Our day began with a litter pick-up adjacent to the new Cummins Falls State Park near Cookeville. The park was opened to the public in 2011 after having been acquired by a coalition of conservation groups and handed over to the state for management. Prior to that process, the area had been under the ownership of the same family since 1830. The falls are a stunning sight and yet another reminder of how many natural treasures we have in Tennessee and why our state park system is one of the best in the nation.
At the litter pick-up we were joined by an inmate crew from Jackson County and a youth group from the Community Prevention Coalition of Jackson County, working on 400 hours of community service towards earning college scholarships. Once again, I was impressed by the dedication of the inmate crew, but also by the young people of the coalition who could easily be doing something more “fun” on a gorgeous summer day. It was a beautiful spot to pick up litter and in no time, the roads entering the park were spotless.
The highlight of the day for me personally was filming Leonard Anderson in his modest front yard in Jamestown in Fentress County. It took quite a bit of driving on twisty, two lane roads to get to Jamestown, but the scenery along the way was stunning – lots of wide-open vistas with rolling hills and horse pastures. At times, it seemed that I was driving through Colorado. This is a Tennessee look that I never knew existed.
Leonard is an unassuming man who apparently has a lot of local fans because there was a pretty decent crowd of about 20 people (including the mayor) to watch him and his sister Debbie perform an original tune, “I'm pickin' up cans” and later Leonard did a tune with percussion accompaniment from Stacey Choate using a peculiar instrument I had not seen before – a cajon (pronounced “KA-HONE”). It looks like a speaker from a stereo system and Stacey sat astride it and pounded out a sharp rhythm to accompany Leonard's lyrics, harmonica and guitar for “Hard Times.” The tune, Leonard says, was written from life experience. The honesty of Leonard's story-driven lyrics caused me and others to laugh, but the kind of knowing laugh that grows out of deep universal truths.
We ended our day at the serene setting of the campground at Pickett State Park, right near the border with Kentucky. It was a very remote locale, but very comforting at the same time because we were in a safe and clean state park campground. It was so quiet and isolated, the world could have ended and we would not have known about it. The campground was nearly deserted, but apparently the secret is out to some people about this special place as I spotted a car from New York state.