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Musings on a trip South

May 17, 2013 - John Stack
Whenever I travel to Tennessee, I can only wonder at the differences in our states. I just got back from visiting my mother in Murfreesboro, after a long and scary stay in the hospital. She lives about a half mile from the Chicken Pike? Really? Just down the road is of course the Lee Victory Parkway. 150 years later they still don’t know they lost…

My favorite song by The Band is ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”. In it Virgil Caine tells the story of how he worked on the Danville Train, “until Stoneman’s cavalry tore up the tracks again”. I had a hazy idea what this meant. But, turns out he meant that he worked building track to move around Confederate soldiers and supplies, and Union General George Stoneman kept tearing up the tracks to break up the supply lines. So, I’m driving a couple miles from my mom’s, and I come upon the Stone’s River battlefield (footnote – in Tennessee there are battlefields and Civil War sites everywhere – like Saratoga and the Revolutionary War) off the Old Nashville Highway. A historical marker there told of General Stoneman’s cavalry and I immediately knew who they were talking about. Coincidentally, later in the song Caine talks about May the 10th when Richmond fell, -my birthday. I’ve heard the so a hundred times and never heard that until I read the lyrics.

I went to a Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers AAA team) game with my brother. Now, I’m used to going to Yankee Stadium, Fenway, and even back in the day, the AC Yanks of Colonie. Last year, I went to Fenway on a 90 degree day at 100% humidity. The guys selling water were running ragged. They were going through a dozen in 3 minutes. Youi had to work hard to get their attention to get a drink. Not the same in Nashville. Beer guy is a few rows away. In my best New York I yell “YO!!”. My brother grabs my arm, Yo? YO?!! What was that. I had been calling to stadium beer guys like that for 20 years. This time, the beer guy, about 65, makes his way up. He sits down beside us. He grabs a BOTTLE of beer, pops the cap and starts pouring it into a cup. All the while, he’s shooting the bull with us. Pops the second one and pours it for bill. Makes a little more chit chat, stretches and gets up and goes. In the Bronx, in that time frame, a vendor would have slopped out a dozen beers without any more than a glance at a face to see if they were 21. Different world man, different world.

There is a civil war era cemetery in my mom’s yard. About 20 graves of the Sikes family. One who was a Confederate cavalryman who died at 18 in the Civil War. It’s a beautiful cemetery (see pictures). The family still comes up a couple times a year. We’ve granted them a right of way on the property to get to the cemetery. And this isn’t some out in the country place. It’s basically in the middle of a 1970’s era subdivision of ranches, on ¾ of an acre. The wall surrounding the cemetery is massive. It’s about 3-4 feet high with giant stones 4 feet by 4 feet by 6 inches. They must weigh 350 pounds a piece. The last marker in it is from about 1880, but the Sikes family still keeps it up.

One last difference. I got conjunctivitis/pink eye one my first day there. My sister who was also visiting told me to go to the “Minute Clinic” at CVS. Really? So, I did. It was located in the CVS, occupying a space about the size of my cubicle at work manned by a Nurse practitioner. Luckily, I was the only one there at 9AM on a Thursday. I asked her how it could stay in business. She said that on weekends, its packed. People are lined up outside the door of the pharmacy waiting for the store to open. When the manager opens the door, she said some people literally are racing each other down aisles to be the first to sign in! now, I’ve only been to Urgent Care once in my life, let alone a Minute Clinic. But, she prescribed me eye drops, I got them right there and was on my way. I don’t think she could have set my arm if I broke it, but it worked for me, being 1000 miles from home.


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