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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Part III

October 31 2013 2:07 pm CST Office in Nashville townhouse. Hello all and Happy Halloween! I cannot believe my last blog was the 17th ! I will have so much catching up to do. Our sojourn is coming to a close. Becky and Bob arrive home on the 16th and we will head north on the 17th. They board their Carnival cruise across the wide Atlantic tomorrow in Rome, I think, but certainly somewhere in Italy. I was looking at the list of places I wanted to explore while here and have been amazed at how many we have gone to see. As usual our tastes are quite eclectic and our desire to connect with locals continues. We've become somewhat regulars at our local Applebee's and are greeted as such. It is our local Cheers--many of the same people are there when we stop in for wings and Yuengling drafts. Lloyd the young manager always comes to sit at the bar with me--he talks to Bill, too, but I think I'm a mother figure for him. He had been to Cheekwood and the Bruce Munro Light exhibit and whipped out his fancy cell phone to show me pictures when I said we had tickets to go. Another young man, originally from Alabama, also chats me up and this week he told us of the cotton harvest going on in Alabama right now and I think we will head down this week-end to see it. There is another regular, probably in his early 60's, who is originally from Las Vegas, NM so we talk about our travels there. He keeps shaking his head when I say we haven't gone up to Taos because of the snow--so maybe we'll have to give it a try this year--it is the only part of NM we haven't explored. Anyway, you get the picture. We also go over to Logan's on occasion since I love to make myself throw the peanut shells on the floor--it is a real challenge. The bartender there is from Indiana so he and Bill talk sports etc. We've also taken to weekly treks to Grinder's Switch for the radio hour before which we get donuts at the local bakery and after which we go to the local café for lunch but that is another day's blog. Other than our first excursion out there in Centerville, we have spent days exploring the shopping areas around here and becoming familiar with the roads and various ways to get places. I've set Greta Garmin to avoid Interstates so we've gone to Aldi's on Nolensville Pike, over to Thompson Lane to Ulta's, Michael's and Logans. We headed out the Franklin Pike again to Academy Sports where we both got ourselves some new walking/running shoes at a real discount. Kroger's has become our grocery of choice on Old Hickory Boulevard and Mapco the gas station of choice on Nolensville Pike. We don't need Greta anymore in the immediate vicinity. We also have days of reading on the deck and running the robot over the floors while the washer and dryer keep our laundry from piling up. We take turns cooking --depending on what we want to eat and who is in the mood to make it. All in all, some things are similar to living at home and others like our road trips. The one nice thing is that it is Fall here, though we've had two frosts one two consecutive mornings but by and large we are still in short sleeves or a very light long sleeved hoodie. Some evenings are so mild and breezy that we sit on the deck until 9 or 930. The bugs are gone, except the yellow jackets and the leaves are finally turning, though our tree line across the road is almost bare now. We still have a plant on the deck and it is flowering. I love it. Today, I'll pick up where I left off on Oct 5. You may recall that we had gone to Columbia and spent time exploring Polk's home. Other than a trip to Centerville and the local excursions just described we didn't do any major sightseeing again until October 10 when we spent the entire day at The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. Betsy has no use for the man since he is responsible for the mass eviction of the local Native Americans in the brutal march that has become known as the Trail of Tears. Bill gave me the book American Lion for Christmas two years ago and I still haven't gotten around to reading it. It is during Jackson's administration that the Second Bank of the United States, a private institution and one that held Federal funds, lost its charter. Jackson felt that it favored affluent people at the cost of the common man and so withdrew all Federal funds from it and placed them in States banks. During this time tokens were issued as currency and one in particular shows Jackson, with sword raised high above his head, standing on a chest of coins and the motto reads " I take the responsibility!" Bill had one of these tokens placed in a gold bezel and put on a chain as his gift to Betsy on her 18th birthday. But back to our visit. The day was sunny without a cloud in the sky and though I dressed in the lightest blouse I owned it was hot as blazes. We decided to see everything available to us and so we purchased a ticket for the carriage ride, the tour of Tulip Grove and the tour of The Hermitage itself. The first order of business was walking to the mansion and behind it to take the 11 am carriage ride. The route to the Hermitage from the townhouse takes us past the airport and both the townhouse and the Hermitage are on flight paths into it. As we walked among the trees, planted by the ladies guild or some such and taken from each of the sights of battles in which Jackson served, huge jets would periodically go screaming overhead disturbing the quiet of this oasis so close to the developed urban areas that are Nashville suburbs. One of the shots in the album is sort of a where's Waldo shot--looking up through the canopy of one tree there is, almost hidden, one of the silver birds coming in for a landing. Many of the trees along what is called the War Road are long dead but there are still plenty to offer a bit of shade and respite from the heat. Around one curve framed by Eastern red cedars the stroller catches a glimpse of the façade of the Mansion. The walk does not follow exactly the original drive by which visitors of yore approached the home but the original gates are still off to one's right and the point at which the home is first espied is almost the same at which occupants of an arriving carriage would have first seen the entrance. The hurricane in 1998 wiped out most of the cedars that lined the original carriage road but the ones immediately in front of the home remain. It seems that Jackson wanted to obscure the fact that the façade was the only Greek Revival aspect of the home and that the sides and rear did not continue the motif. We bypassed the entry to the gardens, passed along the path before the mansion, around the left side and the unattached kitchen to the rear yard. Our cart awaited us with the driver Liddy and Percherons, Rachel and ?. There were only four of us for the trip so we were able to spread out and turn in all directions without disturbing anyone else. One of the first cabins we came upon is known as Alfred's cabin. Alfred was a slave on the plantation who remained after emancipation. In time he acquired Jackson's bed when the descendants were forced to sell. He served as a docent when the home was first opened to the public and he requested permission to be buried in the garden near the graves of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. As we slowly moved along the gravel path Liddy pointed out that the trees which we taking up a great deal of the landscape were not there in Jackson's time--all of the acreage, including the lovely park area through which we had strolled was planted in cotton, a small patch of which was planted for those of us unfamiliar with the crop to see. It was not yet ripe and ready for harvest. 1000 acres of cotton, as far as the eye could see! Jackson built a gin for his cotton and, for a fee, he ginned his neighbors' crops. Once baled, the cotton traveled by boat to New Orleans where it was sold to textile mills in Britain and New England, beneficiaries, too, of slavery. Coming out of the trees we reached a large open area with a strong flowing spring and the outlines of duplex housing for the field slaves. Here they lived and worked. They were allowed to hunt for food as well as receiving meat from the plantations larder and also tended gardens in which they grew vegetables. Fruit from the plantations trees and bushes were provided them as well. Artifacts have been found that indicate that there was also a system of barter among slaves of various plantations. Returning to the main house grounds we passed a cabin with two doors that was the second floor of the original home in which the Jackson's lived rot 13 years. The lower story was removed though no one seems to know why. Rachel had papered it with expensive French wall paper and had furnished it in style. When they built the big house they removed the first floor and converted the remaining second story into slave quarters. As we turned back into the wagon's tie up we passed another excavation, this one a triplex and the housing for some of the house slaves. We returned to the visitors' center to tour the museum before driving out Rachel's Lane to the Tulip Grove. One of the first displays is a blown out model of the cabin in which the Jackson's lived initially. Also a brief outline of the interactions between the " lords of the lash and the lords of the loom" and the place the Hermitage held in that union. As we walked about we found that the Jacksons like the Polks had no children of their own and, like the Polks, " adopted " a child from the family to be their son and heir. Rachel's brother had twin boys so one of them was named Andrew Jackson, Jr and became their son and heir. They also had an adopted son who was a Creek Indian found on the battlefield of New Orleans near his dead mother and sent home to the Hermitage by Jackson for Rachel to take under her care. That has always perplexed me--soon to force mothers and children to march to Oklahoma but so concerned about this one Creek? The family history as told in portraits became very confusing since it seems that every member of Rachel's family felt compelled to name a son Andrew Jackson somebody or other. Jackson himself had no family. His father died when he was young--his two brothers and mother died by the time he had fully grown. Rachel on the other hand seems to have more than enough kin to keep them happy and being childless they, like the Polks, always seemed to have nieces and nephews etc coming out of the woodwork. It is sad to note that shortly after being elected President, Jackson lost his wife and so after all the stress of scandal and war etc, she was not there to share his major triumph. Which brings me to the confusion--Rachel's niece, Emily, married her cousin ( Emily's, not Rachel's ) Andrew Jackson Donelson. The Donelsons went to Washington where Emily served as First Lady, in today's parlance, and AJD served as the President's secretary. It is they who built Tulip Grove. Emily died shortly after the construction of that mansion and AJD married another cousin, who was also Emily's cousin, Elizabeth Martin Randolph, the widow of Merriweather Lewis Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's grandson. Got that???? Meantime, AJ jr was back home taking care of the Hermitage--poorly it would seem--and raising children. One of whom Rachel was destined to be the last Jackson to live and become involved in the purchase and rehabilitation of a plantation and home gone to ruin. The South and its economy changed after the Civil War and the Hermitage was devastated as so many homes were by the changes. In addition, most of the men of the family died off leaving women to somehow hold on. The pictures and story of the decline are pretty self explanatory. Eventually, an old age home for Confederate veterans was built on the property. A Confederate cemetery was located nearby--up near Tulip Grove and the church that Rachel helped establish and attended. Eventually, an organization of prominent women managed to start the salvation of the Jackson home. Once exclusive in its membership it is now open to anyone, I read, with an amused eye. I just bet! Off we went to the car and a trip out to Tulip Grove. We were early so we roamed around the Church and I took pictures of the Tulip Poplar trees that are so prevalent here. Eventually, our young docent arrived and we had a tour of a rather bare building, the most impressive item of which was the lovely oval staircase that climbed three stories. Donelson himself had a rather impressive political career though he aligned himself with less than successful candidates. I'm sure his appointment as Ambassador by Polk was as much a result of his relationship to Jackson as to any real qualifications that set him above others for the post. Returning to the Visitors' Center we watched the video about Jackson and the Hermitage--most of the information we had already gleaned. Pretty tired of walking and very hot I decided to take advantage of the golf cart transport provided by a delightful security guard. She is from Texas and has worked here for three years and loves it. As I was the only one wanting a ride we had lots of time to chat. By this time it was about 330 and the wait to enter the house was very short. We sat on a bench in the shade as the period dressed docent repeated once more the story of the house and its reincarnations. Soon the door opened and we were taken through the lower rooms by yet another docent. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed so I'll have to try to describe the rooms. We entered a narrow hall the walls of which are papered with papers that form a mural of Telemachus' search for his father on the Isle of Calypso, a section of the Odyssey. I must admit I didn't find it attractive but for the period in which the study of the Greek and Latin cultures was de rigueur I'm sure it was all the rage. Seems the kids enjoyed finding the various characters and locales. Well, heck, no computer games or internet. On the left of the central hallway are two doors each of which open into a parlor, both of which connect to each other. The rooms are furnished primarily with scattered small tables and chairs. Many of Jackson's momentoes are there including a sword presented to him by the State of Tennessee and a Italian marble bust of him. At the end of the hall is another elliptical staircase but we bypassed it to go round the back porch and into the lower hallway, where we were greeted by another docent. Here were found a very large room with bookcases and a huge chair and tables. Massive bound books of newspapers were stacked on the floor. Jackson subscribed to about five newspapers and read them each day and in time had each years output bound in a book. This was his library. Attached to this room, his bedroom with Rachel's portrait on the wall across from the foot of his bed. In his later years this pair of rooms is where he spent most of his time. Across the hall, a smaller room used as an office by Jr to run the business of the plantation. Then we climbed up to be greeted by another docent at the head of the stairs. Upstairs, six huge bedrooms--each holding two full sized four poster beds, wardrobes, and dressers. Larger than any rooms I've seen in any other plantation. Curtains enclosed each bed during the winter and gauzy mosquito netting enclosed them in summer. The upstairs floor plan is interesting. You go up a short flight and there are two bedrooms one on either side, up another short flight and two more, then down the other side into a large hall with a guillotine window at one end and large doors on the other and two bedrooms across from the stairs. Here are some seating couches and then the opening to the oval staircase and a return to the main hall. Once more we proceeded out to the entrance to the dining room which is, in the Southern style below the house where it is cooler. No curtains, they catch dust. Venetian blinds. Not carpet but a painted floor clothe and a huge dining room table. Very simple chairs and a sideboard. A few pieces of silver serving pieces that he bought from Commodore Stephen Decatur's widow. And then we left by the back door to see the kitchen that is in a building of its own. This was built after a fire almost destroyed the whole house in 1834. A smokehouse stands beside it. By this time, I was thoroughly tired and the day was almost over. I asked the docent at the front door to summon the cart and sat in the setting sun waiting. It wasn't until I got home that I realized we never went into the garden nor saw the grave of the Jacksons or Albert. Off we went past the airport and Barleycorns Liquor Barn to our townhouse and some chicken wings from Applebees. Completely tired but happy with comments about the beautiful day we'd enjoyed. Hopefully, you've enjoyed it,too. Until next time, take care KandB

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