We started our second week on the road making the drive from Chattanooga through long stretches of US Highway 64 through the southern part of the state. About ten years earlier, Linda and I had driven this very road from Memphis all the way to Sewanee. Back then, it would have been faster for sure to take I-40 into Nashville and then I-24 to Chattanooga, but we deliberately wanted to get off the interstate and see parts of the state we had not seen before. The drive unfortunately turned out to be very unpleasant due to incredibly bad weather and very poor road visibility virtually the entire way. This time, luckily, we had wonderful weather and enjoyed the scenery very much.
After four hours of driving, we arrived in beautiful Savannah, TN, right on the Tennessee River in Hardin county. It was very interesting to see the same river that flows through Chattanooga all the way on the other end of the state and flowing north instead of south. In Savannah we met up with the Holt Family at the Cherry Mansion.
They are a farming family and are some of the nicest, most genuine people we have met on the tour. They are also superb musicians. Daniel Holt, is a wiz on the banjo and co-wrote the featured original piece, Hallelujah, We Shall Arise. To cap off the performance, Daniel showed off a bit more by picking his banjo behind his head. Most memorable though, was the family's beautiful rendition of Happy Birthday to honor my daughter Harlan who turned eight today.
Although we didn't get to see the inside of Cherry Mansion, we learned a lot about its significance in Civil War history. It was here that Union General and future US President, Ulysses S. Grant heard the rumble of distant cannon fire and found himself scrambling his forces to action in the Battle of Shiloh which was getting underway a few miles to the south. We didn't get to see the battlefield but it was easy to envision Union gunboats on the prowl in the river below the Mansion.
As we headed west out of Savannah, we came across signs designating that we were on the “Walking Tall” Trail. Suddenly I recalled from my childhood the movie by that name that was inspired by the true story of Buford Pusser of McNairy County. He was an uncommon lawman who practically single-handedly took on the crime establishment in his county and made them pay. He is rightly a legend in these parts and his home in Adamsville is now a museum. The Walking Tall Trail is one of 16 relatively new driving trails developed by the Tennessee Department of Tourism to highlight cultural, historical and natural heritage attractions that are outside the major major metropolitan areas of Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. It is creative way to "share the wealth" of the tourism bounty with smaller communities that are a bit off the beaten path. Following only backroads and avoid interstates, each of the 16 driving trails originates in a metropolitan area, winds through the adjacent countryside and loops back to the point of origination. The idea is to allow people a "genuine" cultural experience away from the big city, all in one day's drive. There are 3 such trails emanating from Memphis, 7 from Nashville, 4 from Knoxville and 2 from Chattanooga. The trails are listed in detail at this website. There are also very informative, full-color, turn-by-turn brochures available for each trail at any one of the state welcome centers listed here.
Later in the day, we found ourselves in the very remote, but very pretty Chickasaw State Park in Chester County. Here we commenced one of our smallest litter pick-ups on the tour. It was just my family of four, Marge Davis and two park rangers.
Just outside the park entrance was a county road awash in the typical roadside litter – lots of beverage containers and fast food packaging. Curiously in short supply were aluminum cans which statistically should be present in roughly equal quantities to the plastic beverage containers. When that is not the case, it is evidence that someone is picking up the aluminum. Sadly, that same person is choosing to leave the other litter behind. Just think if the other litter had the same market value as the aluminum? That could potentially solve the litter problem very quickly. In less than an hour, our small group was able to pick about a quarter mile stretch of road pretty clean.
Later on in the parking lot near the park entrance, I observed and filmed Marge as she went about her oft-repeated ritual of sorting through the day's debris collection. She does this religiously after each clean-up to make an accurate accounting of the precise ratios and total volume of the various recyclables. Aside from the unusually lower amount of aluminum, it was a pretty standard haul and it was very educational to listen to Marge as she described in detail what each item was and its relative value on the recyclables market. I came away with a renewed respect and admiration for this remarkable woman's dedication to the litter problem in Tennessee and to her tireless promotion of the benefits of recycling. She is a dynamo that never stops and she is an inspiration to many.
Until this impromptu interview with Marge, I had not really realized how utterly, insanely, dedicated she is to litter awareness and recycling education. As I handheld the camera for a half an hour, she proceeded to give me (and the audience) a pretty thorough lesson in what is recyclable and what is not. The Pickin' Up Tennessee project is Marge's brainchild and I'm proud to be associated with it mainly because of her enthusiasm and boundless energy. If there were ten Marges working in unison, I'm pretty sure most of the world' problems could be solved in one generation!