Some of you may not know that my husband loves folk art. One of the many reasons that our trips take us down forgotten highways and to hole in the wall places is because of this.
There has been a piece of folk art that Bran has had his eye on for years and we were finally in the area.
In 1989 Billy Tripp started a piece of art that continues to grow today. Mindfield is located in Brownsville, TN about 60 miles from Memphis. The majority of the sculpture is created using scrap metal and pieces you might find in your bathroom or shed. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the piece as a whole, but the longer you explore the more you see the intricacy of the work. A tribute to his parents. Sections that move with the wind. A tribute to the likes of Tolstoy and Thompson.
We were alerted that Mr. Tripp was on site and took a stroll to the back of the sculpture to tell him how much we admired his work. Even the kids spoke to him about his creativity. It was a joy to meet the soft spoken artist.
You can learn more about Mindfield here. When you visit make sure to grab lunch at the Mindfield Grill. The staff is incredibly kind, willing to talk to you about their gracious landlord (Mr. Tripp), and share pictures and newspaper cut outs from over the years. They’ve got a pretty good burger, too!
The Mindfield is a lot to take it, so here are a few shots to give you an idea of Tripp’s art.
It feels like a lifetime since we took a short road trip, but we had no problem picking up where we left off.
We started our trip through the rolling hills of extreme western Tennessee. What a beautiful drive! There are no pictures for this portion because I was busy admiring the old farm houses and barns while my imagination ran wild. I’m currently channeling Joanna Gaines as I redecorate our home. Let me tell you, Bran has been a trooper as I explore my wild ideas. The rolling hills led us to Dyersburg where we had a wonderful lunch at Hog Heaven. Again, no pictures because I was busy admiring that baked potato salad on my plate and enjoying the conversation. The next time you find yourself in Dyersburg make sure to stop here for a plate of BBQ, potato salad, and never ending sweet tea. Oh, and be sure to get a slice of the greatest chess pie I think I’ve ever had.
In the afternoon we visited the Tennessee Safari Park. The park is located on a century old farm site that eventually became home to rare and endangered animals. The park focuses on conservation and breeding. A safari? In Tennessee? Well, it is the closest thing we’re going to get to a safari in middle America. This is a drive-thru zoo! All the animals, aside from the giraffes, roam the 5.5 acres of farm land that you are allowed to drive through. We purchased enough feed to ensure that each person in our car could roll our windows down and experience feeding the various animals. You are guaranteed to see zebras, ostriches, emus, llamas, various species of deer, buffalo, etc. as you drive through. They are all eager to come to your window, some into the window, and eat from the supplied buckets. Ostriches will follow along side your car! We all had a blast! There was so much laughing that my sides hurt by the time we got home. The kids thought it was hilarious when the camels stole my bucket and the highlight of the trip for me was feeding not one, but two giraffes! One from the car and one in their walk through zoo.
If you are interested in more information about the Tennessee Safari Park and what they do there please visit their website here.
Here are a few pictures from our park visit.
South of Hwy 8 in the Mississippi delta lies the tiny town of Money. While the town itself doesn’t feel like much, what happened there in 1955 changed the course of America.
On a warm August day a 14 yr old boy went to this store, some accounts say he flirted with the shopkeeper as a dare, some say he whistled when he talked due to polio when he was younger, but by any account what happened just a few days later was one of the most horrible stories in the 20th century.
Bryant Grocery in the 1950s
Bryant grocery today
14 year old Emmett Till was murdered a few days later by the shop keepers husband. His only crime was the color of his skin. His body was found 3 days later, weighted down in the Tallahatchie river by a large fan.
All that is left today of the store is a crumbling shell. For more pictures of what the site looks like today I suggest the flicker account here.
Regarding the death of Mr. Till I leave you with a quote from Faulkner
If we Americans are to survive it will have to be because we choose and elect and defend to be first of all Americans; to present to the world one homogeneous and unbroken front, whether of white Americans or black ones or purple or blue or green. Maybe the purpose of this sorry and tragic error committed in my native Mississippi by two white adults on an afflicted Negro child is to prove to us whether or not we deserve to survive. Because if we in America have reached that point in our desperate culture when we must murder children, no matter for what reason or what color, we don’t deserve to survive, and probably won’t.
In southern Mississippi Co in eastern Arkansas, just a few miles west of the Mississippi River, lies the small town of Wilson. Founded as a company town in 1886 by Robert E. Lee Wilson the town has seen decline, and currently a revival.
The town stayed in the Wilson family control for many years, and following R. E. L. Wilson’s son’s honeymoon in England in 1925 the town square was rebuilt in the Tudor revival style.
Now under new management, the town is under a revival. Local gardens provide food for the only restaurant in town, and provide for residents to buy and enjoy. Large beautiful trees line the street, and hints of all sort of exciting new things are around the corner.
We came to Wilson a few weeks prior to try the new restaurant, and returned over the weekend to visit the Wilson fall festival. From BBQ, to music, to company, the town of Wilson was both welcoming and entertaining.
Wilson is worth a stop on your visit through eastern Arkansas. Enjoy the history, and how it mingles with a very bright future.
I found a nice little story that talks about a landmark in Imboden, in Lawrence County. The house still stands at the corner of US 63 and US 62.
I grew up in a small town in Arkansas, a small town filled with buildings that were either empty, or housed a flea market or a pawn shop. My father or grandparents would tell me stories of what was there, and I would imagine how things must of looked back then. This blog,
A Tale Of Two Towns, does a wonderful job of fleshing out those visions. It’s a gift to small town history fans, and an inspiration to me.
Growing up in a small town your front porch is the thread that connects your home to your community and music is what shows strangers who you truly are. Those two things blend together better in Mountain View, AR than anywhere we have visited.
As you walk the streets music pulls you in from the front of almost every home and business. Turn the corner and you’ll run into a crowd in the square all gathering to enjoy the atmosphere and the notes that flow from the guitars and banjos.
Sprinkled amongst the musicians are make shift ice cream shops, artisans, and storytellers. Kids and adults alike wander the town, ice cream dripping from their cones, all tapping their toes without hesitation.
As we sat to enjoy our ice cream, very near the stand pictured, an older man caught our eye. He sat on a porch, guitar sitting flat on his lap, talking with another man. Soon, the locals began requesting songs and this passed through his lips.
In this place you are no different than the neighbor sitting to your right. We were welcomed with warm smiles and big hearts; even our son left with new friends.
Mountain View is an easy day trip for those within a few hours of north central Arkansas. Might I suggest a few hours of your time, a cone of Happy Tracks ice cream, and a chair.
This past weekend, our family took off for a little adventure on the western side of our great state. I finally got to show Brandon and our kids a place that is very near and dear to my heart, Carden Bottoms, AR.
Carden Bottoms (or Bottom) is situated between Petit Jean Mountain and Holla Bend near the Arkansas River. Very few structures still exist in the area with the exception of the old school. What was once a bustling little farming community is now full of ghosts and memories.
Some of those memories are mine. My grandfather, Papaw Bill, and his siblings grew up in Carden Bottoms and attended the school there. Papaw was a man known for nostalgia and would often take my sister and I on day trips to areas that were important to him. This place stood out, amongst others, as my favorite. That particular trip, we broke into the school house, now abandoned and neglected. I remember walking up to the doors of the school, through saw-briar and vines, and watching my Papaw force the doors open. It looked as if people had just vanished and dropped things where they were, papers littered the ground and pieces of furniture sat torn. Something about that day struck a cord in me. I believe he is completely to blame for my sense of nostalgia.
We learned a couple of valuable lessons on our trip; 1) you can’t take kids to break into an abandoned building and 2) you can’t take kids that like to run to a mountain. We will be returning to Carden Bottoms later this year, minus kids, to get back to the old school. I look forward to sharing that post with you.
While exploring Hwy 93 that connects Hwy 90 in Randolph County to the Missouri state line my father-in-law and I discovered the grave of Edward Hudson, a private in the South Carolina militia who then moved to Arkansas after the war, settling in Ravenden Springs, AR. More information on Pvt Hudson can be discovered in the link below.
Hwy 93 was never a major road. There are two communities on the highway, the township of Dalton, which has some interesting older buildings for a later blog post, and the now defunct community of Elm Store which holds the grave of what is considered to be Arkansas’s first serial killer, John Kizer, who’s somewhat sensationalized story was originally printed in the April, 1957 issue of True Detective. (http://www.argenweb.net/randolph/Kizer.htm). There is also access to the eleven point river, one of the five rivers that carve their way through Randolph County.
Backroad Anthology is Brandon and Amber. We are a husband and wife team with a passion for history, photography, stories, food, and life. Our dream is to bring the backroads of America to you through stories, photos, and video. We go off the beaten path to find forgotten townships, amazing food and unforgettable personalities.