Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interview with JD previous owner, Sept 29 2008

Joe D. came by the Lodge Monday in his gold SUV on the way to feeding the animals, looking very dapper. I sat him down on the porch for some oral history. He told me a lot about his own family history in these parts – ancestors (including some Woods!) turning up about 1824, joining a Primitive Baptist church. There were many schisms among the churches of the time, largely over leader’s personality. Cherokee used this part of TN as hunting grounds, and would set up temporary camps (e.g. in the next hollow). Any flints found here today would have been imported from elsewhere. ** Charlie Thornton found an arrowhead ‘factory’ at the end of the horse pasture.

Yellow Bird Farm (the main property) has been owned by:

Beecher Stroud (father in law of HH) sold to Hogan Hollis (see Hollis Creek Rd) - (father of Louise, Carol’s (Bob Melton’s wife) mother). HH owned a property that included Bob’s farm and what is now mine, and sold off Yellow Bird to Woodrow Shelton (1945) (father of wife of Elmus Tenpenny – I met Woodrow a couple of years ago before he died) - he drained the small existing pond (claimed there were mega-mosquitos). He had tenant farmers growing tobacco, hogs, dairy cows: the Reedy’s (son George), the Willey’s (?), the Thomas’s. He sold to Johnny Huff, who sold to Grady Ratliffe (the farm still had cornfields behind the poultry shed). He ran out of $$, and the farm went to Ode Pettigo (realtor?), who sold it to Joe Davenport (1964), who sold it to me.

[The Lodge was built for Priscilla Woodward and Charlie Thornton in 1996 by Tom Bean. Built from 4x4 pine wood reclaimed from a whisky distillery, and from sunken cypress recovered from the Mississippi in/near Memphis. Sold 2005 to Pat and Julie Fann, then to me Spring 2008. Ralph Hall built the connecting road for me with his bulldozer in May 2008.]

The only previous name Joe knew was Rebel Hill Farm, which he once gave it at the suggestion of one of his pupils. The big field above the farm pond was Back field, and the field with the old pear tree, Pear Tree field. Apparently the pear tree was old when Louise was a child (she is in her 70s). Said to be a ‘Bosch’. Looks more like a Keiffer to me. Either way, ripens in October. I am picking fruit now and storing them in the basement. Ethylene from ripe bananas in the same brown bag apparently accelerates ripening.

Why ‘Yellow Bird’ Farm? Probably an associative mix of childhood visits to Yellowstone, affection for the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the name of a calypso song, and a certain natural ring of innocence and delight. I was standing outside the barn with Joe a few weeks after I bought the place. “So, you’re calling it Yellow Bird” he said. “Do you see those birds on the fence?” “Yes I do” “Blue birds” he declared. And then with a twinkle: “In the spring we get bright yellow goldfinches – you’ll see.”

Words can be like birds. You are searching for the right word, when – how did it get there? – you find it’s perching on your shoulder.