The Mississippi Delta was shining, but I never thought I’d ever leave Butcher Holler

Yesterday, I wrote that we planned to go to Graceland today… but events conspired against us. First, we didn’t get out of the hotel until around 10:00 AM, and still had to go eat breakfast. Second, the travel time to Graceland was about 90 minutes… each way! Thirdly, have you priced tickets to Graceland of late? That place is expensive — you’re talking between $25 and $68 for tickets… to see a mansion that doesn’t really tell the story of Elvis.

So, after dropping off two packages to ship back home via FedEd, and getting breakfast, we decided to explore southwestern Tennessee. Our first adventure was heading up US 641 to US 70 Business to TN 191. As an aside, why is there no good Tennessee Highways site — and by that I mean a site that explains the numbering systems, gives the history and the routing for every highway in the state. It just isn’t there. starowl, are you listening? This one is up your alley!

In any case, we were traversing TN 191 in order to find the only site in America that produces cultured pearls — the Tennessee River Freshwater Pearl Museum in Camden TN. This was a small, locally run venture that was very interesting. We learned how cultured pearls are made, and why there is a bit of Tennessee at the heart of most cultured pearls. Very, very interesting.

After leaving the Pearl Museum, we continued to explore. We returned to TN 191 and took it to US 70. Heading East, it was just beautiful driving through Tennessee fields and forests while listening to Ray Charles sing “America the Beautiful”. Just the scenery, including the view of the farmer on the tractor working on his field, created a perfect picture in the mind. Rural America is simply beautiful.

We departed off US 70 at TN 13, explored Waverly TN, and then continued along TN 13 to the Loretta Lynn Dude Ranch. You thought Graceland was a memorial to excess? The LL ranch is, but in a different way. This is an extremely large complex and enterprise. We toured the “Coal Miners Daughter” museum. Growing up as she did, I don’t think this women through anything away. The museum displayed (or appeared to display) every car she had, every dress she wore, every piece of paper or proclamation she received, every award she received, every family picture. Additionally, she was a fan girl, and she wrote all of her country music and industry friends and collected more stuff. She needed this museum to hold all her stuff. Plus, there was no interpretation–it failed to tell a story, you had to infer it from what was presented. Yes, there were signs in the museum… all handwritten, in poor handwriting with misspellings, by Loretta. In the attached gift shop, everything (and I mean everything) was signed by Loretta. You get the idea. And it is too bad, as her life is interesting, including being married at 13 and having four children by age 17.

But wait, there’s more. There’s also Lynn’s Westerntown, which has a doll museum displaying everything sent to her by her fans. There are western stores, T-shirt stores, clothing stores, random stuff stores. Plus (although we didn’t go in it) there is a tour of her plantation home and the simulated Butcher Holler Coal Mine. I don’t know if they sold canaries, but if they did, I’m sure Loretta Lynn would sign them. On the plus side, I guess this enterprise not only enriches Ms. Lynn and her family, but provides significant employment in a depressed area. But still, it does teach one not to be a packrat.

Of course, it doesn’t stop when you leave the ranch, because you see Cissy Lynn’s Restaurant & Store as you leave, as well as the Lynn Flea Market run by Loretta Lynn’s oldest daughter, Betty Sue. It’s just too much.

After leaving the ranch, we returned to I-40, where we drove back to Nashville and our hotel. Shortly, it is, and then bed. Tomorrow we return to Los Angeles, with a brief stop in PHL to see some friends we have dearly missed.