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- This time on Tennessee Crossroads, we take you to Smithville to discover the award-winning work of David Sharp. Then enjoy some handpicked strawberries in Montgomery County. We'll drop into a back road meet & three in West Tennessee and grab your RC Cola. We're going to the home of the moon pie. That's our menu for this edition of Tennessee Crossroads. I'm Joe Elmore, welcome. Some of the artists we feature on Tennessee Crossroads, attend art school and train for years to hone their skills while others seem to be blessed with a gift. David Sharp falls into that latter group. The Smithville artist has been winning awards for years, by being able to see what treasures lie beneath the wood he carves. Laura Faber has his story. - On any given day, on a beautiful piece of land near Center Hill Lake, in Smithville, Tennessee. You can hear the sound of creativity buzzing away inside the studio of a master wood carver. This is where you'll find David Sharp, likely working on a Christmas ornament as he is on this day. - On faces. I like doing the area of the face and stuff with power. I use what's called a Foredom. It's a micro foredom. It's more or less a high price dremel. It's easier to take and change the bits in and out. - Every year. David makes one new design and sells hundreds. - One was Santa Claus. He had his hat pulled down over his eyes and everything, and people loved it and they just called on. I'm probably the only one in the United States that does a single design each year. I didn't mean for it to go that way, but I found it easier to do. And then it wound up being a collectible. - David has even had one of his ornaments picked to hang in the Tennessee governor's mansion. It was his 2013 ornament. - They do theme type trees and one of 'em was woodworking with carbon, and they come here handpicked the ornaments and stuff. And then I took it plus a bunch of my carbons down to be on display for a couple of months. - That was a career highlight and he's had many others. David is hired to teach the art of wood carving all over the country and has won many awards for his work. This prize winning half skull, half Indian carving was actually a mistake. - It was so hard. It took me like six or eight hours just to get one side of the face roughed in. And when I started on the other side, I hit rot and I thought, man, I was so upset and I got to looking at it and I've got a skull sitting right here on my shelf. And I'd look at the piece, I'd look back, I'd look. And I could see where the rot was, was exactly where the eye and all that sockets was. And I halved the carving, one side was a full Indian face, the other side was a skeleton of it. That was one of the first pieces that I competed with and the one in every show that I competed with. - His start in wood carving came later in life. It was on a smokey mountain vacation trip. David visited a working wood carver. He talked David into wiggling a bit with him, noticed some talent and convinced him to come back for a class. - I come back the next Saturday and noticed that I had finished the piece before him. And he taught me into coming back the following week and they was doing a class on a realistic Indian bust. And I told him, I said, I don't even own a tool. And he said, "you're good enough." He said, "I'll supply you with everything. And I'm taking a class so you'll have all the tools you need and stuff." And he said, "I just wanna see how far you go." 24 students. I was the only one finished it. I had the gift to seeing stuff, but I needed to take and learn how to use the tools and all that. So I took every class I could for a couple years. And by the third year, I was teaching and it's been a great road. - This is the original David Sharp wood carving. The first one he ever made created in 2006, he finished this in three days. Today David is known for his human and animal busts and carvings. And of course his Christmas ornaments, mantles and specific pieces he's commissioned for. And he carves a lot of big orange Santas and Smokeys. Animals are much harder to carve than people. David says, the nose tells you everything you need to know about a creature's proportions. - Now, when you do the legs, you always start with the foot. The foot has to go up in all the joints. So you always start with the bottom of the foot and then work your way up to the leg. - Most of the wood David works with, comes from the area and he has some favorites. - I use three different woods, primarily Cedar. And then I use butternut, which everybody knows is white Walnut. Then I use basswood, all my animals is outta Southern Basswood, all my ornaments and stuff outta Northern. And the reason being is, Southern basswood does good with power gardening. Northern does good with knife and gouges. And then Cedar, I do a lot of bust with Cedar. I do a lot of fireplace mantles with Cedar carving 'em. - David is a man of many talents. He is also a pastor at a local church and a landscaper in the summer months, but his skill for the art of wood carving is a special thing. By the way, he also paints and finishes all his pieces. - I'm blessed. You know, I tell everybody this is a God-given talent and because he just dropped it right in my lap, carving is a dying hobby. We've become modernized, all tech, stuff like that. People's got different agendas now. You take 30 year ago, you've got craftsmen that hand done everything. The world's getting away from that. It takes a lot of time to do stuff behind. I know my product, what I've hand carved, whatever it may be is going back out to home. - David Sharp is leaving a legacy. One cut, one groove, one chip at a time. - Thanks, Laura. For many of us, nothing says spring, like a fresh ripe strawberry. And if you've ever had one handpicked right from the field, well, you're never gonna forget it. In our next story. Miranda Cohen travels to Montgomery county to meet a man who's become famous for his picking and his personality. - [Miranda Cohen] Billy McCraw is somewhat of a legend in Clarksville, Tennessee. He has lived on this property in Montgomery county, all of his life and is well known by everyone in town. For one thing, in particular. - Everybody knows me as a strawberry man. We've won quite a few awards. - [Miranda Cohen] And the strawberry man had big plans for these nine acres from a very young age. - I bought this when I was 14. Yeah, I just turned 75. So yeah, and I was born on the home place. - [Miranda Cohen] Having grown Tennessee crops his entire life. Even McCraw could never have imagined his fields would blossom into what they are today. - Hi. How are you doing? - Hi. How are you? - [Miranda Cohen] McCraw's strawberry ranch is one of the most popular places in Tennessee to pick your own berries right from the field. - Oh, come on. There's mud. - Well, it's fun. It's fresh. You know, they know what they're getting and they just love to come and get fresh produce, you know? And like you say it, ladies like getting out in the country air. I believe this is 11th year and we've had strawberries and each year we get more and more and more. But, the last four years, we've topped out at about a hundred thousand strawberry plants. And that's about all we can handle. - More picking. How many picking? - I don't know, however much fills your basket. - [Miranda Cohen] Through word of mouth and social media. Clarksville, sweetest secret is getting out and people will flock from all over to get the hands-on experience. - You wanna get strawberries? - Sure. - She wants a bucket and then I want four. - When we start picking and the cars just start coming in, you know, we might have 15 or 20 the first hour and then they just keep on coming. There's nothing to have a 100 people, 150 people a day. For years, about 75% of the berries were picked by the customer. They generally start out with about a gallon and then they're so easy to pick and it tastes so good. They're picking another gallon. And then we usually have the buckets sitting all over the field. So they reach down and get another empty bucket and they fill it up. - Do you want one? - Yes. - Thank you. - [Miranda Cohen] Choose your container and the McCraw's will assign a row just for you ensuring social distancing and the very best berry experience. - We have a hand washing station down there and we insist that they wash their hands before and after picking the berries, we try to run a clean place, you know. - [Miranda Cohen] And tending to these gorgeous red berries is nearly a year round job. The rose will be planted in September nourished throughout the fall, and then kept warm through the winter and early spring. And the fruits of their labor are well worth it. - Now, the berries you buy in the store, when you bite into 'em, they hollow. The reason is that Berry just didn't develop before they picked it. When they picked the berries here, they're ripe. Those berries that you get at the store. They were probably green when they were picked and then they gas 'em to make 'em turn red, but that don't make 'em sweet. And that don't make 'em good. These berries are solid all the way through. They're not hollow. And they're sweet. Just like candy. - [Miranda Cohen] When it comes to strawberries. McCraw's strawberry ranch offers two delicious types of berries and chances are, if you are a local, you probably want them both. Sweet Charlie's will ripen first. Then come the Ruby Junes. - We've got two varieties. We've got a Ruby June Berry, which is a nice, huge Berry. And then we've got Sweet Charlies. Sweet Charlies is a nice big Berry. People come and they start picking the sweet Charlies and then they come back and get the Ruby Junes and they just keep coming. Just keep coming. - Keep 'em cold, when you're ready to eat 'em pop the cap off, then paper towels. - Okay. - All you need to do. - Great. Thank you. - You're welcome. - [Miranda Cohen] And the work doesn't end when the pickers pack up and head home. - We close down here at six o'clock at night on the picking for the customers. And then we make the preserves and we usually get to the house around nine o'clock. - [Miranda Cohen] Fresh, homemade strawberry preserves are made daily and sell out nearly every day. And strawberries aren't the only thing, making them McCraws famous. They will load you up and give you a tour of their ranch. And if you look very closely, you might even see what Billy claims are some very famous descendants from the Herman Melville novel. - We got a lake down here that we, Moby Dick lives there. - Moby Dick? - Yeah. Moby Dick kids mainly. Yeah. Yeah. - How did you get that famous Moby Dick, the whale. - Well, Moby Dick - How'd you get his children? - in over was whole lot large whale. Well, we've got 27 of his kids down here. - [Miranda Cohen] Billy McCraw loves the berries, but he loves people even more. And he hopes McCraw's strawberry ranch will become his legacy. - I'm hoping that my family's going to get interested in it and my kids and they'd take it over. I love strawberries. I love strawberries. No, I don't get tired of 'em at all. - Oh, by the way, make sure to check their website or give them a call before you go, as their hours do change. Some of the restaurants we discover on Tennessee crossroads disprove the old adage, location is everything. Slingshot Charlie's in West Tennessee is a prime example, the owner Betty Milton had been in the restaurant business before, but after a long heirloom, she was determined to create the home cooking haven of her dreams. - A passing train is about all that interrupts the peace and quiet of Galloway, a little west Tennessee farming community where you'd least expect to find a bustling destination restaurant. - The old adage is, if you cook it good consistently, the people will come back and they will tell others. But the first year was really rough. I was thinking, oh my Lord, what's happened. Don't people like good food anymore. Hey y'all. - Betty Milton is the proud owner at chief cook at Slingshot Charlie's. Not far from the farm where she grew up, a place where she harvested a wealth of cooking knowledge from her late mother. - I grew up watching and eating her food, but we didn't think anything about it because we thought everybody ate like that. You know, and it wasn't until later that I found out my mama's got something, she's got a talent that not a lot of people have. - Those sacred family recipes go into everything from the turnip greens to the fresh baked rolls. From the meat loaves. - I had the meatloaf.... - Today's special, by the way, to the award-winning desserts. - We're a designation spot. We don't get a whole lot of just two people coming in. Groups come out here a lot. We have some locals, but it's mainly just, we don't know where they're from. You know, they just come in here and eat. - And what do they choose to eat? Well, the Mississippi farm raised catfish is always popular. - And believe it or not chicken livers, we sell a ton of chicken livers, but we have specials every day. - Can't vouch for those livers but the meatloaf is amazing. And judging from the smiles, so is everything else on the menu. Oh, by now though, you're probably wondering who is Slingshot Charlie. - Slingshot Charlie was just someone that I remember as a little girl that he was always on the streets. And he was always looking up into trees to see limbs, to make him a perfect Slingshot. And he gave these Slingshot to the children around Galloway. - The walls of the plays are like a museum of Galloway. Thanks to Betty's obsession with collecting. - You know, I'm a pack rat. So when they would tear down a house, I would go see what I could save out of it. And people would say, why are you saving this? And I go, I don't know. I just like it. But the doors back here leading to the kitchen are from the old Methodist church that was here. The doors going to the bathroom are from another old house. - Slingshot Charlie's is very much a family affair with sister Linda and daughter Lizzie helping in the kitchen while Betty's other daughter, Rachel runs the dining room. Oh, and occasionally even granddaughter Adley pitches in. Betty rarely gets out of the busy kitchen. But when she does, she's always besieged by customer compliments. - Nobody cooks like this woman. Nobody. - They come here all the time. Delicious food, great hospitality, great customer service. This is a awesome restaurant. Yes, it is. - I was astonished at how many customers save room for dessert. Cake, cobbler, all Betty's prized family recipes, of course. - We do the pies that my great grandmother made and we made a chocolate one today. Chocolate meringue is very good. The dishes are old, nothing here is new. It's all worn. And it's just real. You come in here, everything in here is real and the food is real. And I just want people to have a good time when they come and enjoy the food. - Betty Milton's gamble on this remotely located restaurant has paid off. - This is good food. - Pleasing people and a warm, friendly atmosphere with friends and family members. And no one could be prouder than the mother who made it all possible. - You know, I laughed and said, if there's a TV in heaven, mom will be watching it. And she'll be so thrilled that we've done so good with her recipe. - Well, still speaking of food, our last story is about a world famous treat made right here in the volunteer state, Chattanooga to be exact that's where Ken Wilshire visited the home of that marshmallow field chocolate covered piece of goodness. No, that's the moon pie. - It's been described as being as fluffy as marshmallows. Some say it's tasty cookies are like Graham crackers and others claim it's as sweet as chocolate still throughout the years. This celestial treat has been compared to the size of the moon. It's the moon pie. And it shines brighter than ever in a galaxy of traditional American sweet treats like apple pie, cracker jacks and Hershey bars. It's been an out of this world staple of lunch boxes and the stellar snack food of choice for millions and millions of people for almost 100 years and it's nothing short of phenomenal. How it has eclipsed the waning competition, Tory Johnston is marketing director at Chattanooga bakery where the moon pie was looming on the horizon and began its rise to fame. Back in 1917. - We're kind of the original s'more, you know, the chocolate Graham and marshmallows, a nice flavor of profile. We haven't changed it at all. I think part of it has to do with our value. Everybody's looking for as much for the money as they can get. And we've always been sort of bigger than average in our category and the funny name. I mean, you know, at the end of the day, the moon pie is something you hear about. You don't forget it. And because it's just been sort of this fabric of your life brand that has just continued on and continued on. We just try not to get in the way. - As the story goes. It all started when some Kentucky coal miners were asked, what kind of snack food they'd like the bakery to make for them. - When the coal miners said, you know, whatever you do, you've gotta make it big. Cause usually we go down, and we don't get to come back up for lunch. So whatever fits in our lunchbox is all we can take down. And as the legend goes, the moon was rising on the horizon. And he said, you know, you ought make it about that big. And he sort of framed the moon with his hands and said, told that little story. So the general manager comes back and they start putting together some formulas and some products with marshmallow and chocolate and Graham, which are the core pieces of moon pie. And that story was told and a guy named Earl Mitchell who worked in the plant said, you know, this thing that y'all are making's round and it's got this big layer of marsh fun in the middle. And it's almost like moon. When you take the cookie off, so why don't we just call it a moon pie? And literally, as they say, the rest is history. - The bakery produces about a million moon pies a day. This Tennessee treat has survived wars, depressions, recessions, lifestyle changes, diet programs, and so much more because it's bakers prepare the simple ingredients with an unearthly attention to perfection. - We make the cookie, we send it through a three foot long oven bakes for five or six minutes comes around and then it goes into the room where we flip the bottom cookie and we put marshmallow on it. And the reason we flip it is because we are called the original marshmallow sandwich. So you don't eat sandwich with bread facing the same way. So we flip the bottom up, put the marshmallow on, we then cap it or apply the top cookie. And then we enrob it or cover it in whatever flavor we're running that day. So, you know, chocolate coating, vanilla coat, banana coating, and then it runs through a cooling tunnel and we chill it to about 20 degrees simply to just kind of firm it up and set it up so that when it goes into the wrappers, the coding doesn't smear. - Often survival and business means to diversify and to expand one's presence in the marketplace. For example, the moon pie store in downtown Chattanooga is just the place to experience an astronomical icon. Actually, when I was a kid. A moon pie was a moon pie chocolate only, but today they come in minis and mint flavor, you can get banana, vanilla, you can get a moon pie hat, you can get a moon pie t-shirt and you can get a poochie pie. - Really, at the end of the day, it is a tribute to our brand that people would come to a store called the moon pie general store. And we have other things, you know, low country boiled peanuts and stuff that the old general stores used to have, but it's been real successful so far. And we're just excited. We're gonna be rolling 'em out, you know, one a year for a while. - There are also untold dessert recipes to sweeten up our meals from banana split moon pies to strawberry moon pie shortcake. - The traditional moon pie will always be there, but to stay interesting to consumers, to give consumer who may have had moon pie a long time and be ready for something to give 'em a reason to come back, we will continue to innovate. We're always gonna be simple. We're always gonna be a great value in a high quality is really what the brand stands for. - But the sweetest treat of all is that the moon pie is far, far away from the spotlight of its life. And whether you call it a pie or a sandwich or a snack, it keeps creating moon size smiles. - Well, where's the time go. Ours is just about up that is after I remind you of our website, TennesseeCrossroads.org. And you can follow us on Facebook, of course. And by all means, come back here next week. See you then.
May 05, 2022
Season 35 | Episode 37
Laura Faber exploreds the award-winning work of David Sharp. Miranda Cohen picks strawberries in Montgomery County. Joe Elmore drops into a backroad, meat ‘n three in West TN. And grab your RC Cola, we’re going to the home of the almighty Moon Pie.