Winding through valleys and hills, small towns and big cities, rivers have played a crucial role in molding the landscape of Tennessee. A land rich in biodiversity, the many lakes and rivers that make up this portion of the country tell a fascinating story of traditions, cultures, and creativity. While bumping along on gravel back roads in Benton County, it’s easy to feel a complete disconnect from any sort of link to the world beyond Tennessee.
Blares of music echo throughout the Harris Sports Performance building as members enter through the silver steel door. Familiar with the daily bootcamp routine, they huddle around owner Nicholas Harris, prepared to stretch before the intense workout. Harris’ tenacious voice magnifies as he briefs his clients on the selected workout, pumping up the team. “Whatever your 100% looks like, give it!” he says. “Like always, we are here to work hard and give our best, so let’s get it!”
Courtney Vandiver walked toward the tall, off-white credenza in the corner of the studio, above which hung two loose coloring sheets with pink crayon streaks bleeding from the bold, black outlines of butterfly wings. About eight feet of blue masking tape formed an “L” shape around the credenza. Before the class began and the girls were still giggling and adjusting their leotards, Courtney told me she had placed the tape there one stressful day, warning her students not to cross the line.
I can’t quite remember my life before The Great British Baking Show, but for that I’m grateful. If you’re unfamiliar with this British TV show that’s invading America and likely your Netflix watchlist, you really are missing out. Polite bakers, quirky hosts, scrumptious desserts—I mean, come on. It’s a true cup of tea, and as a former baker myself, I often daydream of creating my own treats under the white tent in that storybook-like field. All throughout high school, I was known as “the cake girl.”
If you drive through the suburban sprawl surrounding Nashville, headed west towards Jackson, Tennessee, the rolling hills will soon taper to level ground. You’ll know you’re almost there when a field of trees swallowed in kudzu forms hovering masses, almost like ancient creatures gathered alongside the road. We don’t think about it too much, but there’s something to the landscape of a place. Plenty of artists have tried, but it shapes us in ways we can’t quite name.
George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” Like any place, Jackson, Tennessee, has its fair share of history, some things worth celebrating and others worth mourning, but all are worth remembering so that we can move forward in hope for change. One of those historically significant events for our community (and hundreds of others across the U.S.) is the brutal lynching of African Americans—not just one, but three. Jacksonians Jesse and Mary Chandler Wooten gave birth to a daughter in 1883.
As I sat near the window at Starbucks, a man wearing brown leather boots and a denim jacket hand-stitched with the name “Wolf” immediately caught my attention. Though I had heard and read many things about Lee Wilson, I had never met him up until this point. As one of the co-owners of Jackson Escape Rooms and a winning contestant of CBS’ reality show, Hunted, Lee has proven his seemingly uncanny ability to strategize and solve problems, a skill that far surpasses his knack for style.
Even though I’ve lived in Jackson for almost twenty years, I still feel like a newcomer in a lot of ways, so it surprises me when somebody I think has lived here for quite a while tells me they didn’t know that Jackson has a third post office. It makes sense, when I think about.
When I was young, my family would take vacations to different cities to watch baseball games. While I loved baseball, the thing I looked forward to the most was seeing the skyline of whatever city we were visiting. In my single digit years, it was always St. Louis. Driving past the multitude of Drury Inns in the suburbs and waiting for the skyline to materialize in the distance never got old. Seeing the Arch stretch across the sky is something I can still see in my mind today. As I got older, the cities became larger: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York.
“We are ‘be the change you want to see’ kind of people. Ultimately, we can complain about what is not available to us in rural West Tennessee or we can choose to change it.” This is Katie Weatherford’s heart behind Retro Coffee Bar, West Tennessee’s newest coffee option that is on the move and popping up at events, weddings, and festivals. Based in Selmer, Katie and her husband Jake have teamed up with couple Matthew and Sarah Moore to create the delicious coffee they crave, without all of the hassle of attempting a full storefront in a small town.
“third wave coffee.” noun. 1. The most recent cultural phenomenon in the history of the coffee industry and consumption. Comes after the first wave of coffee, which included “growing coffee consumption exponentially,” and the second wave of coffee, which began to “define and enjoy specialty coffee.” 2. Purchasing coffee due to its “origin and artisan methods of production.” 3. A movement aspiring to produce the highest quality of coffee possible at every level while pleasing and intriguing the coffee consumer. “UrbanHouse.” noun.
Martin, Tennessee, is a town with a population of around 11,475. It’s known for its annual Tennessee Soybean Festival and for the University of Tennessee at Martin. If you drive down University Street, you’ll go right through the university, pass by Sammie’s (an aptly-named sandwich shop), and mosey by several boutiques and small shops. It’s a small, charming place. Locals support the UTM Skyhawks and the Westview High School Chargers and eat at The Grind.
What comes to mind when you think of a gym? Is it bulging biceps, wrenching pain, or maybe an excuse to consume more calories? Going to the gym may give you a dream physique, sore muscles, or justification eating sweets, but Brick House Strength offers more than just a physical workout. “We are a grass roots women's fitness movement,” owners Melissa Stanfill and Natalia Santiago affirms. “Our mission is to help all women build stronger foundations, brick by brick.”
I’m sitting by myself, the steady thrum of others’ voices around me, and I’m looking at a white sign with neat black lettering: “WHERE HOT COFFEE AND WARM CONVERSATION FLOW.”I’ve got the hot coffee part—it’s steaming pleasantly in a glossy brown mug—and I can hear the groups talking around me. There are some college students in the corner of the room. (I can tell they’re in school because of their tired eyes trained on the laptops perched in front of them, even as they continue to hold conversation with each other.)
2018 has been a year to remember, and much of that is thanks to our talented contributors who have poured themselves into telling the stories of Jackson in such a compelling way that they become part of our lives. With that, we are proud to share this year's top ten stories from our blog, encouraging you to read any you missed and to high-five the writers, photographers, and subjects featured.
Google gets over 3.5 billion searches a day, processing over 40,000 searches each second. The most common Google searches in 2017 included weather, celebrities, the new iPhone, sporting events, and—making the top ten—fidget spinners. Many of us use Google daily to check how late a restaurant is open, to figure out the name of the actor on the tip of our tongue, to shop, to find directions or recipes, and to scare ourselves by reading way too deeply into the symptoms of a common cold.
Maybe it will be a high school production of the musical Camelot. An exhibit of stunning photography by a local class may catch your eye. Perhaps you’ll just want to see the downstairs museum, where dozens of photos, plaques, awards, and costumes recall the acting careers of Dixie Carter and her husband, Hal Holbrook. What will bring you to The Dixie? The Dixie Carter Performing Arts & Academic Enrichment Center is a historical performing arts and enrichment center in Huntingdon, Tennessee.
As I entered into Suite G of 581 Old Hickory Boulevard, I immediately found myself surrounded by waves of smoke, the aromatic scents of assorted cigars, and comic laughter from customers known as “regulars.” Sitting amongst the crowd was new owner Dale Brown. Though he may be a new entrepreneur, Brown is not new to Ye Ole Pipe Shoppe & Cigar Lounge. When he moved to Jackson nearly thirty years ago, he also became a customer to the store.
I bought the most reasonably-priced vinyl record of my life at a record store in Jackson. This is the kind of sentence I never thought I’d write. For one thing, reasonable prices, particularly for a brand new, remastered vinyl of an iconic rock star like David Bowie, are hard to come by in most record stores. If you go to Wuxtry Records in Athens, Georgia, you’ll find records for around twenty to thirty bucks.
I woke up to a phone call around nine in the morning; my friend’s neighbor’s grandmother’s employee had just quit his job, and they needed someone to come in immediately. Naturally, I was next in line. I drove across town to a strip mall I had never seen before and wandered into an unmarked restaurant where I was greeted by two golden lions, the king of Thailand (who was placing a call on an old brick phone), and a particularly satisfied Buddha.
While perusing the West Tennessee Farmers’ Market, it would be hard to pass by the mountain of deep green vegetables and neon radishes of Rose Creek Farms, owned by Ray and Ashley Tyler. Their farm is nestled in a valley in Selmer, Tennessee, with a little over one acre of active farming land. With the help of high tunnels and row covers, they’re able to extend the typical season barriers to grow deliciously tender greens and veggies all year round.
Great art is meant to be experienced. It is not enough to see a picture of a painting by Delacroix or Jacques-Louis David in an art history book. You must tramp across the wide corridors of the Louvre and encounter them in all the massive, unbelievable glory and beauty; anything else is only a poor substitute. This sort of artistic experience is a great blessing, and it explains why so many people continue to visit the great museums of the world.
I slipped my hands into my jacket pockets and stepped out into the cool, not-quite-wintry February afternoon. It was a pleasant Thursday on the University of Memphis Lambuth campus, and I was in need of a good walk among the trees before I began my afternoon Spanish class. Ever since I can remember, nature has always been an escape for me.
Life changes quickly. It is the start of another school year. The word “new” seems to permeate all conversations: new clothes, new shoes, new school supplies, new teachers, new schedules, new friends, new experiences, and new adventures. These things seem to give us all a fresh start and a regeneration of life for this season. But for some, this way of life is not a given. We have all heard the old saying, “The one thing in life that is constant is change.”
What will a person not do because of love? With love, the seemingly absurd and impossible becomes logical and likely. Love is what drives us to actions and accomplishments, from the noblest and greatest to ordinary and poignant. To paraphrase the famous early twentieth century English author G.K. Chesterton, something becomes great or beautiful or indeed lovely because we love it. Not because it was great, beautiful, or lovely before we came. This is because love is transformative.
Gathering with friends and family around a beloved movie is a special thing for many people. Maybe it’s a yearly tradition of going to the movie theater on Christmas Day or a parent taking a child to each new superhero film that hits the screen. These are bonding experiences, and with Jackson Outdoor Movies now a part of our community, locals can make more memories like these under the stars. Jackson Outdoor Movies provides a first-class movie watching experience for public and private events.
We have loved following along with Jackson Downtown Development Corporation's "People of Downtown" series on Facebook and Instagram, and this week, we were lucky enough to have our own Editor-in-Chief Katie Howerton featured. Read a little more of her story below and find out why downtown Jackson is such an important part of Our Jackson Home's mission.
The year was 1984, and a young student from a remote region in the heart of Africa walked out of a small Jesuit mission in what is today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Makim Mputubwele was leaving a torn country to study applied linguistics in the sprawling, peaceful landscapes of Indiana.
If you have been to a lazy weekend day the West Tennessee Farmers’ Market or a night out at one of Jackson’s finer dining establishments, then you are no stranger to the soothing sounds of Scott Myatt’s music. Myatt’s song, a mixture of melodic singing and guitar playing, is a familiar sound often filling the air throughout our city. A part-time musician and a part-time visual artist, Myatt brings his lyrical touch on the senses to locals as a proud citizen of Jackson.
What would happen if a natural storm wiped out the heart of a city? How would the identity of a community remain intact if vital parts of it are destroyed? These are questions that the Madison County Archives prepares to answer with every property deed, court record, and legal notice that is carefully preserved on its shelves. “You could re-create local history with the files we have,” Archivist Thomas Aud tells me from his seat in the Archives atrium.