Fire at the Mouse’s Ear

Flames engulfed the small strip club in Gray, TN, in the early hours of January 10, 2013. Mouse’s Ear was the only strip club between Johnson City’s Fuzzy Holes and Knoxville and was always particularly busy during race week. Rumors swirled around town- neighbors (like they had 20 years before) …

Elvis Week

Elvis is alive. When I walked away, I heard you say If you need me, you know what to do I knew it then, I’d be back again. Thirty-six years after Elvis’s death, he sang this low tune in front of Graceland while thousands held up candles at his annual …

Joy Prom

“Young man, there’s no need to feel down. Young man, get yourself off the ground” — pumps from the speakers, the trumpets blare and then — “It’s fun to stay at the Y.M.C.A.” — and hundreds of arms extend into the sky while red and blue lights flash from the …

Mule Days

Two outstanding yearly events are the Memphis Cotton Carnival with its Mardi-Gras revelry and Mule Day at Columbia, an all-day celebration in honor of the “orneriest and workingest work-critter living.” —Tennessee: A Guide to the State (WPA, 1939) Horse is a horse, of course, of course. And then there are donkeys, …

Oak Ridge

Today, if you drive through Oak Ridge, Tennessee, you can see some things that seem out of place. Old guard towers frame the city’s corners, certain exit roads are restricted access, and a large contemporary billboard reads “Y-12’s trash can be an enemy’s treasure!” with a stock photo woman haphazardly …

Bristol TN/VA, On the Occasion of my Departure

The city is split down the middle. You can stand on State Street with one foot in Virginia and one foot in Tennessee and look up at the giant glowing sign that reads modestly, “Bristol: A Good Place to Live.” From 1910 to 1921, the sign read, “PUSH!- That’s Bristol,” …

Dollywood

“A few years back, when I first started seeing the Hollywood sign, I kept thinking how cute it would be if I could change the H to a D—and see how long it would take anybody to notice. It just popped into my mind that it would be a good …

County Fair

The county fair is best experienced at dusk with the smell of deep-fried oreos filling the air. I associate fair season with summer’s end and that last blast of oppressive heat and humidity. As wrathful as summer can be at this time, seeing the ferris wheel glow means that there …