Don't have the PBS App? Click Here
- [Narrator] "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 www.tntech.edu. - [Narrator] Averitt's Tennessee roots run deep. They've been delivering logistics solutions here for over 50 years. And though Averitt's reach now circles the globe, the volunteer state will always be home. More at www.averitt.com. Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history and more made in Tennessee experiences showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at www.tntrailsandbyways.com. - This time on "Tennessee Crossroads" we discover why folks are getting pumped up at the Flat Tire Diner in Old Hickory. Then we'll meet a backyard craftsman in Murfreesboro. We'll go in a wild animal safari in west Tennessee. And finally explore the beauty and history of Dale Hollow Lake. Hi everybody, that's our lineup for this edition of "Tennessee Crossroads." I'm Joe Elmore. Welcome. When you think of having a flat tire it's rarely a pleasant thought, but a diner an Old Hickory just might change the way you think about that term. In our first story, Miranda Cohen takes us to a unique eatery and learns the story behind that catchy name. - [Miranda] For most of us, the mere mention of a flat tire brings up a lot of unsavory thoughts. But for people in Old Hickory, Tennessee they hear flat tire and start to get, well, hungry. - [Customer] I like either the crunchy french toast or the chicken fried steak. - Usually breakfast because it's hard to get good breakfast anywhere. - [Miranda] Tom Mead and Cheryl Caballero are the owners of the Flat Tire Diner. Tom is a classically trained chef who always wanted to open an authentic American diner. - And that's where my beginning of my career started out was doing all the high-end expensive restaurants. And after a while I just realized it's like, I just like a perfect burger that's made with a fresh bun and fresh meat and fresh ingredients. And it doesn't have to be a $50 burger. Stuff like cinnamon rolls that we're making from scratch. It's not... Biscuits are everywhere. Most popular is probably just eggs and bacon. Just a simple eggs, bacon and hash browns. It's hand selecting every single ingredient, every single item that down to our forks and napkins on the table. - Very yummy and scratch. Scratch, scratch, scratch. It's a lot of hard work. - [Miranda] Tom and Cheryl met years ago working at, what else, a diner. So they wanted to keep the menu simple but add in some tasty twists and offer items no one else was serving up. - We both came from the diner style which is Americana food. Bacon and eggs is our most popular item. And I feel like that during stressful times you eat what's comfortable and it doesn't get much better than bacon and eggs and a cinammon roll or pancakes or something. We knew we needed to stick with a cuisine that was gonna kind of survive time, be yummy for people in Tennessee. So we really looked at what we had to have for an Americana restaurant, but then looked at what other people weren't doing. The machaca though, that is a braised beef with the kind of salsa flavoring to it. Things like the pastrami. We just didn't find people doing pastrami around here. The chicken fried steak. - [Miranda] And about that clever name, the Flat Tire Diner. Tom and Cheryl came to Tennessee in a food truck and as luck would have it the truck was constantly having a flat tire. - So we were on the food truck for about five years, I think, give or take, and we all of a sudden started having slow leak on one of the back tires and it just drove me crazy 'cause we'd be late all the time. And then it kind of clicked for us. The flat tire really was what got this whole idea started. We'll go with Flat Tire Diner even if it does make people wonder, are you changing tires or are you cooking food? - Before or after you have a delicious meal, make sure you check out the pictures on the wall. Each one depicts a special scene of guess what, a flat tire. Paintings, prints, cartoons and sculptures. You name it. Cheryl took the theme and rolled with it, personally framing and hanging every piece of art. Now their collection of flat tire art is as impressive as their masterful culinary creations. - Yeah, I'm a car guy, so I love it. So I work on cars a lot so this kind of thing's interesting to me. - [Miranda] The creative name may bring you in the door but the great food and staff will definitely bring you back. - So I love how just everyone is so friendly and I love that they have such a great menu. It's huge and you can get so many different things on there. - [Customer] Owners Tom and Cheryl are constantly reminded of the importance of their devoted community. And for those loyal customers who are keeping the Flat Tire Diner running at full speed ahead. - [Cheryl] It's just been continuous. The customers, the families, I mean it really is like having a family around here. Having people come back and love what you have and being grateful. - I've never actually experienced a so much of a we want you to be here forever. Let us know what we can do to support you to make sure you're here forever. And that's something I've never experienced anywhere else and that has definitely been very wonderful to have the neighbors so supportive of us. - Thanks Miranda. If you have to commute to Nashville, well I'm sure you'd agree that rush hour is now rush hours. Wouldn't it be great if your commute was just a stroll to your garage? Well, Cindy Carter found a family in Murfreesboro who's living that dream while making handcrafted items for the home. - [Cindy] The dust often flies inside Dustin and Trinity McDaniels' Murfreesboro garage. Sawdust that is. But don't mistake this family garage for Dustin's man cave. This is the hub and home of Little Owl Craft Co. - We mainly sell home decor items, plant stands plant hangers, tea light holders. And then functional home decor such as cutting boards, serving trays. We make jewelry, earrings. - [Cindy] Dustin has always been a handy guy, but during the pandemic he was a handyman with time on his hands. He started building small things with and for his daughter to help pass the time. I've worked with wood but never hardwoods and some of the more specialty woods. And so it just went from there. Ordered my first pack of wood online during the pandemic and I had it delivered here and haven't stopped since. - [Cindy] And since then, under the watchful eyes of Dustin's grandmother's owl that inspired their name, Little Owl Craft Co has grown stronger like the hardwoods Dustin uses to create his beautiful results. He chooses his raw materials very carefully, letting the textures and variations work with and enhance his designs. - You can see sort of the way the grain's moving, the way... It's sort of things just pop into your head. It's hard to explain. - Now the wood they use is locally sourced from nearby sawmills, walnut, maple, ash, white oak, cherry. It gives the finished pieces character and makes them uniquely Tennessee. - It's like a new piece of art coming out the other end. It just never gets old seeing that. You're never quite sure when you go to the sawmill what you're gonna get. And then when you run it through that planer and you see that face for the first time, it's... - [Cindy] Dustin spends countless hours in his workshop slash garage. His general approach may be mechanized but each step from start to finish represents his aesthetic. - We use painter's tape and CA glue to hold our work pieces down instead of clamps or anything else. No broken bits this way. - [Cindy] Dustin sells pieces that reflect his own artistic expression, but also does a lot of custom work for both individuals and companies. - [Dustin] Well the CNC is sort of the hub of our business. We do a lot of family name signs, customized cutting boards for real estate agents, closing gifts, stuff like that. Corporate gifts that we put logos on cutting boards for companies. We've got every other woodworking tool you can imagine from planers to table saws to jointers. Spread glue. - Spread glue. You know how to do that. - [Cindy] Little Owl Craft Co is a family business. Trinity makes and sells the company's macrame plant hangers and fashion's earrings from Dustin's scraps. She's also the fuel that keeps this entire machine-- Running. - I do help make some of the products. Probably more of my role is gonna be like the behind the scenes stuff. The bookkeeping, the social media, the newsletter. - [Cindy] Little Owl's, word of mouth is strong, especially on Instagram. But Trinity and Dustin say the best part is when they bring their finished work to market and can actually interact with their customers. Something Dustin was admittedly shy about when they first started. - You have the imposter syndrome a little bit like maybe I'm not good enough to do this. And then when you put your work out there in front of 5,000 people on a Saturday and everyone loves it sort of really boosts you to get back in the shop on Monday and get back at it and be proud of your work. - [Cindy] Work Dustin is grateful to have. Little Owl Craft Co keeps him close to his daughter, collaborating with his wife and never needing to leave his garage. - We're all here every day. We have lunch together. We're able to work and still be together. It just, changed my whole life. - Thanks a lot, Cindy. How would you like to go on a wild animal safari without leaving Tennessee or even your car for that matter? All you have to do is journey up to northwest Tennessee near Alamo. What you'll find is a family adventure that brings you up close to some exotic and usually hungry creatures. - Visitors wanna see animals in a naturalistic areas, large open spaces. I mean, people just don't wanna see animals in cages anymore. - [Narrator 2] Since Tennessee Safari Park opened in 2007 it's become one of the top tourist attractions in the state. A drive through Sioux, where you traverse seven and a half miles of open territory inhabited by about 150 species of exotic free roaming animals. Most are very glad to see you and for good reason. - [Kid] Oh my God. - [Narrator 2] This 300 acre park is part of the Conley family farm which has been around since the 1850s. According to John Conley, the idea was a result of economics as well as a special love for exotic creatures. - We had to figure out a way to make the family farm work. We had a few exotic animals here and we loved it. The family came together and said, we've gotta make it work. We really didn't have any other choice. And so we started small, grew ourselves into it and it's been an amazing adventure. - Well, here's how it works. You drive up to this window where you purchase tickets. Cash only, by the way. And don't forget to buy some buckets of feed for the fun part. Then you slowly drive through the open park and stop wherever you wish. And here you'll quickly discover some animals like ostriches have terrible table manners. - [Kid 2] Knock what? - They want close up encounters with animals. They don't wanna see them from a distance. Our concept creates a perfect opportunity for visitors to see animals from around the world in a safe environment. And they wanna see big, beautiful, healthy fat animals and lots of babies. And this is the place to come. - [Narrator 2] By the way, unlike traditional zoos, this one does not use tax dollars or donations to thrive. It's totally self-sustaining and even a boom to the local economy. We brought a $50 million economic impact to this area which I mean, that in itself is amazing. The park has the highest grossing ticket sales in the state history, and that's of any zoo. And so that, that brings in a amazing accomplishment to my family and just kind of hammers home what we're doing, we're doing it right. So these are greater kudu from South Africa. - [Narrator 2] While Safari Park is mostly known as a tourist attraction, it's also an ambitious breeding center for rare and endangered species. A lot of these animals are extremely endangered and the work we're doing is gonna save these animals for future generations. She's expecting a calf. And so, like I said we have 16 of the painted camels and so they come in all different color variations and spotted and the blue eyes are probably my most striking feature. - A Brazilian taper, pretty rare occurrence. And he's so... Man, he's built well. - Yep. - Yeah. Oh. - [John] He's interested. - [Narrator 2] No. I do not look like food. You'll often find John's wife Whitney at work behind the scenes in the nursery. Today, nurturing some ostrich eggs' chicks so they become healthy adult birds. After you complete your ride through the exhibit area there's also a 20 acre walkthrough park and petting zoo. Here you can even get a close feeding encounter with a giraffe. Visitors can easily spend two to three hours at Safari Park which by the way is open year round except for holidays. For John Conley, every day's unique and demanding but he wouldn't have it any other way. - And we're always doing something new and exciting. Animals are being born daily. Yesterday afternoon I delivered a bactrian camel and before that we were working on plants and flowers. And so it literally, it's something different every day. No day is the same. The public obviously loves the concept and so we just keep growing on what works. - Tennessee has more than its share of beautiful rivers. They're less beautiful when they overflow their banks and destroy lives and property. That was the case with the Obey River until the Dale Hollow Dam tamed the Obey and provided a fantastic recreational area. Ed Jones took a tour a while back. - Dale Hollow is known as a vacation destination. We protect it jealously. We have the beautiful pristine shoreline and forested hill signs. We're very proud of our lake and what we do here. People will come out and recreate, enjoy and you never think what this was like before Dale Hollow was here. - [Ed] Sandra Carmen has thought a lot about what was here before Dale Hollow Dam tamed the Obey River. As a park ranger, she knows more than most about what was gained and what was lost. - William Dale came to this area. He married a lady out of Willow Grove, Rachel Irons. They bought a 449 acre farm in 1808. And it is told that they're still was in the Dale family until 1942 when the dam was begun and the lake began. - [Ed] That beginning marked the end of a way of life for residents up river from Dale Hollow. - There were two major communities that were totally inundated, the Willow Grove community and the Lilydale community. So there were a lot of people that did sacrifice back then by giving their farms. The Corps of Engineers and the federal government relocated over 2,000 known grave sites onto private property. 'Cause those folks, they really did sacrifice quite a bit so that we can have what we have today. - It was hard times for those folks. All the families had to leave their farms where they had been for generations. I could relate to that because I farmed myself and it would be hard for me to leave my place. - [Ed] Dale Hollow's superintendent Stanley Carter can also relate to their fate on a much more personal level. - My family on my mother's side and father's side, we are from the upper headwaters of the Obey River itself and where my mother was born, it's underwater now. With that being said, with this dam being in place it has saved millions upon millions of dollars just in flood control alone. Not to mention the hydroelectricity that we produce. - [Ed] Enough electricity to power a city of 45,000. Power that was sorely needed back in '38 when the Army Corps of Engineers got the green light to begin planning the Mammoth project. - March 2nd of 1942, construction began. It was completed in October of 1943, so it was record time. The dam, it is 200 feet tall, 1,717 feet wide. It goes straight down to bedrock and on each side it goes straight down to bedrock. - The original purpose for this dam was for flood control and power generation. One of the most interesting things that you're going to see as we go downstairs, it's what we call the actuator cabinet. And the actuator cabinet is what opens and closes the gates allowing more or less water into the turbine. We produce 18 megawatts of power per unit. We have three units which is 54 megawatts is what we're able to produce. - [Ed] The roar of the rushing water, the enormous size of the concrete mountain holding back the Obey River, it's hard to fathom the sheer scale of it all. But then consider that this huge remote complex is just a tiny part of a nationwide electrical network known as the grid. - Several years ago, the whole eastern seaboard had all the blackouts. I was inside this powerhouse when that happened and we felt that. The generators, they started making these weird sounds. When you work here, you know what these units sound like and you know when something ain't right. So we just started doing some investigation and found out that we had a large section of the country that had blacked out. That was all the way up in New York, edge of Canada. We still felt it here. - [Ed] After the tour, you'll want to reconnect with the soothing natural wonders of the Dale Hollow Reservoir. - It is so large that even if you're out on a boat even on the busiest times, there are places that you can go and tuck into a cove and be undisturbed. We do have over 27,000 acres of water and almost 25,000 acres of land. We have about 2.6 million visitors a year that come to Dale Hollow. We have 15 commercial marinas on the lake and two group camps. So with those commercial marinas they can rent boats, house boats, watercraft. So there is a lot of water sports that are available here. Because we have such crystal clear waters we're very popular for scuba. We also manage and operate four class A campgrounds with over 400 camp sites. Everything from a tent site to an RV site with water and electric hook up so you can get away from the city experience, come out and breathe the fresh air. But it is just a jewel of Tennessee. It's just gorgeous. - Well, guess what? We run out of time. But I do have a little time to tell you about our website, www.tennesseecrossroads.org. And while you're there, you can download that PBS app and watch your favorite shows anywhere, anytime. Plus, join us next week of course. I'll see you then. - [Narrator] "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 prepare students for careers by making everyone's experience personal. We call that living wings up. Learn more at www.tntech.edu. - [Narrator] Averitt's Tennessee roots run deep. They've been delivering logistics solutions here for over 50 years. And though Averitt's reach now circles the globe, the volunteer state will always be home. More at www.averitt.com. Discover Tennessee Trails and Byways. Discover Tennessee's adventure, cuisine, history and more made in Tennessee experiences, showcased among these 16 driving trails. More at www.tntrailsandbyways.com.
September 21, 2023
Season 37 | Episode 10
Miranda Cohen discovers why folks are getting pumped up at the Flat Tire Diner in Old Hickory. Cindy Carter meets a backyard craftsman in Murfreesboro. Joe Elmore goes on a wild animal safari in West Tennessee. And Ed Jones explores the beauty and history of Dale Hollow Reservoir.