Day 5 - Lawrence and Marshall Counties - June 5th, 2013

We arose on this morning having camped at David Crockett State Park.  It is just one of many places throughout the state (and three on our tour ) that pay homage to the famous Tennessean. During his life, he moved around quite a bit and left his mark in many places. Anyone with that kind of presence on the state map must have been important, but I was curious as to how he achieved such legendary status.

A statue of Davy Crockett. 

A statue of Davy Crockett. 

 About a month prior to our trip, I had come across an old Walt Disney movie from the fifties,  Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, starring Fess Parker. It was actually a compilation of a five-part made-for-TV series from 1955 that is credited with taking Davy Crockett from an historical figure to cult status. The TV programs were responsible for over $30 million in sales of ancillary merchandise (i.e. coonskin caps) and are credited with proving the economic viability of the relatively new television medium. There was probably not one boy in America growing up in the 50's who did not have one of those caps.

I had coincidentally seen the film as part of my research into the history of filmmaking in Southeast Tennessee. A large portion of the film was shot in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but also  some was shot very close to home, in the Tennessee River Gorge, just a few miles from downtown Chattanooga. Anyway, the movie was wonderful and along with everything I've read about the man's life, makes him out to be a true American hero.

David Crockett State Park is in Lawrenceburg, the county seat of Lawrence County. We spent most of our time there visiting the Old Jail Museum.

The Old Jail Museum. 

The Old Jail Museum. 

Yes, there are old jail cells there but more interesting to me was the massive collection of artifacts pertaining to the area's history. Included are bicycles and lawn mowers formerly manufactured at area factories and a whole room dedicated to local veterans and war heroes. The collection was assembled over the years by Curtis Peters of the Lawrence County Historical Society. The man is a walking encyclopedia of local history and we easily could have spent all day listening to his fascinating stories. What he has assembled at the Old Jail Museum is nothing short of an incredible resource that every community in America would envy. In fact, I believe every town should have such a museum – a place where local memories can be preserved for future generations, so younger folks can have a greater appreciation for where they come from. Curtis has put a ton of passion into the museum. Such persons are rare and are to be cherished where they exist. Sadly, for every community like Lawrenceburg where remnants of the past are carefully curated and exhibited, there are probably dozens of communities where such treasures are stored away out of sight in a backroom of a library or courthouse or even worse, are encased in the local landfill.

A portion of the Old Jail Museum collection. 

A portion of the Old Jail Museum collection. 

History is beneath our feet and learning about it can open up a world of wonders. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a small town (albeit a suburb of a very large metro area), Coral Gables, FL, that always has valued and cherished its heritage. From a very early age, I was curious about my town and why and how it came to be. If it were not for the local library which had an excellent historical collection, and a local landmark/ museum, the Coral Gables House, I probably never would have learned and appreciated the rich history of my town. My interest in local history only grew as I got older and when I was a teenager, I was one of the first people in a generation to re-discover and and help clean-up a long-forgotten and neglected pioneer cemetery. I would not have even known about the place (my parents had no idea of its existence) if I had not randomly come across an old faded newspaper clipping in the local library – long buried in a file cabinet dedicated to local history. I vividly remember working alongside an ancient man with an interest in local genealogy, in the sweltering Florida heat,  machete in hand, chopping away at the vines and overgrowth covering up the tombstones. Thirty years later, I'm happy to say that the cemetery is now a respectable city park and is well-maintained.

Even more impressive than the facility we saw yesterday in Hickman County is the Marshall County Recycling Facility in Lewisburg.

The Marshall County Recycling Facility. 

The Marshall County Recycling Facility. 

The place is a remarkable display of great planning and efficiency and I left with the strong feeling that Marshall County has made recycling a major priority – to a level I have seen in very few communities anywhere. It was inspiring to see their operation and how they are giving local inmates an excellent opportunity to give back to the community, earn a reduction on their sentences and gain valuable job experience that will help them rebuild their lives when they are released and re-enter society. The dozen or so inmates working there all play valuable roles in the single stream assembly-line sorting facility. It is quite a sight to watch them quickly picking and sorting through the truckloads of material brought in daily and turning into a valuable commodity.

We spent some quality time with one of the inmates, Ignacio “Nacho” Cerpa. He was a very nice guy and  is entrusted with a great deal of responsibility at the facility. He is the team member who bales the recyclable commodities for sale and shipment out. He showed us the impressive room where all the recyclables are stored in giant blocks until they have enough blocks to fill up a semi trailer. When that is the case, they put out an invitation for bidders on the open market for the product. The buyer then sends a truck to the facility to pick it up. Of course, the most valuable of these commodities is aluminum – bringing in almost $600 for one bale! There were also giant bales of  plastic soda and water bottles, plastic laundry detergent bottles, steel cans, mixed paper, cardboard, etc. Basically everything is recyclable. Here is what the facility accepts. If only every community in Tennessee was willing to accept every type of recyclable!

Ignacio "Nacho" Cerpa and the bales of recyclables. 

Ignacio "Nacho" Cerpa and the bales of recyclables. 

Probably one of the most unforgettable experiences of the trip so far has been having lunch today with the inmate crew working at the recycling facility. An inmate prepared the hearty hot lunch and my family and I sat down, side-by-side with convicts eating lunch. I honestly never envisioned my daughters dining with convicts! Anyway, we had some pleasant conversation with a few of the men over lunch and I was impressed with how decent the food was. I have a feeling it must be better than the chow they serve in the county lockup. Everyone, including my daughters, left a clean plate.

We ended our day at Henry Horton State Park where the multi-talented Denton family - Marcia, Maddie and Greg -  played two traditional tunes for us at our campsite.  It was yet another wonderful ending to a great day.

The Denton Family. 

The Denton Family.