Friday 19th September. Pleasant Shade, Tennessee USA
Friday- Poet's day! I'd described to Glenn the great Australian tradition of Poet's Day. *Piss Off Early Tomorrow's Saturday* He thought that sounded like a tradition worth respecting, so we knocked off at lunchtime and headed off for an afternoon excursion. First stop was Hooters restaurant in Murfreesboro. Hooters is a nationwide chain of restaurants, so-called I guess because of the owl that they've adopted as their emblem. Hoot Hoot!
Lunch at Hooters was tasty and wholesome. Our next stop was an hour to the south, Lynchburg, Tennessee- home of the world famous Jack Daniel's Whiskey. They run tours of the distillery every fifteen minutes, and we were told that the tour takes and hour. That would give us just enough time afterwards to get back to Murfreesboro and meet Shirley as she gets off work. Cool. So we were off to tour the facilities.
Our tour guide's name was Sammy. Sammy has worked for Jack Daniels for thirty-five years and has been guiding groups of tourists through the distillery for no less than the last twenty-two. On first appearances, he seemed less than enthusiastic about his work, but as the tour unfolded I realized that he was a man who loves his job, if he would even refer to it as a 'job'. His dry, almost gruff exterior was just part of his Southern persona, and by the end of the tour I'm sure most of us would have rated Sammy's unflinching sense of humour as the best part of our tour. In one of the mellowing rooms, where the whiskey drips through ten feet of charcoal, Sammy lifted the lid of a vat and everyone mmm'ed and aah'ed at the rich aroma. "Sometarms Ah bring ma girlfriend in here on ma days off" he said, without any indication as to whether he was joking or not. Here's a couple of memorable exchanges between members of the tour and Sammy.
Tourist: (in the small barrell room with over 6000 barrells of whiskey) 'What do you do when you see a barrell leaking?'
Sammy: (without a second's hesitation or any change of expression) 'We jest woatch it leak'.
Tourist: 'How much does a barrell hold?'
Tourist: 'Do you get all your grain locally?'
Which reminds me, Lynchburg is in a dry county. Jack Daniels produces so much whiskey in that town, that they pay nine million dollars a month in government taxes, but you can't buy a shot of Jack Daniels anywhere inside the county line.
In true Southern style, the one hour tour started late and then lasted for almost two hours. Normally, that'd be a bonus, but in today's case, it posed a problem. By the time Sammy delivered us back to the visitor centre, it was 4:47 p.m. Shirley had finished work two minutes ago, and would be waiting for us in the carpark outside her work in Murfreesboro, an hour's drive away. There was no way we could contact her now, so there was nothing to do but drive, and hope she wouldn't be too mad at us!
Shirley didn't seem too upset. She bundled into the truck and we drove across town to Logan's restaurant. I was hungry again already, and ordered the pork chops with sweet potato, which comes served with cinnamon on top. Glenn got a beer that was about a foot high, and rather than offend anyone, I followed suit. After dinner, we went to watch Shirley's grandson play in a local high school game of American football. That was my first introduction to this strange game, and there were a few things I didn't understand. Firstly, there were about a hundred reserve players crowding along the sideline, and every now and then the entire side would leave the field and be replaced. What's with that? Secondly, there were half a dozen players who didn't wear the same uniform as either team. They ran around waving their arms wildly but no-one ever passed them the ball, and every time one of these guys dropped his handkerchief, the whole game would be stopped until he had a chance to pick it up and blow his nose. It was hilarious. Crazy Americans!