Valentine’s Less Traveled Path
One of the things I like most about living in metro Nashville is the history. I’m sure northeasterners think we got nothin’ on New York, or on the wicked-pissah of Boston’s history, or on Vermont who has a frog-hair more. True, our history is more recent. But that’s part of what makes it so exciting. It wasn’t all that long ago that Civil War troops hid and rested their horses behind the very hill Big D and I hike. It was in our lifetime that Johnny Cash built his house in Hendersonville. And it was just a few years ago that the whole town watched smoke billow as it burned to the ground.
It’s apropos that a country music singer (Darius Rucker) made popular a song titled “History in the Making,” because that’s exactly what Nashville is to me. Just when you think a landmark has enough stories to tell, someone new comes along and adds a twist. It was, after all, Barry Gibb who bought Johnny’s house, and during a renovation gone wrong it lit fire, leaving only the foundation slab. Drivers-by now get a newly unobstructed view of the lake, and a newly amended yarn.
It is in this spirit that I share part of our Valentine’s Day adventure at Fontanel Mansion, or rather the 136 acres surrounding it. The 27,000 square foot mansion was once owned by Barbara Mandrell and her husband. Today it is used for weddings, private events, and tours. (See a snippet of the tour given by Barbara’s daughter Jaime Dudney here: http://www.fontanelmansion.com/.)
There is too much to squeeze in a single day at the mansion, which is why I’ve put in my request to Big D to go back for my birthday later in the year. In addition to the mansion, there is a 5,000 square foot studio gallery, a silo shop, a farmhouse, and a restaurant. The two mile trail we hiked also nestles seating for the Woods Amphitheater. I feel it is my categorical imperative as a musician with a blog entitled “Noted in Nashville” to see a concert there and report said experience back to you. So keep a weather eye open for that post.
But back to the trail. It is a free two and a half mile hike or bike ride – unpaved, moderately challenging, invigorating, beautiful piece of land replete with tales of outlaws, alcohol, and Tim McGraw. (I call “dibs” on that song idea!) The first placard we came to on the trail said that the land used to host Mammy’s rehabilitation house – a place where people struggling with alcoholism could quietly recover. During a time when alcoholism was often mistreated and misunderstood as mental illness, Mammy offered a loving safe haven. It was tucked away enough to offer privacy but still accessible for visits from family members. Perhaps this was the inspiration for the partial filming of the movie Country Strong at this location a few years ago.
The second placard on the trail tells the story of The James Gang. For three years Jesse James and his brother Frank lived and “farmed” anonymously in the area. On another note, walking sticks were provided at the entrance to the trail. Next time, I wonder if they’d let us use a metal detector instead. I wouldn’t mind finding what they “planted.” It was a saloon & general store (still standing) down the road from Fontanel where gang member Bill Ryan was arrested. This drove Jesse and Frank out of Tennessee and back to Missouri the very next day.
But hey, if history isn’t your thing then just enjoy the view.
– Anita, Noted in Nashville