One of the most special stops on our trip was to Hohenwald, Tennessee to visit my great grand aunt. The last time I’d seen her I was six years old. She was married to my great grand uncle who left us in 1994, two years after our visit. She is definitely a back country, Tennessee woman!
She butchers her own chickens, grows tomatoes, hunts and fishes, and is a dead eye with a gun. Just ask the mountain lion that roamed too close to her chicken coop and dog.
My favorite memory of our first trip was when I found out that animal whisperers really do exist. My great grand aunt asked my sister and I if we wanted to see something really special. She had us stay inside the house and wait by her screen door. We had our noses pressed into the mesh so hard I’m sure it left a mark for a few hours. She walked outside with an old, rusty Folgers can filled with dried corn and began to sprinkle it all over the ground. After emptying the can, she began to beat on the bottom so loudly it echoed through all the trees. She calmly turned around and walked back inside. Seconds later, TONS of deer emerged from the woods and began to feast on the corn. There were males, females, and several babies. She had just rung their dinner bell! My sister and I were in awe of her.
Ok, maybe she wasn’t a deer whisperer (more like an expert rusty can beater) but she was a real life deer summoner!
She still lives in their home that’s settled on the prettiest darn creek you’ve ever seen. My grandmother would visit there often in the summers growing up and the features of the creek are legendary.
The “bathtub” is a rectangle of rock cut out of the creek bed that makes the perfect…well, bathtub!
There’s also the beautiful waterfall and the “blue hole”. You’ll be shocked to find out it’s called the blue hole because… it’s a big blue hole. We were too young for cliff diving at the time but even if we’d been allowed, I think my sister and I would’ve been too scared that we’d be swallowed up and never heard from again.
Sadly, much of the creek banks are over grown now so on our latest visit we just made it down to edge and had to imagine the bathtub and the blue hole from memory.
This is my favorite picture of the creek. Not for the creek itself particularly, but rather for the two ladies in it.
See, my great grand aunt married my great grand uncle in 1986 and while I was lucky enough to meet her in 1992, my grandmother never had. They’d exchanged lots of letters over the years and each Christmas, a few pokes of Early’s famous sausage would arrive from my great grand aunt and it’s the highlight of our Christmas morning spread.
Can you imagine never meeting someone face to face but sending them the best sausage in the world each Christmas for years? That’s the kind of lady my great grand aunt is. On this trip they finally got to meet and it was a fantastic sight to see.
After visiting the creek, we headed back up to her house to enjoy lunch and share stories. As you walk back up to the house, you can see her chicken coop up on the hill.
While the chickens are roaming free, the coop is currently run by this guy. He’s sticking around until Thanksgiving.
Inside we drank sweet tea and had a barbecue lunch, complete with white bread and coleslaw. For dessert, my great grand aunt went all out. If there’s one takeaway I have from this whole trip it’s to never turn down dessert. Folks in the south know how to do it right. We had our choice of cakes and the favorites were definitely her apricot nectar cake (recipe below) and her fresh coconut cake.
The afternoon was filled with laughter and a few tears recalling times when my great grand uncle was alive. She told us that in their retirement, they never saw time or distance as an issue as they had all the time in the world. In fact, one time they loaded up in the car and drove over 2 1/2 hours to Tupelo, Mississippi just for a “hamburg” because my great grand uncle loved them so. They were even known to drive hours for good barbecue too!
We laughed over some of my great grand uncle’s famous sayings too. My personal favorite was, “Company is like fish. They start to stink after about 3 days.” I really want to embroider that on a pillow for our guest room!
After some divine cake and lots of laughs, I walked around her house to soak in as much as I could. The home and my great grand aunt are so special to us that I wanted to photograph little pieces of “her” where the instant I looked at them, her smiling face would come to my mind.
She’s known for her cast iron collection.
Her incredible ability to bake the best cakes I’ve ever tasted.
And her warm heart and smile. This mug says, “Good Morning to You” and sums up her friendly personality. I wish I woke up every morning to that mug!
Before leaving, we all decided to head up to the town cemetery to visit my great grand uncle. We didn’t know if my great grand aunt would be up for it but in her classic spitfire way she jumped right up, smiled, and said, “Let’s go wake him up with a visit!”
God bless good Southern women, creeks, and cakes.