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- [Speaker] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by. - [Phil] I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham. Here in Cookeville, Tennessee's college town, we are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living wings up. Learn more at tntech.edu. - This time on "Tennessee Crossroads" we travel to Cookeville for some terrific Thai food. Then visit a park where graffiti artists are encouraged to create. We'll meet a Sumner County man who's made mules a business. Hi everybody, I'm Joe Elmore. Those are the stories on this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads". Sure glad to have you. Drive by Tennessee Tech University during lunch, and you're likely to see a crowd lined up outside a small house. Oh, you won't find a fraternity party inside but you will find some of the best Thai food you've ever tasted. Laura Faber took a trip to Cookeville to see what the buzz is all about. - [Laura] It's lunchtime in Cookeville and there is a line outside Ocha restaurant. At 11:00 AM sharp, the doors are unlocked and for the next three hours there is a steady stream of people coming in for a heaping helping of Thai food. - Ocha restaurant, we opened here in 1985. We serve Thai food right in the middle of Tennessee Tech and the hospital and the courthouse and everything. Now we actually 11:00 until 2:00 all week, and then Thursday and Friday we reopen in the afternoons from 4:30 until 7:00. - Dan Herron manages Ocha and is part of the family that has owned and operated this restaurant since it opened. - [Dan] Spicy Chicken and the egg rolls are by far the most popular. - What's your favorite thing here? - [Dan] The spicy chicken and rice, for sure. I'd probably, I'd probably be a number one customer myself if I didn't work here, I guess. I've been eating it for probably 25 years. It's pretty good. - [Laura] Dan's uncle, Vish Kiradrum, has worked here since the beginning. So are the recipes written down anywhere? - Only here. - [Laura] Everything is fresh and homemade, even the sauces. Soy, plum and the hot sauce. - Egg roll we make a lot every day fresh. Oh, this is the stir fry noodle. Delicious. - [Laura] Even Dan's mom helps with the family recipes. - It's my pleasure to make people like it. The food, you know, good food, fresh food and you know, and the recipes my family created. So I want to keep it good stuff for the customer to keep coming, coming. Here you go, Daniel. - [Laura] Whether it's the noodles or the rice, the spicy chicken or the spicy beef, the beef and broccoli, the cream cheese wontons or yes, those egg rolls, people can't get enough of these family recipes. - It's very good. Very good. And I can't tell that it's changed from day one. Well, egg rolls definitely, a mix of the noodles and rice. And of course I'm partial to spicy chicken. - [Laura] Vish and his family came to New York from Thailand years ago. His brother working as a chef in famous places like Tavern on the Green. Vish was a mechanical engineer and worked at BMW for years. His sister was a nurse. All that changed on a trip to Tennessee. The story of Ocha's restaurant starts in the mid eighties when Dan and Kay, that's Vish's brother and sister, were driving through Cookeville, saw this building, and the rest is history. - [Dan] This was an originally a house like a duplex and they converted and changed everything, you know, to the restaurant. - They start doing this and then they need help. We come follow, yeah, to help him over here. Now we all family helping each other. I rather doing restaurant business better. No boss. I am my own boss. Most customers so friendly. I mean, almost know each other by heart, you know? I love this town, really. I mean, whenever I go shopping, everybody I met there, they're so, so beautiful. They're so friendly. I mean, not like big city like New York. Ooh. - [Laura] It certainly feels like one big family inside Ocha. A place where Vish knows your name, your kids' names and your order by heart. - You want some gravy? - [Dan] Yeah, he's got everybody down pat. He usually remembers, you know, asks about brothers and sisters and moms and dads and he's knows most everybody by name. - [Vish] Most of the customer is just regular customer. That's why I know. - [Laura] The family travels back to Thailand every summer for a family reunion and Ocha shuts down. But customers always come back and stand in line the minute they reopen in the fall. Vish and his family are doing something right. - I was blessed, you know, to have this, you know, lucky, you know, to be, you know, in this town and with all the customer that we have. I love them, I love them very much. That's the only thing I can say, thank you. - You know, I love good Thai food, Becky. And I think you're to thank for turning us on to Ocha Thai. - Oh, that's right Joe. You know, I love Ocha. Cookeville is my hometown. - Yes, I know. - And I've been going to Ocha for decades and I love the food and I love the people. So I'm very proud the way Tennessee Crossroads actually helps support small businesses across the state. - Me too. - And you know, as president and CEO of Nashville Public Television, I'm here to remind you that this is the time of year when we ask for a little support to keep bringing you those great stories like Ocha Thai. We're in week two of our campaign to keep Crossroads traveling in 2023, and we need you to help make that happen. If we can get 500 donations at any level we will keep Crossroads on the air during NPT's March membership drive. We're off to a good start but we have a ways to go to hit our goal. I know we can get there with your support though. So this is the time for you to put a value on your love for Tennessee Crossroads and help Joe and the entire crew capture stories of Tennessee's best places to experience the culture of our great state. Call the number on your screen or pledge anytime online at Tennesseecrossroads.org/donate to help us reach our goal. We also want to tell you about an exciting event happening right here on February 25th at NPT. - [Speaker] You're invited to Tennessee Crossroads inaugural whiskey tasting, February 25th, 2023, showcasing some of the best whiskey producers from Tennessee. Each distillery will feature two to three products with many of them hard to find. For tickets, use your phone to scan the QR code on your screen or go to wnpt.org/events for more information. - We know we have the best fans around and we're proud to bring you "Tennessee Crossroads" each week. This show has been a staple of Nashville Public Television for 36 years now. I have no doubt we can get to that goal of 500 contributions, but we need to hear from you. Call the number on your screen or visit us online at Tennesseecrossroads.org/donate to pitch in. And while you're there, check out the ways we have to say thank you for your pledge of support. - [Speaker] 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 travel sticker. At $60 a year or $5 a month, we'll thank you with this Tennessee Crossroads baseball cap. At the $72 level or $6 a month, you can show your support with this polyester blend short sleeve t-shirt. Finally, we'd love to see you at our inaugural whiskey tasting on Saturday February 25th at NPT. Visit the studios of Tennessee Crossroads, meet the crew and sample the best spirits from across the state. Tickets are $100 or 125 for the VIP package which includes a Crossroads hat and t-shirt. Visit wnpt.org/events for details. And thank you for helping to keep Crossroads traveling. - I hope you'll pick an amount that is right for you and pitch in. It takes a team to keep Crossroads traveling and no team member is more important than you. We're counting on our loyal viewers and fans to get the job done. Help us keep the stories coming in 2023. And as a reminder, we hope to hear from 500 viewers like you so we can keep Crossroads traveling. You can help us get there with your contribution to NPT at any amount. - I hope you'll take this moment to make a pledge and help us reach that mark of 500 donations to keep Crossroads traveling through the year. Call the number on your screen or pledge online at Tennesseecrossroads.org/donate. Well, here's a little clip from NPT's 60th anniversary special that kinda explains how Crossroads got started. Hello everyone, I'm Joe Elmore. I heard from a friend that WDCN was starting a magazine show and made a phone call or two and when they offered me the job I thought about it for about 15 seconds and said yes. I remember when we were sitting around, Al Voecks, Jerry Thompson and myself, Susan Thomas as well, talking about what this show was gonna be about. We didn't really know. We thought we might do some kind of more serious stories but it turned out the viewers dictated what our show was gonna be about. We kind of found our footing after about a year and realized that, well, people want to know what's going on in Tennessee and the people, the places and so forth. And that has sort of led to what we are today. Well they say ratings aren't everything but you do want people to watch what you do. And the fact that this show is so highly rated is really gratifying. And that makes it all worthwhile. And I think it's because even with so many channels and so many options out there that people love to know what's going on in their backyard that's good and positive. It's all about everything that's good about Tennessee and it's always gonna be that way. - It's great looking back on memories like those but I'm also excited to see where Crossroads will take us in 2023 with your support. So where are we going right now, Joe? - Special place called Walls Art Park. You know, it seems like every time you're stuck at a railroad crossing, you see all that graffiti spray painted on box cars. Now some of those aspiring artists really are talented. They just need a special place to express themselves legally. Cindy Carter found such a place down in Waverly. - [Cindy] Who says art, I mean really good art can only be found in a museum or gallery? A walk through a park can be just as inspirational when you're strolling through the Walls Art Park in Waverly, Tennessee. A place where natural beauty and powerful street art coexist. Armed with a can of spray paint and his imagination, Steven Sloane creates some pretty cool murals. - I'll like do funky bright colors. I'll do owls and purples and stuff like that. - [Cindy] But paint and imagination only goes so far. Street artists like Steven also need a place and a space where their artwork can be appreciated. - One of my favorite ones is the Bible verse here. - [Cindy] The Walls Art Park is a free outdoor art gallery that welcomes anyone and everyone to spend some time, as much time as they like checking out the diverse and unique pieces of street art scattered along the pathways. - [Steven] This means a lot just to have something like this where you can showcase whatever you want to do, 'cause there's not anything like this really in the US. - [Cindy] The mastermind behind the park's master design is Kansas Klein, a man who will tell you straight up he can barely draw a straight line. - I am not an artist. I have no talent whatsoever so I just give a platform for them to do what they do. - [Cindy] But what Kansas did have was a vision. He says traveling across the country for his job opened his eyes to the expressive and impressive murals and graffiti found on the sides of buildings or bridges or railroad cars. That got him thinking. - This is a safe place for 'em to come a paint because one it's legal, two, it's made just for them. They're not painting in abandoned buildings, under bridges, trespassing, vandalizing. There's not a lot of places that allow you to just, you know, paint a mural. - [Cindy] Graffiti, or tagging as it is sometimes referred to, is considered a misdemeanor crime. And for many years, many viewed it as a public nuisance. Steven started painting graffiti when he was 13 and admits he once received a friendly warning from local law enforcement. - I was young going around painting, you know, just under train tracks and on trains and stuff like that and graffiti. Kind of got to, I was like 17 or 18 and saw that you can make money off of it. So I started transforming into realism and playing around with it. And then, now I got to do full-time murals, so. - [Cindy] Today, muralists like Steven are starting to get the respect they deserve. You can also see his commissioned work on the streets of Nashville, but Kansas says all street artists especially the younger generations, still need more safe spaces to try where no laws are broken and creativity is encouraged. - [Kansas] The artists really appreciate the park because they're again, not having to paint in abandoned buildings, under bridges, and they get recognition for what they do. People actually get to see their art. - [Cindy] Faith in the art form is why Kansas opened the Walls Art Park in 2018. - The response is definitely different than I thought it was gonna be. I thought it was gonna get a lot of pushback from the community, but they absolutely love it. I thought I was gonna get, I don't know why, but I just thought the older people were going to have a problem with it. The older people are the ones who love it the most. They're out here walking in the mornings, seeing all the art. - [Cindy] And what they see are 30 walls stretched across five acres of land, featuring graffiti and murals that are intricate fun, beautiful, powerful, cultural, and accessible to all. Three times a year, the park holds a paint jam when artists from all over come in and paint all the walls at the same time. But that doesn't mean creatives can't come in between the jams. Once a piece has been up for 30 days, any artist can consider it their blank canvas. As a result, the art in the park is always changing. Graffiti artist Jim Wallace often drives out here from Nashville to get his creative juices flowing. - I usually like have a color palette that I'm gonna work off of. I may come here with a really tight idea that I want to execute or I doodle it in the car before I come up to the wall. - Jim says his trip to Waverly is well worth the time considering the opportunity the park presents. So Kansas, the park attracts a variety of artists from all over the country. Very diverse group. Talk to me about that. - For instance, this wall here was done by an all female crew, Few and Far. This wall over here is Terry Miche Art who comes out of Nashville. The wall behind us is Lawrence. He comes from Chattanooga. You can see the wall way down there in the bottom. That wall was a couple flew in from Los Angeles on our last paint jam painted with us. - [Cindy] The Waverly Walls Art Park puts painter and patron on the same path, one of discovery, creativity, and appreciation. A collaboration that is long overdue. - For more than a century, the Reese family in Sumner County has been in the mule business, buying and reselling mules that often are relocated at places around the country. So when the Reese brothers put on their recent mule sale, well it was a special occasion and a chance to discover more about these amazing, often misunderstood animals. Three times a year, Westmoreland Tennessee is home to a weekend marketplace of mules, where buyers and sellers gather from all over the USA. - I come here because the Reese brothers run this and I think they handle the best mules in the world. - [Joe] Dicky and Rufus Reese know their mules. They grew up with them on their family farm in Sumner County. And according to Dicky, a mule has more horse sense than a horse. - Should something scare him and he runs, he'll run 30 or 40 feet generally and turn around and look back and see what scared him, where a horse will continue to run until he gets tired. A mule won't do anything to hurt himself. He will, if he gets hung in a fence or something he will stop and stand there till somebody comes and gets him out. - Most mules are smarter than people. - [Joe] Scott Saly runs an outfitting business near Yellowstone Park where mules are a mainstay for trail rides. - They are capable of doing anything. I mean, they can do anything a horse can do, you know, and some of 'em do 'em better than a horse does. You can't tell a horse guy that 'cause they won't believe you. But mules are pretty awesome. - Now, in case you didn't know, a mule is a cross between a male donkey and a female horse. All of these are riding mules, by the way, so they're quite friendly. Yeah, aren't you? Some of the buyers are shopping for draft mules, a breed traditionally used for farm work. In fact, a number of Amish farmers have come here to buy and sell. Nowadays, most buyers are in the hunt for mules that are bred to be ridden. - [Dicky] If you breed the jack to a quarter mare you will get a prototype they'll neck rain and back 'em. You can work cattle with them. If you breed 'em to a Tennessee walking horse, you get a gaited type mule. And you know, they're really good for trail riding. - Ron Clayton has been running trail rides in the Grand Canyon for nearly 30 years. I tagged along with him to learn just how he knows the right animal when he sees him or her. - In all honesty, it's just like people. You'll run into people that you just don't like, there's something about 'em. Well, it's the same thing with the mule. You look at the eye, you look at the mannerisms, the way they move around other stock, it's just kind of a thing you gotta grow up with. It's something you can't learn in college. You can't read it out of a book. And I look for temperament and something that'll take care of somebody in that Grand Canyon. And Joe, we have some of the worst terrain in the world to negotiate. - [Joe] Friday afternoon, there's an obstacle course where sellers try to prove their animals have the right stuff. The coordinator and judge is Bobbi Joe Chambers from Cottonwood, Idaho. - Safety is so important to all of us and more that most of these obstacles are demonstrating under regular circumstances, riding, bridling, getting on and off. Do they stand still? Will this animal work within my boundaries and my needs? My judging is how well that animal handles all of these obstacles. - [Joe] Of course, this is all a prelude to the main event on Saturday when the auctioneer goes to work. - Actually, I wanna thank everyone for coming out celebrating hundred years of breeding mules with us. First one in here. - [Joe] After the bidding stops, a mule will go for between 50 and $15,000 with about two grand being the average. - Biggest part of these mules will go west of Mississippi. They'll go into Arizona, to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, to the North Rim of the Canyon where they ride up Bryce and Zion Canyons. Some of 'em will be resold when they're out there but the most of them will go into the mountains for riding. - [Joe] And for outfitters like Ron Clayton, good mules are not only a means of livelihood, they could also be a source of downright affection. - When you make living with them and you see the job that they do, and in our case they're at the Grand Canyon, some of the individuals that those mules hauled in and out of there safely. Yes sir, you get quite attached to it. - Well, with that, we put the wraps on yet another edition of "Tennessee Crossroads". Hope you enjoyed it. Hope you'll check out our website from time to time, Tennesseecrossroads.org. Follow us on Facebook and by all means, help keep Crossroads traveling. We'll see you next time. - [Speaker] "Tennessee Crossroads" is made possible in part by. - [Phil] I'm Tennessee Tech President Phil Oldham. Here in Cookeville, Tennessee's college town, we are bold, fearless, confident, and kind. Tech prepares students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living wings up. Learn more at Tntech.edu.
January 26, 2023
Season 36 | Episode 23
Laura Faber travels to Cookeville for some terrific Thai food. Cindy Carter visits a park where graffiti artists are encouraged to create. And Joe Elmore meets a Sumner county man who made mules his business.