I came back from Tennessee looking like I had been hit with buckshot. We drove down there over Labor Day to visit our friend Steve and camp on the land he bought in the hills. I scratched the head off my chigger bites on the way home but they still itch like crazy.
We plotted a Google map from our house to Steve’s property and we knew we wanted to go towards Buffalo but we may have gotten up too early for this trip. We found ourselves on Rochester’s eastern expressway heading toward Syracuse before it dawned on us that we wanted to go west.
Our friend, Monica, let us borrow her Woodstock book, the one with forward by Martin Scorsese, and Peggi was reading it aloud as I drove. We were making good time and were slightly ahead of the Google’s estimated times when we got stuck in a rush hour traffic jam in downtown Cincinnati, right where interstates 75 and 71 merge. And things didn’t get much better in Kentucky where the roads switched from four lane to two lane and kept jamming up for no apparent reason.
Steve’s place is just over state line in Tennessee and I am really surprised they didn’t stop us to check our passports because this place is world away from New York. Steve left instructions for us to call him from the pay phone at the Shell station in Byrdstown and he he came down in his pickup to meet us. There was no way we could have found his place on our own. It is tucked away up some incredibly steep, winding dirt roads.
The Woodstock book is full of descriptive quotes from the organizers, performers and attendees. Because Peggi had been reading to me for so long I kept hearing a narrator’s voice as I took in Tennessee. Steve introduced us to a guy named Troy who was squatting on his property in a tent down by the creek. Troy was on the lam and helping Steve in exchange for a place to pitch his tent. He had killed a rattler while clearing some brush on the property and he was wearing a white cowboy hat that he wrapped with his snake skin band.
We were prepared to camp here but Steve had recently pulled a small trailer up there so we folded down the bed over the kitchen table in the trailer and spread our sleeping bags out there. We were exhausted and ready to crash but first Steve wanted to take us back down the hill to meet some biker friends and the biker friends of theirs that had just driven a Neil Young style Touring RV up from Ft. Meyers, Florida. One of the guys told the story of how this area got the name. “Roughshod Hollow”. A character named Billy rode a horse over here from Indiana and and stopped at the blacksmith to repair a shoe. The blacksmith was busy so Billy shoed the horse himself and then asked the blacksmith how it looked. The blacksmith said, “Pretty rough but it’ll do”. We did some heroic beer drinking and stayed up til three or four that morning.
I’ll have to continue this Tennessee story tomorrow before it all slips away.
Photos from Tennessee