Tag Archives: Rotary Club

The Man From Little Cedar Lick

10 Jul

I have been reading Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne. As you can tell by its title, historians like long titles, and it is about the Comanche.

It is a great book filled with information that I already knew and a lot of information that I had never read before. There are names of interesting people on both sides of the struggle between the Comanche and those encroaching on their territory. These are people who fought for what they thought was right and may have been well-known in their day. However, many of them have faded from history.

I am far from finished with the book, but one name has already stood out. John Coffee Hays is described as the greatest of all Texas Rangers. In fact, he is the one who taught the rest how to do their jobs. His exploits provide great reading, but a tidbit about his early life is what intrigued me.John Coffee Hays

Hays was born in Little Cedar Lick, Tennessee. When I read about his birthplace, a small memory crept to the front of my mind. Several years ago, I was speaking at Rotary about Tennesseans who became famous in the American West. I mentioned the obvious ones like Sam Houston and David Crockett. However, I also talked about John Chisum, Clay Allison and Peter Burnett.

When the presentation ended, a man in the back asked if I knew anything about the guy from Wilson County who became a Texas Ranger. At the time, I did not know anything about him, but this book may have made the introduction.

Like all great investigators, I did a Google search and discovered that John Coffee Hays was born in Wilson County. I also discovered that all of the sites that have information about Hays must have been copied from the same source. Almost all of them were word for word duplicates. The only differences were about his relationship with Andrew Jackson.

I read that his grandfather sold Jackson the land that would become the Hermitage. There was also the story of Jackson being John’s uncle. Also, his father fought with Jackson during the War of 1812. Oh yeah, another said that John spent many days at the Hermitage.

All of that may be true, but, around here, everyone wants to be connected to Jackson. If your ancestors lived in this area while Jackson was alive, then they were best friends. If your name is Jackson, then you are descended from him, which would be difficult since he did not have children.

I will have to ask my colleague, who has a great blog called Jacksonian America and who is one of the leading experts on Andrew Jackson.

Then, I remembered that I know someone named Hays. I sent a text to Nick Hays, who is running for County Trustee, and asked if he was related to John Coffee Hays. He replied that he was, but the family did not have much information on him. He learned most about him from Monty Pope. On the first day he walked into Monty’s class, he asked Nick if he knew about the Hays who became a Texas Ranger.

By the way, if you live in Wilson County be sure to vote for Nick.

As I read about Hays, I began to wonder about the place where he was born. I have lived here all of my life and have heard many stories about its history, but I have never heard of Little Cedar Lick. I thought about asking the folks at the Wilson County Archives, but I do not have much faith in them these days.

Instead, I went to good old Google. Man, that thing is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. All I found was Little Cedar Lick Church. With nothing else to go on, I drove to the location. It was on a road that I had never been on, and I had no idea what to expect. The picture in my mind was of a little country church.

Instead, I found this.image-3

I have no idea if this is the same area where John Coffee Hays was born. I only know that he was born in Wilson County and made his name as a Texas Ranger. Then, he moved to California and became the sheriff of San Francisco before being one of the founders of Oakland.

Throughout all of that, Hays may have looked back and remembered Little Cedar Lick, but I am afraid that place may have disappeared through the ages.

 

Annual Activities Report, or There is a Lot to this Higher Education Stuff

1 Jun

Teaching in higher education is a great job. I get to talk about history and, hopefully, fill the minds of students with information that they need to know. It is great to have a student come up after class and ask a question. It is great when they show interest in what we are talking about. There is great satisfaction in being a teacher.History Teacher

However, higher education is about more than teaching. We are expected to serve the university as members of various committees. We are expected to take part in scholarly activities outside of the classroom. We are expected to serve the surrounding community.

At the end of each academic year, we turn in an Annual Activities Report to our dean. It is a way for the administration to know that we are doing our jobs. I just finished my report and realized that it has been a very busy year.

In the Fall of 2013, I taught four classes and one directed study. Three of the classes were surveys over the first part of American history, and one was the history of Latin America. Enrolled in those courses, were 132 students. I also taught four classes in the Spring of 2014. Three were surveys over the second part of American history, and one was the Expansion of the United States, my specialty. Those classes had 118 students. In addition, I was an advisor to 18 students in the Fall and 12 students in the Spring.

In October of 2013, I attended the conference of the Western History Association in Tucson, Arizona. It was an awesome experience. I was also able to raise $15,000 for faculty development.

Did I mention committees? During this academic year, I have served on the Faculty Senate, the GEC (General Education Core) Committee, the Athletic Committee and the Athletic Compliance Committee. Those last two are part of my duties as Faculty Athletic Representative.

As Faculty Athletic Representative, I have also attended meetings of G-MAC, the conference that we are moving into. That is part of our move to Division II of the NCAA. There are several sports on campus, and I have been to games of  baseball, soccer, softball and football.

Oh yeah, I am also the Pi Gamma Mu sponsor, which is the national honor society for the Social Sciences. We also have Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society for History.

It seems as if there is always something to do on campus, but there are also plenty of things going on around town. I have spoken to the members of the First Presbyterian Church and been interviewed by three of Nashville’s television stations. Also, I have been interviewed by The Nashville Business Journal, The Tennessean, The Lebanon Democrat and The Wilson Post. I also wrote an article for Lebanon Living magazine.

Community service? There is a lot there, as well. I am a member of the board of directors for the James E. Ward Agriculture and Community Center, Fiddler’s Grove Historic Village and the Buchanan Historic Home. I am also on the Lebanon Regional Planning Commission and am a member of the Rotary Club.

When I entered higher education, I knew that I would be teaching history. This other stuff came as a surprise. The other surprise? I like doing all of this stuff.

How I Ate My Way Through the Wilson County Fair

22 Aug

Wilson County, of which I am a citizen, is the home of the largest fair in Tennessee. Hundreds of thousands attend every year to see what the fair has to offer. It has something for everyone, which is too much to write about in one post. In fact, I don’t think I could fit the Wilson County Fair into several posts. It is truly an amazing event that would not be possible without the hundreds of volunteers who make it happen.Wilson County Fair

Over the past two nights, my wife and I went to the fair. On the first night, we watched the Fairest of the Fair pageant, which was sponsored by Beauty Boutique – my wife’s business. On the second night, we took her daughter to the midway. They were two different experiences, but one theme held throughout both nights. Food!

I can’t write about everything we saw at the fair. People. Animals. Rides. Contests. It’s a long list. Therefore, I am going to tell you how I ate my way through the Wilson County Fair. My wife was by my side, but I’ll leave her part out of it. If she wants you to know about her food experiences, then she can guest post at some point.

The first night started innocently enough. I had always heard about the great roasted corn. Hey, corn is healthy. I go up to the booth, and they pull out the biggest ear of corn that I have ever seen. The husks are pulled down to form a handle. Then, they stuck it in this big container of melted butter. It came out greasy, shining and completely delicious. Whoever came up with the idea of butter should go down in history as one of the all time greats.

The corn served as a good appetizer before going to the Rotary booth for a cheeseburger. Honestly, I was supposed to spend a night working in the Rotary booth, but I have missed a bunch of meetings. In other words, I missed the sign up sheet. It seemed like a good idea to make up for that by buying some food. Plus, Rotary has the best cheeseburgers at the fair.

While watching the beauty pageant, I got restless. Friends kept coming by, and I took those opportunities to get up and talk. Eventually, I needed to walk around. That’s when I headed to the general store to get a Coca Cola in one of those old-time bottles. Coke tastes a lot better from a glass bottle. I should mention that the general store sits in Fiddler’s Grove, a village that represents the history of our community. They play Bluegrass on the back porch.General Store

Back at the pageant, my wife said that she wanted to try a Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich. It suited me, so I went next door and got a couple. Honestly, it wasn’t the best grilled cheese that I have ever eaten.

After the pageant, it was dessert time. Luckily, Clayborn’s Bakery, a local establishment that has the second greatest donuts in the world, had a booth. In that booth were fried peach pies, one of my favorite desserts. Awesome does not come close to describing it.

Once that was over, I rolled to my car and mentally prepared myself for our impending return to the fair. However, I convinced myself that I was going to take it light. That meant making dinner out of a Walking Taco. This is where they cut a Frito bag in half and filled it with stuff. Fritos. Chili. Cheese. Lettuce. Salsa. Jalapenos. I reckon that’s it.

That one required some walking to work off what I had ingested. This meant checking out the model train display in Fiddler’s Grove. There was also a swing through the rabbit exhibit. Also, we looked at the photographs that had been entered into competition. Oh, I almost forgot the car giveaway.

With that much activity, nourishment was needed and was derived from the Red Velvet Funnel Cake. I am not a big fan of regular Red Velvet Cake, but putting it into a deep fryer improves it tremendously.

There are a lot more food options at the Wilson County Fair, but a fella can only take so much.

Rockin’ Rotary

19 Apr

Ten years ago, I was accepted into the local Rotary Club. I am not one of the more active members – alas, I will never be asked to serve on the board of directors or be an officer – but I show up at most meetings and pay my dues on time. That’s more than can be said for many members.

Those of us who show up on a consistent basis take part in a meeting format that has been in place for a hundred years. We don’t have secret handshakes or top-secret rituals like the Masons, and we definitely aren’t trying to control the world. However, there are Rotary guidelines (at least I think they are guidelines that all clubs follow) that we adhere to on a weekly basis.

First, we eat. This would probably be my favorite part if the food was any good. We meet at the local country club, and the cuisine leaves a lot to be desired. I understand that it is tough to cook for a large crowd, but there must be some tricks to the trade. The only trick that our kitchen has is mixing things up with cauliflower. We went two years with cauliflower every week. Cauliflower and carrots. Cauliflower and corn. Cauliflower and peas. They must have gotten an extra shipment or something.

The meat is not much better. The meatloaf is a little weird, but you know how meatloaf is – good or bad and no in between. We all look forward to the days of something fried. Everything tastes alright when fried.

After the meal, if you can call it that, the meeting officially starts. We are called to order because there is a lot of banter around the room, and everyone has to stand. Here, we pray and place hands over hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance.

(Sidenote: I have been placing my hand over my heart for the Pledge as long as I can remember. However, I don’t remember this always being the practice for the National Anthem. Politicians get in trouble for not doing it during the song, but I don’t think anyone did it until 9/11. If I am wrong, then let me know.)

We don’t sit down after the Pledge. Instead, we grab the songbooks for a rousing concert of a couple of tunes. It’s usually something like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” or “Home on the Range”. Imagine a bunch of grown people singing that. Then, the Sergeant of Arms tells a few jokes and introduces the guests. At one time, we had a pretty hot woman (at least I thought she was pretty hot) serve in this role and tell bawdy jokes. The old men really liked that. But, some preachers complained, and she was asked to stop. Preachers always know how to mess up a good time. She doesn’t come to Rotary anymore.

Once the fun and frivolity is over, it is time for the guest speaker. Sometimes it is interesting, and sometimes it is not. It’s educational, anyway.

So, that’s the short version of a Rotary meeting. Believe me, it seems a lot longer in person. I don’t really see the point of it all, but there is one good thing about it. The conversation during mealtime is always entertaining. You see, Rotary is like church where people sit in the same seat every time. If someone else is sitting there, then upset feelings will no doubt follow. I was raised as a good Baptist, so it is natural for me to sit in the back. That way I can skip out unnoticed. The problem is that my whole table skips out, and it’s noticeable. We are the slacker table in the Rotary mindset but not slackers for real. While others sit around for a couple of hours, we actually get up and go to work. Or, pretend like it.

Our table usually includes a college professor (me), a bread salesman, a convenience store owner, a chiropractor, a lady who used to cook at the country club but is retired (she complains about the food, too), a bank president who works more on his hair than he does at the bank, and a retired veteran who thinks he is funny but really isn’t. We talk local issues but spend most of the time picking on each other.

Folks at other tables include the aforementioned preachers, a body shop owner, one of the Cracker Barrel founders, other people from my school, and people who have been pillars of the community longer than I have been alive.

Overall, I guess I like being in Rotary. The meetings are a little goofy, but tradition often is. Mainly, I like it because I have met a lot of people who I consider friends. However, I haven’t learned to like cauliflower.