So, Brandan read my Nashville post yesterday (so fast, too, like before we left the coffee shop – I think he might be stalking me.) His immediate response was that I wrote off the entirety of Nashville, TN in one day. That wasn’t my intent at all. I’m sure in a different context, Nashville is great. There were a number of restaurants that I wanted to try, and the nightlife scene looked like it had great potential to be lots of fun. It just wasn’t what I was looking for on this trip, is all. This trip is about meeting the people who live in these cities, understanding why they live here, and getting an idea of what life is like.
We left the Frothy Monkey coffee shop and headed for the Natchez Trace Parkway. Another rambling, roundabout route, but scenic for sure.
Did I mention it’s been raining through the entire state of TN? That huge storm that’s been passing over the southeast has been headed east as we’ve been headed west, and it’s rained on us for 2 days straight. It’s been fairly cold (30’s and 40’s) and that combined with the rain has made for a somewhat dreary landscape, as you can tell in the photos. Everything is pretty brown and grey. It looks like we should be through it tomorrow, and finally see some sun by Wednesday.
The Natchez Trace Parkway was pretty, but very…parkway-like. It’s run by the National Park Service, so it stays manicured, and there’s not a lot on it. We stopped at an overlook for a quick peek, which had a nice view (although also brown and grey.)
Brandan jumped up onto the table to get an extra good view.
Shortly before we ventured off the parkway, we saw a field of green. “Green!” I exclaimed. I made Brandan pull over so I could check it out and see what crop it was.
We walked down to it to get up close, but I still didn’t know what crop it was. I took a picture, so I could try to figure it out. Whatever it was had been planted as some sort of cover crop after the corn that was there before it. (See those bamboo-looking things in the left and bottom of the photo? Corn stalks.)
As we were getting ready to pull back out onto the road, a State Trooper stopped to make sure we were ok. We told him that we were fine, we were just stopping to take a look. Before he drove away, we asked him if he knew what crop that was. He told us he thought it was soybean (which would make sense, if they’re keeping all their grody GMO crops together – corn and soybean, blech), which is also what Brandan had guessed it was. But when I Googled soybean, it was definitely not that.
We also saw wild turkeys on the Parkway – TONS of them. We passed probably 3 or 4
gaggles gangs. (I just had to look up what a group of turkeys is called, apparently it’s a gang. Hoodlum turkeys.)
Once we exited the Parkway, we found our way over to the back roads and drove through some more small towns along the way: Hohenwald, Parsons, Lexington, Medina, and finally to Humboldt. We watched the landscape change from farms full of cows to pastures full of horses: much more manicured, with bigger houses that at times gave way to McMansions. We thought the change in the choice of animal said something about the population. Cows are a production animal. They can provide you with milk, or meat. Horses don’t provide much of anything except for a ride (which as Brandan pointed out, can also be obtained by an ATV.) In all seriousness, though, horses are more of a luxury farm animal than one used in production. They’re expensive, and often treated like pets in much of America.
We finally arrived at our Airbnb in Humboldt, and immediately met Buddy & Smoky, the horses, and Jackson, the crazy black lab. We later met Larry, Moe, and Curly, the barn cats, but they declined to be part of the group photo.
We brought Folly out to have her first up close and personal encounter with horses, and I thought she was going to lose her mind. She loved them. She kept trying to reach up and smell them, lick them, and then kept trying to squeeze herself through the gate to get into their pasture with them.
Our host Christine came out to meet us, and she was as lovely as could be. She was so interesting – she’s traveled all over the world and lived in big cities all over the country. When we told her we were en route to Brandan’s graduation ceremony for his PhD, she clapped her hands together and said, “Oh good, I love PhDs!”
She started a non-profit called Women in Bio and still runs it, while living on her farm. Correction: After a discussion with Brandan and clarifying with Christine, the organization existed in DC for 10 years with no other chapters. She was one of the original board members, and then started chapters in Raleigh, Chicago, San Francisco, San Diego, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Montreal and Mumbai, India. Whew! Randomly, but not surprisingly, the conversation turned to bourbon. She told us she had some bottles of rare bourbon, and she would put one outside our door for us to taste. The one she left us was Barterhouse 20 year. It was dreary, raining, cold, and we were on a farm, so we figured what better time to have some bourbon? We poured ourselves a taste and walked the farm, hung out with the horses, and sat on the tractor. Christine told me I could drive it, but the last thing I wanted to do was buy her a new tractor, so we opted out of that one. It did make for a good photo op though!
Per Christine’s recommendation, we had dinner at Sam’s BBQ. (This article is an interesting story about the history of the place, and how they rebuilt after a fire.) Christine had told us that we would likely be scared when we drove up, but to go in anyway, but I assured her that we’re not usually scared of dive BBQ joints in small towns.
Sam’s sits in an old cinderblock building with some funny sketches on the side that match the cartoon on the aging sign. They were only open until 6pm, so we had an early dinner.
Ya’ll, this bbq was delicious. (I’m allowed to use that word because I’m from the south and I’m talking about bbq.) The pulled pork needed no sauce – it was tender, and juicy, and delicious all by itself. The half chicken we ordered was close to impossible to pick up, as the meat literally just fell off the bone. The staff wasn’t very talkative, and we were the only people in the place. They were cordial, and the woman at the register seemed seriously floored when I brought our plates up to the counter instead of leaving them on the table. I guess people in Humboldt aren’t known to clean up after themselves.
There’s not a lot going on in Humboldt, TN on a Monday night, if you can imagine, so we were in early. We went back to the farm and read books in bed like the old people we are before going to sleep early. We woke up around 7am to MORE RAIN, but I forced myself to get up, and we did a workout in the barn/workshop area. I originally called it Barn WOD, but once we got going and I got tired, I said to myself, “Do it for the donuts!” and I decided that was a way better name.
(AKA, “Do It For The Donuts”)
Before we headed out this morning, I told Christine I had two quick questions for her. In addition to all her other accomplishments, she’s also a master gardener, so I asked her if she could identify the non-soybean plant. She agreed that it was not soybean, but didn’t know what it was and thought it might be some sort of weed. (She messaged me later today and told me that she stopped on her way home from the gym and pulled one up and it was a turnip, so the mystery is solved!)
The second question I asked her was why she moved back to Humboldt. I knew she was from there, but I didn’t understand why someone who had lived in so many big cities would come back to such a small town. She told me that her whole family is here. Her mom, 4 siblings, and 11 nieces and nephews all live in Humboldt and are all farmers, and she decided she wanted to be close to them. She was the “weirdo” in her family who left town (her words, not mine), went to college, and went out and did the things no one else in her family was doing. She had been on a date the night before, and her date had told her she was “interesting.” I told her she seemed pretty normal to us – which makes sense, because we are like her, and she is like us. When you go do the thing no one else is doing, people automatically think you’re weird or different. And maybe you are. But maybe that’s ok, because you’re bringing something to the table that no one else is.
We’re in a bar right now, we just had some dinner, and Brandan is so very patiently waiting for me to wrap this up so we can go explore Memphis. So here are today’s two quick life lessons – the first from Folly, and the second from Christine.
You’re never too old to try new things. Never met a horse before? No matter. Just do it. If you don’t have the means yourself, find someone (like your human, if you’re a dog) that will take you to try the new thing you want to do.
Turns out not where but who you’re with that really matters. Yeah, I stole that line from Dave Matthews. But it’s true. Christine has lived and traveled all over the world. She has the brains and the means to live anywhere and do anything she wants – but she’s back in Humboldt, TN, living on a farm, close to her family. It didn’t matter to her where she was, but that she was with the people she loved. There’s something to be said for that.