Thursday, November 18, 2010

TENNESSEE DEATH TRIP


Above, the house built by my maternal grandfather (see LINK for his unusual adventures) in 1923 in a compound of three homes near the family farms. One remains my uncle and aunt's residence and the other two (like the one above now owned by my mother) occasionally find members of the family temporarilyvisiting therein.

Above, the original house that burned to the ground on the day my grandparents' first child was born with a troubled delivery. Its ad hoc caretaker (a trusted, close relative) had gotten blind drunk and knocked over a lit lantern.

The sunken garden with the children's wading pool, formerly canopied and surrounded by irises. Frog seen from the back was a fountain, sundial at left, bird bath on right.
Above, view towards the small town from front yard.

Above, some of the long driveway entrance.

Above, two views of the porte-cochere (definition: carriage entrance through buildings,) first looking towards the back yard which used to have a log cabin museum and livestock pasture, both now part of my uncle's estate, and the vista via the driveway through the front yard of the estate.

Abandoned gazebo

I stayed in my grandfather's separate bedroom, above. Nothing was changed after his death on October 17, 1989 (which was my birthday.)
Above, the parlor, much changed by my mother since my grandfather's death. Below, hand-painted vellum lampshade showing original house before its Southern Colonial facelift via
the front porch columns

Comestibles once were served by cooks like Fruzie Chambers and maids with names like Diora in the formal dining room (above, with a mirror filling in for the large oil painting of wild ducks that once was there) or in the breakfast nook.
The photos on the nook's back wall feature the house's only full-time residents, my grandparents. I photographed the one on the right of my grandfather who outlived his wife by 25 years, reaching 104 years with his health pretty much intact. Dachshunds helped.










More Southern Gothic: William Faulkner was our distant relation, and used to take the train up from Mississippi and sleep on the front porch of this very house. Drunk. My grandmother was an unconditionally forgiving, generous soul:
she quite liked him.

Below, children's playhouse shaped like original house, now next to a very large annex built onto one of the original houses enclosing a baronial great room.


Below, the dogs' graveyard, with four of ours--Crystal Scarborough (Golden Retriever,) Phaedra (Borzoi,) Morgan Le Fay (Scottish Deerhound) and Lucretia Borzoi (Russian Wolfhound)-- in the front yard of the estate under the holly tree.


One bookshelf of Parksacres contains an encyclopedia from 1879 with sad entries that made this amateur zoologist teary. It described the Quagga and the Passenger Pigeon as contemporary, living, breathing animals, not extinct victims of heedless destruction. Read the copy I enlarged on the quantification of the latter species (2 pp.)































Late '60s folk troubadour Arlo Guthrie sang of the City of New Orleans train, and as seen above, this very one rumbles along noisily and twice daily betwixt the estate's large front yard and the small town. My uncle the Civil War buff likes to fly Confederate flags and does so undeterred as he owns most everything in sight within the small town except the two other homes in the compound and assorted churches. At least the flag from the victor in the "War of Northern Aggression" gets equal billing on the plantation flagpole.


In 1973 Michael Lesy wrote "Wisconsin Death Trip" which instantly proved a counter-cultural favorite and eventual bestselling book detailing the nostalgic trevails of ordinary 19th century Americans of all strata born, working and dying in rural Wisconsin. This Tennessee death trip was to bury my father in my mother's family's private cemetery in the pouring rain. Like the book, the visit prompted reflection on what has gone before. I photographed some of it with my inexpensive snapshot camera for anyone reading this, for myself and for posterity.
A funerary addendum:
Aforementioned rain prevented my photographing the "family black sheep" who was buried upside down without her full name on a tiny headstone in the family cemetery, far away from her relatives. She was my adventurous grandfather's real mother, reputed to have run off with the farm foreman and never mentioned again, although it was her own inherited legacy that provided the basis to all the family farms. Pure Southern Gothic.

Time warp flashback above relevant to the third photo down from the top: how the children's wading pool appeared in the 1960s with my two cousins, one now sadly gone, two canine friends, and myself. More at LINK

14 comments:

RetroKimmer said...

Fantastic post! I wish I could go on a day trip there! The compound looks alternately lovely and spooky at the same time. Any ghosts hanging around there? I love the buggy "carport" and the doll house is to die for. Must have been a trip... Glad you are home...

Anonymous said...

Very moving. Thank you for sharing this glimpse into your heritage. There's just something about that old Southern vibe.
-Coba Seas

Mary Ann said...

Heather, these photographs are a treasure and a glimpse of my Southern past as well. Thanks so much for posting them.

Fast Film said...

Thank you all. My life credo applied in this occasion of many mixed emotions: when in doubt, do art. That's always the right outlet.

Kimmer, no ghosts except the "family black sheep" buried upside down without her full name in the family cemetery, far away from the family. She was reputed to have run off with the farm foreman, and never mentioned again, although it was her own inherited legacy that provided the basis to the family farms. Pure Southern Gothic. She was my adventurous grandfather's real mother. No photos, since it was pouring rain.

RetroKimmer said...

HAH! That reminds me of a famous toast... "When I die and my time has come to pass, I hope they bury me upside down so the world can kiss my a**! I vote for the black sleep lady!

Evanesco said...

Loved all the misty quality of the outdoor pics. Sorry, that the visit was a bittersweet one.
I know I can count on you to at least find something that touches a soul through the lens!

Charlie said...

Thanks, Heather. It was a moving time, and you have helped me remember those days. Yes, when in doubt, do art.

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell!
-Carlton Sandercock

RetroKimmer said...

Happy Thanksgiving HH and Mr T bless you both! love KIM

Anonymous said...

I new Mr. Will Parks as a young man growing up. He was truly a good man. He let me hunt on his land and was always kind and friendly with my friends and myself.

Fast Film said...

Thank you for sharing your kind words about my grandfather, Anonymous. I wrote a piece on his adventurous, generous life here:
http://fastfilm1.blogspot.com/2010/03/adventurous-relations.html
He was truly a good man, just as you said...

Anonymous said...

While researching family genealogy I came across this link. My grandmother, Fruzie, was your grandparents cook. My brother and I would visit during the summers and my grandmother would take us to work with her from time to time. Mrs. Carolyn would allow us to play in the playhouse. She was a very nice lady, and my grandmother loved the Parks. Thanks for the memories.

01/25/16

Fast Film said...

Thank you for helping to fill in the complete picture of life at Parksacres. I would love to know your grandmother's last name so i could correct the copy here, if you don't mind. I'm glad I had grandparents who were kind to everyone.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother was Fruzie Chambers.

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