We were off on another "man trip," this time to eat lunch at Miss Mary Bobo's in Lynchburg, Tennessee. As usual, women weren't allowed. They would have hampered important discussions about hemorrhoids, hernias, prostate problems and, of course, women.
Mike Criscillis, alias "Big Mike" was at the wheel of his gargantuan white Hummer, christened the "Rolling Store" (he carries a supply of toilet tissue, bottled water, etc. on board). After serving 37 years in the Army, Mike retired as a Sergeant Major and, he and his wife Shirley, moved to Athens a couple of years ago to be near his mother-in-law. Huh? How misguided can a guy get? Ewell Smith, a retired Business Manager at ASU acted as IT and was constantly on his iPhone informing us of our location, direction, and the weather outside. Great job!
Jerry Crabtree, retired Athens Policeman, and President of the Alabama Veterans Museum was back seat driver and in charge of trivia questions. Retired mathematician, Bill Ward, was unofficial trip humorist. I comfortably rode shotgun by virtue of being the chronicler of events. The wielder of the pen gets special privileges.
It was a cold and cloudy morning when we headed north in the Veterans Museum parking lot. Immediately, there was a problem.
"Hey Mike, you're going the wrong way," said Ward. "This is a dead end." Mike turned around and headed south.
"Hey Mike, you're going the wrong way, Tennessee is north," said Ward. Finally, we got on I-65 North. Mike shot past the Fayetteville exit.
"Hey Mike, you missed the turn off," said Ward. We ended up at Lewisburg, many miles out of the way. Lucky for us. Highway 129 East from Petersburg to Lynchburg is a scenic two-laner that meanders through rolling green hills and gushing streams - a route worth taking.
After discussing the latest juicy gossip in Athens, our conversation turned to less important things. "Why are policemen called cops?" asked trivia director, Crabtree. I thought it was because they wore copper badges. We were stumped. "It's old English and it stands for "Constable on Patrol," said Crabtree, please with himself. He said it's acceptable to call policeman cops. Maybe so but, if I’m stopped, I’m going to call him “sir.”
We arrived near noon at tiny Lynchburg, with one traffic light, a dry county and home of Jack Daniel’s Distillery. I guess drinking whiskey is sinful, but making it isn’t. Mike wanted to visit the quaint, red brick courthouse built in 1885. There was no security. Any clown can walk right in. And that's what we did.
"I have four guys here that want to get married," Mike told the startled clerk. She wasn't amused. "Since there are four of us, can you give us a discount?" I asked. "I can give you directions down the road," she replied. We laughed. I'm sure we left a favorable impression and she'll remember Athens for years to come.
Everyone was hungry. We arrived at Miss. Bobo's early and the door was locked. We waited in the rolling store with the motor running and the heat on. BS’ing began. And it got deep. "Don't write that down, Jerry,” was the constant instructions to me. "Hey Mike, there's enough hot air inside the car," said Ward. "You can turn off the heat."
Finally Miss Bobo's opened for business. Reservations are required, and you can call (931-759-7392) to get them. The place was packed. Cost per person is $23. I was standing in the foyer when two women approached me. "Mister, will you marry us?" the blonde asked. I looked over and saw Mike and Crabtree laughing. Big joke on me. The women laughed, then introduced themselves. They were good friends - not gay - having met eight years earlier in Hawaii where their husbands were serving with the Marines.
Promptly at 1 p.m. the dinner bell rang and we were escorted into the original dining room and seated at a long wooden table with nine other guests.Our hostess gave a short history of the place. The two-story frame house was constructed in 1867 over a natural spring and is located on the National Register for Historic Places. Miss Bobo operated a boarding house there from 1908 until 1983 when she died just shy of 102. Guests got a room and three hots a day. Women and alcohol weren't allowed in the room. All of that whiskey only blocks away and a guest couldn't take a snort if he had the shakes!
The guests at our table were a family from Hendersonville, Tennessee. One lady has a relative in Athens. We decided we were cousins and the bantering began. The meal was a cholesterol feast. Heaping bowls of cornbread, fried okra, white beans floating in ham hocks, pork ribs, chicken pastry, baked apples cooked in Jack Daniels and greens, all washed down with sweetened tea and served family style, passed from right to left. Pie and coffee came afterwards.
As we drove away the women were walking down the sidewalk toward town. "SEE YA'LL, COUSINS!" We yelled and waved. They laughed and waved back. Then we saw the two women friends who jokingly asked me to marry them "YA'LL MARRIED YET?" I yelled. Heads turned. Mike got lost and kept going around in a circle and we kept passing the same women. "Let's get out of here before we get arrested for stalking!" exclaimed Crabtree.
We headed to Kelso, a few miles east of Fayetteville on U.S. Highway 64 to tour Prichard's Distillery ( www.prichardsdistill.org) and were greeted at the front door by the owner's son. The tiny distillery is family operated and began distilling hand-crafted rums, whiskey and liqueurs in 1997 in an abandoned brick school building. The tour was free and fun. Half thimble size samples were offered. I was reminded of Daddy, who also made hand crafted corn whiskey in his boutique still way back in 1947. He didn't offer tours. Sheriff John Sandlin, who had no appreciation for art and free enterprise, chopped up the still with an axe.
Prichard’s is marketed in 42 states and 8 European countries. The biggest seller is "Sweet Lucy," a bourbon based liqueur. A sign on the wall proclaims, "I promise I will never give Sweet Lucy to a woman if I don't want to see her naked." Bill Ward purchased a bottle - strictly for a souvenir - I presume.
We stopped in Fayetteville and visited Alabama Veteran Museum friend, Jack Miller, Westside Antiques, one of the many antique shops around the square. Check it out. It is said that a good laugh a day will extend life. If true, I ought to live an extra 25 years based on that one trip alone.
By: Jerry Barksdale