could get it all in one place. And it started out just to have it in the stores, but then we got to having people wanting to come by and look and walk through. And it went from that to where we've actually opened it up as a museum now, so people could come and enjoy this stuff. - [Tammi] For Joey, it's a sense of pride and patriotism to show the younger generation how this country was built with lots of blood, sweat, and gears, gears of old tractors and farm implements. When more elbow grease was used to power the plow than petroleum and diesel fuel. Great reminders of days gone by, but not forgotten. - Well, that's about it for this week's "Tennessee Crossroads." Thanks for joining us. Please check in on our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook, and by all means, join me here next week. See you then.
April 01, 2021
Season 34 | Episode 33
Joe Elmore visits the home studio of pencil artist, Richard Bowers. Miranda Cohen meets a Springfield salvage specialist. Rob Wilds dines at Jim Oliver's Smokehouse, a fixture in Monteagle for almost half a century. Tammi Arender explores a museum dedicated to moving history in Portland. Presented by Nashville Public Television.