Jessica Ilalaole left Hawaii at just 16 years old. Life on a little island in the middle of the Pacific can only hold so much adventure for a growing girl. Never having known anything but island life and starving to feed her passions and curiosities, Jessica said farewell to mom and dad and uprooted her life to Portland, Oregon. There she was introduced to a faster city pace and dove, head first, into its creative current.
With her new found freedom, Jessica pounced on the opportunity to unlock adventures that had not been available in her small island life. She began covering herself in tattoos, exploring on her motorcycle, and meeting people that were as interesting as the clothing and accessories they wore. She became more and more fascinated by vintage style. At the time, not knowing that something as small as a pair of earrings would make such a big impact on the direction of her path towards her successful, self-made jewelry collection, CobraCult.
“I had bought a pair of vintage earrings that brought me such happiness…until I lost one. I could not bring myself to throw out the heirloom quality one lonely stud I was left with. So, I decided to make a replacement. From that moment on, friends started asking me to make them pieces and I was thrilled. I was having fun and bringing in some extra income, but I wanted to do more. So, I took my first metalsmith class and quickly decided to pursue jewelry making full-time.”
Jessica felt like the noise of the city was not the setting she needed to begin this venture. Knowing that in order to produce her best work, she would need to reconnect with the raw nature of her roots. She decided to move to a setting that could fuel her creative direction.
“I quit my job, broke up with my boyfriend, left Portland, and moved into a cabin in Hayfork, California where I have made jewelry for the last nine years. Not one single regret about it. I’ve never felt a stronger connection to nature than in this place. I’ve got the coast on one side, Redwoods on the other, and the mountains and I are in the middle.”
For Jessica, it’s the perfect place to tether herself to the familiar wonders of nature she once played in as a child; without returning to the isolation of an island in the Pacific. She harnesses the passion she feels in this place to produce pieces of jewelry so special, that they will be able to be passed down and enjoyed for years to come. Just like an antique.
“When I was digging around through an antique shop just this morning I began to contemplate how all these treasures were made by hand, with intent. Everything was meant to last a lifetime and that’s what I am out to accomplish with CobraCult. I am not about creating pieces that are just some fleeting fashion trend. I want you to pass my jewelry down like heirlooms.
To attain that long lasting quality she is looking for, Jessica leans heavily on the social community of Instagram to purchase American mined turquoise from New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona to compliment her collections.
“I purchase these certified American mined stones from the online jewelry community of stonecutters because it’s the only way to access these incredible stones from where I live. Although it is nice when I do travel around the West to pick up some stones along the trail. When it is time to begin a piece, I examine the stone first. It speaks to me. Then I find the best way to show it off in a frame of sterling silver.”
When she is ready to go into her creative zone, she walks into her cabin workshop and meditates on the pieces. The entire place is reflective of her nature and animal influences. Deer graze in the shade of the cabin, her hammock stretches out welcomingly between two towering pines, water splashes over rocks in the stream beside her, and the mountains reach the highest peaks over yonder. She tends to the flame of her wood burning stove, and gets to work.
When she isn’t tucked away in her cabin, she spends her time on a horse ranch or rehabilitating wild birds.
“I’ve been working with the folks of the Shasta Valley Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to help injured hawks, owls, and eagles regain strength to fly again,” explains Jessica. “I wasn’t introduced to these birds living in Hawaii and now I am obsessed. The power and focus in big birds like eagles is relatable to me. In my next life I’d like to be one. I’m wildly connected to birds which is why I often feature them in my designs.”
To all the folks out there worried if their passion won’t feed them and keep the bill collectors off their case. Jessica has this to say:
“Look, I never saw this picture for my life. I started this journey without trying and everything as fallen into play so beautifully. Believe in your craft and never lose your curiosity. Feed your happiness and starve your fears. The world needs more passionate people who aren’t afraid to fly.”
You won’t find cell reception, restaurants, gas stations, or other amenities along the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire. Zero.The Kancamagus Highway runs between the small train towns of Lincoln and Conway and in the fall puts on the best show of golden yellow and fiery red foliage in the whole country. Flocks of us descend every year for the fabled autumnal display. But you know what comes with a reputation like that? Crowds. And if crowds aren’t on your “favorites” list, this region has something else to offer. . . so visit this summer.
While leaf peepers are trudging through the snow snapping selfies and balancing lattes behind a backdrop of yellow oaks, you’re going to be cooling off in waterfalls, camping in a national forest, and feeling the warm wind on your face from the seat of your bike until you find exactly the right spot and pull over for an impromptu picnic beneath a shady tree.
Carving through the 700,000 acres of protected, pristine trees of the White Mountains, ” the Kanc” has led free-spirited travelers to trails, waterfalls, and overlooks since 1959. This year it’s your turn to be one of them.Find yourself with this 34.5 mile stretch of road under your toes and you’ll have no choice but to surrender to nature, but you’ll be a better person for it. This highway has a lesson to teach, and it’s a class you don’t want to miss. We recommend you show up and bring an apple. (It will be an excellent snack later.)Grab your gear, a buddy, and unplug. Time for a respite from the headlines and maybe even a meal you can enjoy without first posting it on Instagram! Here’s a chance to reconnect with the nature along one of the great American two lane roads. Pick up a map at the Ranger Station and let’s go!
NOTE: No matter if you begin in Lincoln or Conway, expect to lose those last few reception bars after the first two miles. Just nature’s way of removing distraction making it easier to focus on the mighty peaks of the White Mountains on your right and the rushing crystal waters of the Swift River on your left.
You’re going to want to take your time on this highway. Plenty to see, so you are encouraged to pull off and explore when whenever the spirit moves you. Start off by researching some trails along the way that are appropriate for your skill level. You’ve got 16 trails to choose from and they all snake through the White Mountain National Forest, offering incredible views of mountains, waterfalls, and more mountains. Don’t miss the Albany Covered Bridge and Boulder Loop Trail. Walk across the wood planks of this 1858 bridge and take your fishing pole. . . the Swift River below is full of mature trout and it’s a moderate/easy 2.8 mile round trip hike to get to them and back. Mount Chocorua Piper Trail is another great hike. The UNH Trail sends you up a 2,500 foot mountainside with incredible views, passing stands of specimen hardwoods all the way up. Oh, and poison ivy . . . lots of it . . . so don’t forget: “Leaves of three, leave them be! “
Need a post-hike refresher? When was the last time you took a swim in a clear mountain pool? We can suggest a few . . .
If you’re traveling from Conway towards Lincoln, there are many spots within the first 10 miles to pull off and wade into the cool waters of the Lower Falls. Sabbaday Falls, less than a half mile from the highway, is a great stop, with warm, flat granite rocks perfect for a post-dip sunbath. For a bigger challenge before reaching the prize of a great swim, try hiking up to the 70-foot cascade of Champney Falls. Just give yourself time – it’s good three hours there and back. The Rock Gorge is out there too, but please don’t try to swim in it.
Toward the end of the day, how about heading for higher ground and watching a mountain sunset?
Should you want to enjoy some food and a view, unpack a picnic at one of the scenic overlooks like Pemigewasset or Hancock and sit among the panoramas of Mount Osceola and the Scar Ridge. And try not to miss the views at the Kancamguas Pass. At 2,860 feet, it’s the highest point of the highway. Raise a glass to the untouched wonder around you. It’s a beautiful thing.
If you aren’t ready to head back to civilization just yet, even with nightfall approaching, pull off the highway and pitch a tent at one of the campgrounds inside the White Mountain National Forest. Make a fire, roast some marshmallows, and enjoy the silence. With the closest light source more than 30 miles away, you better believe the stars will be on full display. So this year don’t wait for the fall colors or fight the like-minded hordes . . . travel the Kanc this summer and revive your soul in peace!
Life on a two lane road is an unpredictable adventure. We can plan a trip down to the last detail, but there’s no anticipating who we’ll meet along the way or how the road will bend and turn as we go. Not to mention the possibility of running out of gas or cash, or needing to call upon the saving grace of a tow. Something the crew of Living Lands & Waters is hoping for right now.
Why are these people living on a trashbarge?
“We are currently floating near St. Louis waiting for cargo barge to cruise by to tow us up the river!” exclaims Chad Pregracke, the founder of Living Lands & Waters, the largest river cleanup project in America. “We are hitchhikers with a big backpack.”
The backpack he is referencing is his fleet of five barges, two towboats, six workboats, two skid steers, and an excavator, all of which carry Chad and his crew of 13 2,300 miles up and down the Mississippi River, year round, where they clean up the litter inside and around the Big Muddy. Something Chad has been doing since he was 15 years old.
“I grew up in East Moline, Illinois, spending summers as a commercial mussel diver with my brother. Diving the mighty river, I was surrounded by sand-covered oil drums, tires, refrigerators and other garbage that littered its floor. Once I realized I was swimming in garbage, I decided to rewrite the river’s reputation, and do it alone if I had to.”
Incredibly, he has never needed to. Chad’s one-man mission started a conversation that spread across the country and now includes the helping hands of more than 100,000 volunteers who have donned gloves and boots and joined him on the riverbanks.
“Before paved roads and railroads, goods and people arrived by boat,” explains Chad. “America’s waterways were and are still major transportation hubs building and propelling the country forward. With more than 17,000 miles of rivers weaving across America, every mile of water is worth protecting.”
When the crew isn’t busy organizing one of their thousands of river cleanups, they’re on board their 310-foot floating home. Let’s climb on board and show you around!
Built in 2011 in Kentucky, the solar-powered house barge has two bathrooms, seven bedrooms, two offices, a galley, a full basement, a classroom, and a 31,000-gallon water tank.
“More than 18 million people a day drink the Mississippi River water, ” shares Chad, “so we make sure that while we’re spending this much time trying to clean up the river, we aren’t inadvertently adding to the problem. On board, you’ll see we’ve done a great job of recycling and reusing salvaged bits and pieces to build our home.”
There’s a cozy, silly, nature theme present throughout the vessel from the warm wooden floors and walls to the four dog dishes in the kitchen!) Photos of past river cleanups form an orderly line around the classroom walls passing under the large cattle horns that hold a very snazzy pair of white leather shoes. Above you, a fierce snapping turtle hangs over the kitchen table, ready to clean your plate for you when you’re done.
The entire barge is a Frankenstein boat with a support structure assembled from a flooded strip club, reclaimed barn tin and wood, recycled license plate awnings, reclaimed rebar, and old bridge girders. Along with the creative use of former river garbage, the barge design includes sustainable materials like the bamboo flooring covering the bathrooms, hallways and classroom, the eco-friendly concrete counter tops throughout, and Energy Star® appliances to handle preparation and clean-up of the most common shipboard meal — frozen pizzas.
“Life on board is fun and exciting,” proclaims Chad. “We have this amazing job that allows us to have a quick commute and lets us work outside at a job that produces immediate results. We love coming together at the end of the day around the kitchen table and talking about the people we met that day or strange things we pulled out of the water and then quickly jump back into our Netflix shows and card games. It’s all about keeping it chill on our unconventional setup.”
The best part of the house barge is the classroom. Complete with chairs, desks and a projector, the onboard teachers Megan Elgan and Michael Coyne-Logan have taught more than 10,000 students about river ecosystems and ecology restoration. (Michael actually quit his job as an 8th-grade history teacher and swapped a traditional classroom setting for a floating one. He has been on board for the last 10 years!)
“Getting the river clean and keeping it clean are two different things,” explains Chad. “We have to explain this to folks and remind them that their work is not done in a day. It takes a piece at a time, which is how the river got polluted in the first place. Michael and Meghan are education rock stars, teaching this to everyone – young and old – on board.”
The crew comes from all sorts of different backgrounds— professional disc golfers, college grads, former dental hygienists, handymen, bakers, etc. When united they form the ultimate river cleanup machine, but it never feels like work.
“It’s like living on a cruise ship,” says Chad. “When the boat docks, we jump off and go explore the mainland. We take the time to explore the green spaces and the downtowns, to pick up dog food and toilet paper, to organize local citizens for a river cleanup, and then return to the boat when it’s time to move along to the next port.”
If these folks sound like your kind of company, there are a few ways you can help them reach their goal of recycling one million pounds by the end of 2017.
How can you join the crew?
Show up!” exclaims Chad. “We keep things light during river cleanups with skits, contests for the strangest thing pulled out of the water, karaoke, loud music, motivational speeches… it’s incredibly entertaining.”
Chad and his crew aren’t just sticking to the Mississippi. Living Lands & Waters has cleaned up 23 rivers in 20 states and they are always looking for volunteers along the way. Everyone from churches, businesses, families, and students looking for an alternative spring break option for next year is encouraged to sign up. More than 100,000 volunteers have helped pull bowling balls, evidence from robberies, sunken boats, and school bus roofs from the water. But there is always a need for more hands, and all ages are welcome!
“The communities we’ve visited and worked with have done a great job of keeping their section clean long after we’ve gone,” explains Chad. “Because of that, we don’t ever have to visit the same place twice, and that makes it easy to expand our outreach, share our passion, and educate new people every day. We promise you a good time out there while doing a good deed for the environment.”
The comeback of nostalgic advertising in small town USA
Have you ever caught yourself trying to decipher a ghost sign?
You know — those extra large, faded advertisements for brands like Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco and Coca-Cola you see flaking off the side of brick buildings and barns? That art you’re admiring is actually a major piece of American advertising history known as ghost signs– the remains of a hand-painted brick ad that was big enough to catch the attention of travelers and consumers alike to buy American products like King Midas Flour, Maxwell Coffee, and Owl Cigars.
Painted decades before the Great Depression, brick ads were considered the main advertising platform beginning in 1890. (The same year W B Purvis submitted his patent for the fountain pen.) But, whoever’s steady hand was behind these sky-high signs surely used something stronger than a delicate fountain pen to bring them to life. It took lead paint, brushes, and the grit of the All-American Walldog.
It’s an appropriate nickname given to the uncredited, commissioned artists who worked like dogs under the scorching sun and against the frigid air for 10 hours a day. Tethered to their canvas high above the ground, the painters dangled off the side of the building balancing their brushes and buckets of paint. Wall. Dogs. Makes sense right? Their flawless paint strokes produced the brick ads we see today up until the 1960s when neon signs became more relevant. It has been about 100 years since this advertising style was relevant, but folks like Scott Lindley are here to proclaim ghosts signs are back from the dead.
In a century bombarded with flashy emblements, pop-up ads, and commercials, brush-to-brick advertising is making a comeback thanks an organization called The Walldogs. As its event coordinator and a decade-long Walldog himself, Scott’s mission is to help get The Walldogs work again by painting the unique history of small towns across America one wall at a time. Scott’s goal turned reality by Nancy Bennett, who organized the very first Walldogs meet up in Allerton, Iowa in 1993.
“Walldogs are above everything else, storytellers,” proclaims Scott. “We say that the first Walldog was a caveman. Just sitting there in his cave painting on the wall the events of his day. The Caveman started this movement of painting pictures of the past!”
So far, more than 300 Walldogs have painted 548 brick ad murals in 26 towns across America and counting. Scott fulfills Walldog requests submitted from communities coast-to-coast that need a shot of life and have a story to share. Once a town is selected, The Walldogs dive into their history and begin to collaborate with the community on sign designs. The one rule they have: no commercial murals. Walldogs insist on only painting historic event murals and advertisements for businesses that don’t exist anymore but had a hand in the town’s history. When everything is ready to go, Scott makes a call to Nova Color, an American made long-lasting acrylic paint company in California, and they get to work.
“When we come to town, we average about 100 to 200 people per project,” explains Scott. “While many professional Walldogs are on site, there are loads of volunteers who want to be a part of the action, too. That means between seasoned Walldogs and untrained volunteers, art students, and more these murals showcase multiple influences and styles. It boosts confidence and turns folks into Walldog junkies after they dip their first brush.”
It’s interesting to see how the reputation of a Walldog has evolved because back in the early days they simply showed up, painted, and hitchhiked to the next town to earn their next paycheck. Today, it’s more of an honest investment and community project that brings pride to the people.
“Over the years, these events have transformed into more of an education opportunity for folks,” says Scott. “People want to feel like they’re a part of it and we love that. We want to unite friends and neighbors using historic art as the bridge and it has proven to be long-lasting and uplifting.”
“The best part about my job is establishing bonds and telling stories,” says Scott. ” It’s addictive because you want to hear them all! After working with a town, I consider myself a part of it. Proud to say that to this day I’ve helped organize 102 murals and that I belong to five communities all around the country and counting.”
Are brick ads making a return to your town or do you know where one is? Tell us about it in the comments below.
As a guest editor, you get to hand select the content and stories. Between this issues’s 169 pages, Mike and his two friends Garlan Gudger and Nick Dryden have put together an assortment of small town destinations to visit, recipes to try, and artisans you outta know all found below the Mason Dixie Line.
But even more than the strawberry BBQ sauce recipe found on page 98, the intent of the issue is to bring the focus on the physical memories you can touch. Something Mike brings forward in his professional career daily. With each piece he pulls from a barn, he holds a tangible connection to the past in his hands. For those of you who hold tight to hand-me-downs, personal treasures, and tell their stories, this issue is for you!
We’d love you to have a copy of this magazine. Here’s how:
The Bang Candy Company is a Nashville-based sugar-peddler specializing in whimsical confections. It is a magical, indulgent place where candy lovers bear no shame. Indulge yourself in the gourmet marshmallows half-dipped in Belgian chocolate, enliven drinks and desserts with delicious syrups.
Vincent Peach aims to create a balance of casual elegance and sophisticated luxury through their handcrafted jewelry. Specializing in pearls, diamonds, and precious metals, they mix these elements with woven exotic leathers to give the collection a sense of captivating comfort. Don’t forget to get a glimpse of the in-house workshop where they design each piece by hand making yours exclusive to you.
The General Store offers customers a wide-ranging selection of specialty Jack Daniel’s products and gifts, including exclusive branded apparel and accessories and commemorative guitars. Being in Music City, they carry specialty products that connect the history of Jack Daniel to the music and culture of Nashville. No booze sold here, but plenty of watering holes around to quinch your thirst!
Third Coast Comedy Club is the only comedy club in town for local comedy. And the only comedy club for all types of comedy (improv, sketch, stand-up, etc.). There’s comedy practically every night of the week with shows Wednesday-Sunday. Stop by the Green Room bar for food and drinks before, during, and after shows.
5 family members. 7 acres of vineyards. 10 tons of grapes harvested and 10,000 gallons of wine produced last year alone. These folks are as serious about their wine as it sounds, yet they pair it with a ton of fun. Serving wine from Hickman County, Tennessee, ask Jodie and some of her fellow-winos to give you a taste of what Tennessee wine has to offer. Who doesn’t love a wine slushie after a long day of shopping?
Boswell’s carries genuine Harley-Davidson apparel and accessories, as well as other official licensed products. Throughout the shop are personal photos that tell the story of the owners (they have had Harley dealerships since the 1950s!) and antique Harley memorabilia.
Island Cowgirl is a mix of unique, handmade, fun, and rustic things for everyone. The sign outside their door says “Cool Stuff Inside”… and the sign doesn’t lie. Much of their curated collection features local and regional artists and pieces like handmade metal animal sculptures, both funny and inspirational barn wood signs, birdhouse puzzles, metal laser cut city maps and state ornaments, as well as the Island Cowgirl brand of rugged and romantic inspirational jewelry.
Safehouse has six talented artists with styles ranging all over the tattoo spectrum. If you’re feeling wild, book an appointment ahead of time or you may have to settle for a t-shirt (designed by their artists naturally) as due to high demand, they are by appointment only.
A commercial screen printing business “in the back” with carefully selected vintage goods “in the front”, they have everything you need to bring home with you to remember Nashville. The hand-painted art is made by the owner’s daughter.
Anytime we need a gift (or maybe just something for ourself… shhh!!) we love popping into D.Luxe. An industrial, glam, and kinda kooky home store you’ll find furniture, lighting, salvage finds, oddities, gifts, and art. And for all you Sun Record lovers, plenty of their licensed products too!
There’s something about Garage Coffee that invites you in and makes you want to stay a while. A down to earth spot to connect with your buddies and get your caffeine fix. Don’t miss their jalapeno corn muffins — we’re obsessed.
A comfortable home-town deli with big city flavor — you won’t go home hungry. They serve hot and cold sandwiches including the famous SE Club… and yes we ate it after we photographed it! If you got your pooch with you, their outside seating is dog friendly!
Magnolia Goods is a curated space for children and their grown-ups. Specializing in small mom n’ pop brands from around the United States, they also have a few of the larger brands we all know and love from around the world. You will find everything from handmade children’s apparel to wooden hand crafted toys to small batch skincare items and locally crafted jewelry and leather goods. Community based events such as new baby classes, mom’s night out, and hand dying workshops are also offered.
Pure Nashville is an all organic salon and spa. They have a team of creative people devoted to creating a toxin-free salon and spa experience. Their purpose is to spread awareness, educate and provide you with a space for self care. Several of us visit them regularly!
Full of women’s clothing ranging from fancy to subdued, the real gem – ok, pardon the pun, is the jewelry that is hand-crafted in the space. Many items, like bottle caps, watches, typewriter keys, guitar picks, and coins, are recycled and incorporated into their jewelry, proving that jewelry can be unique wearable art.
You might be asking yourself, “What’s a Brewstillery? Is it a brewery? Is it a distillery?” The answer is yes to both! Corsair’s original location focuses on high gravity beer within their malt whiskey program. Here’s what you’ll find: grain to glass story for beer and whiskey, paired tastings of experimental whiskey and unique beers, as well as beer cocktails and experimental whiskey shots. Tours are available.
Across the street from us is O Galley – a fine art and gift shop that presents the artworks of Olga Alexeeva and other local artists, from paintings to wood to jewelry and photography. Whether you’re shopping for a big piece of art or a little souvenir – everyone can find something unique here, including painting classes!
Take a stroll to the end of the street and go see the stunning Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery. After three years of research, planning and hard work, brothers Andy and Charlie Nelson re-formed the business that had closed exactly 100 years earlier in 1909 during Prohibition. With the spirit in their blood, Charlie and Andy followed their hearts and devoted their lives to resurrecting Nelson’s Green Brier Whiskey made the way their great-great-great grandfather did it. We love the story of this business and it’s history so don’t miss the tour.
Originally built in the early 1900s, Marathon Music Works has been restored and adapted to produce a wide array of live music experiences and special events. The venue has hosted a wide range of artists from Garth Brooks to Chance The Rapper to EmmyLou Harris. Check out who’s playing on their website!
When was the last time you were brave? Was it when you tried a new dish for dinner or when you jumped off that waterfall last weekend? If you’re on the down side of courage these days, let these six fearless females inspire you. Without the benefit of fancy high-tech gear and environment-tested apparel we have today, these women earned their immortality by walking on the wings of planes as they flew through the sky and crossing teetering tightropes. They defined bravery and showed the boys that girls have grit too, and here they are — the lion-hearted women who changed our perspective female power with death-defying stunts and unheard-of acts of strength.
Gladys Ingle, the only female member of Hollywood’s 13 Black Cats aerial daredevil stunt troop
Gladys could fly with the guys, all 13 of them. In 1924, at just 26, she was initiated into Hollywood’s aerial daredevil men-only stunt group The 13 Black Cats. She proved her worth when she walked blindfolded on the wings of a Curtis JN-4 biplane as it flew over Los Angeles, and mastered midair archery from these planes! And no parachute for Gladys either, not until several deadly accidents resulted in a new 1927 law requiring these fate-tempters to wear them. Picture her the next time you’re on a plane snapping a traditional photo of the wing.
Maria Spelterini, the only woman to cross the Niagara River Gorge on a tightrope
Maria “Spelterina” Spelterini had perfect balance. To prove it, she donned an elaborate costume and showed up at the lower suspension bridge on the Niagara River Gorge on July 8th, 1876. Stepping onto a two-and-a-quarter-inch wire, the 23-year-old Italian “Signorina of the Niagara” made the trip look easy. She completed the walk a second time with her feet strapped to peach baskets. Her third walk, five days later, was done blindfolded, and three days after that she walked the wire with her ankles and wrists tied.
Zazel, the first human cannonball
Rossa Matila Richter, aka Zazel, literally flew into the room with a big boom. At just 14, she became the first human cannonball when, in 1877, she was shot from a spring-loaded cannon created by The Great Farini at London’s Royal Aquarium. The big bang and cloud of smoke produced by a perfectly timed firecracker awed audiences and fooled them into thinking she really had been shot from an actual cannon. Zazel later toured with and became a star attraction of the PT Barnum Circus, entertaining crowds of thousands as she shot across the sky.
May Wirth, circus Hall of Famer and equestrian daredevil
Tiny but mighty comes to mind when we think of May. Standing a mere five feet tall, she was strong enough to balance herself on the backs of cantering horses while doing forward and backward somersaults, and performing backward flips from one horse to the next in the Australian circus. She once even danced the Charleston on top of a trotting white horse! At the early age of 10, she was scouted by Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey and Hagenbeck’s Circuses with whom she toured for 15 years. Her craft and passion earned her an induction into the Circus Hall of Fame in 1963 where she is forever enshrined as the greatest bareback rider who ever lived. You can understand Mike’s excitement when he picked one of her touring trunks on an episode of American Pickers.
Helen Gibson, the first Hollywood stuntwoman
This woman had a 50-year love affair with danger. After years of riding in rodeos, Helen Gibson, born Rose August Wenger, had developed the agility and strength she needed to succeed as Hollywood’s first stuntwoman. She made her name as the stunt double in the adventure series The Hazards of Helen, and that led to a career in the movies. Poorly paid and socially stigmatized for her decision to become a stuntwoman, Helen persisted, often creating her own routines, many involving speeding trains. One of her most dangerous stunts required her to jump from a building roof onto the top of a moving train. The momentum sent her rolling to the end of the train car, only to be saved by catching herself on an air vent. Another stunt involved chasing a runaway train on horseback, grabbing a dangling rope to swing herself from her horse onto the train just before it went under a bridge. All hail Helen.
Ethel Dare, the first woman to switch planes in the air
Revered as the “Queen of the Air” in the 1920s, Margi Hobbs, aka Ethel Dare, took the audience’s eyes to the sky. This former Barnum and Bailey Circus flying trapeze performer was known for her wing walker talents and for being the first woman to successfully walk from the wing of one plane to another in mid-air. Did we mention she was just a teenager when she did that? Her two signature moves included falling backwards off the wing of the plane with nothing but a rope tied to her to save her life, and a move called the “Iron Jaw Spin” where she was suspended in midair by a special harness placed between her teeth.
How many daring darlings do you know? Share what makes them brave with us in the comments below.
Forty minutes south of the buzzing neon and crowded honkytonks of Nashville’s Lower Broadway strip are miles of winding two-lane back roads connecting small towns to more small towns. Today, it’s easy to pile into the car and make a Target run, but for the folks who still live way out in the sticks, it’s an entire day’s commitment. Back before cars, people had to walk or ride a horse to the town’s general store for supplies. These little stores were responsible for providing food and goods to their neighbors during WWII and the Great Depression and many still do today! If you want to get out and see what America was living like before the tech boom and Amazon Prime, grab your travel buds and take our one-of-a-kind 28-mile backroad general store tour through southern Tennessee. You’ll start in Leiper’s Fork and end on the famous Natchez Trace Parkway where you can choose the rest of your adventure.
We’re gonna take you on a country ride through bliss, honey and bologna sandwiches starting at the original Puckett’s.
Morning, noon, or night, this place smells incredible. The smoke from the fire pit out front follows you inside where waitresses have been dancing around the country kitchen since 6:00AM cracking eggs, grilling bacon, and buttering biscuits. This general store/small restaurant/music venue has been a sacred space in the community since the 1950s when the Puckett family first opened shop as a one-stop general store.
Each of the six previous owners has contributed to Puckett’s legacy in a special way. Inspired by the history and the respect the Leiper’s Fork community had for the place, a young music industry professional named Rob Robinson and his wife Shanel bought the place in 2008, with a commitment to keep the community tradition of Puckett’s unchanged. That included keeping the independently owned business’s grocery shelves stocked, the grill hot, and the music flowing as had been established 12 years before by the previous owner, Andy Marshall. It was Andy’s vision to pull families off their porches and couches and into the store to visit with each other, enjoy a home-cooked meal, and hear good music. Rob and Shanel couldn’t agree more.
As it stands today, you can still stop in and pick up some essentials like bread, paper towels, and milk. The Puckett’s crew has even been known to sell you the eggs from their prep kitchen if you need them! All the recipes come from the Robinson family cookbook and go straight to your plate. We’re talking hoe cakes, chess pie, and the best fried chicken of your life. Neighbors often ride their bikes to the store for a meal, to enjoy a fire, and to shoot the breeze. It’s very common for these neighbors to be Kid Rock, Wynnona Judd, Justin Timberlake and Robert Plant, who came in once and wrote ” you need coolin’ ” on the busted cooler. (Which you’ll appreciate if you know the Led Zeppelin tune “Whole Lotta Love”.)
Settle your coffee order on the way out the door then head to the next stop.
Follow the road out of Leiper’s Fork for about eight minutes, past rolling farmland and grazing buffalo and you’ll find yourself at the crossroads of Bending Chestnut Road and Greenbrier Road. There you’ll find Fox’s Grocery and inside waiting to greet you will be Jewel Anderson, from the third generation of the family that established the store and has run it for nearly 100 years.
After a time in the service, Jewel’s grandfather opened the grocery in 1921. She was 5 when she started there, responsible for stocking the shelves, sorting glass bottles, and sweeping the floors. Almost 60 years later, just after her much-beloved grandfather passed away, Jewel quit her teaching job and moved back into her childhood home, just next door, so she could keep the flame of the family business burning.
She’ll tell you stories about how her grandfather had a way of making the store a social hub, and how he loved to crank up the radio and have folks gather around to listen to the Grand Ole Opry together. After a heart attack weakened him, the family bought him a rocking chair and installed a handrail for him so he could still greet his customers, who just as often as not, would sit down and listen while he shared the Bible. Though he was buried in 1975, his chair, Bible, and handrail still have a place of honor in the store, just under his portrait hanging on the wall.
In its heyday, folks would arrive by horse and buggy for feed, hardware, penny candy, and flour sacks to make dresses. Just above the register is a spool of string that still dangles to tie up bags of beans and sugar. You’ll find just about anything here — from fabric softener to Daisy BBs to soda and shoelaces.
Jewel is famous for her $3 thick-cut bologna sandwiches on traditional white bread with a generous smear of mayo and a cold Kraft single. This is a good place to drop the tailgate or sit on the porch and enjoy the simplicity surrounding you. Fox’s also offers 100% pure gas! At $2.63 a gallon, this is a smart place to fill up before you get back on the road.
Davis General Merchandise
Just past Leiper’s Fork is Boston, Tennessee and that’s your next stop. Davis General Merchandise was built in 1929 after the railroad track that ran out front was torn up and turned into a road. It’s been the community’s general store for almost 90 years and the Davis family bought it about a half-century ago.
Today it is run by the brother and sister duo who grew up in the store, Joey and Patsy Davis. Joey is the businessman and Patsy makes the deli fare, including homemade chicken salad, turkey, and you guessed it, bologna sandwiches. Feed for horses, cows, and chickens is sold out back and gas is available out front. And in season, you can pick up locally-produced honey and home-grown tomatoes. With the closest big name supermarket almost 40 minutes away, Joey and Patsy have done a great job stocking the shelves with your basics: bread, milk, dog food, tools, paper plates, pasta sauce, and power steering fluid.
The decor reminds you of walking into someone’s home. To enter, you cross a large covered front porch, then go through double screen doors and make your way to the back and the wood-burning stove with a tea kettle on it. The rocking chairs are draped with sweaters and floral cushions, old photos of mom and dad sit pretty in frames, a deer mount keeps an eye over the place, and two old men at the kitchen table are talking small town life.
Before you leave, challenge your friend to a game of checkers on the pickle barrel. Loser buys a plate of meat and three at the next stop on the general store tour, which is perfect because the place you’re about to go is known for its down-home cooking.
After leaving Davis, you’ll drive about 12 miles through two-lane back roads on the Old Tennessee Trail ‘til you arrive at the red-roofed treasure known as Netts, in Bethel, Tennessee.
This is the definition of picturesque. There’s a stray white cat hiding behind an old pickup truck, a church to the left, and a steady current in Leiper’s Creek to the right. The field behind the store is buzzing with noisy crickets looking to add some appropriate country ambiance to your general store tour experience. Walk up the steps to the front porch and you’ll see a flyer selling cows and fresh eggs. If you were to come in here on a weekend you’d have to wait for a table because if there’s one thing Nett is good at, it’s home cooking.
On Sundays, Nett serves a traditional southern meat and three lunch, cafeteria style, from 11:00AM-3:00PM for about $7. Fried chicken, catfish, green beans, and creamed potatoes are always on the menu and are made with love from her personal cookbook. If you’re up for it, Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for frogs legs dinners. Ask Nett where the legs come from and she’ll just smile and wink and say, “The same place we get everything else.”
Nett is the sixth owner of the store, open since 1910. What began 12 years ago as a crazy business venture for Nett, her husband and their daughter, has turned into a new tradition for the community. Celebrities drop in for her cooking too — Clay Walker, Hank Williams Jr, and Billy Currington. And when Dolly pops in, she always orders — you guessed it — a bologna sandwich.
People come from miles to hear the deer head on the wall wish them happy birthday. Look closely and you’ll see Nett with a microphone in her pocket controlling the interactive deer mount. (She likes to make the deer sing and talk back to patrons while they enjoy their meal.)
On your way out the door to the final stop on the tour, grab a few scoops of shelled Virginia peanuts out of the yellow sack up front and pay what they weigh. Be sure if that deer says “goodbye” to you that you say it back!
The last spot on our tour is not only the oldest, but also the winner of the most unique decor. Located four minutes down the road from Netts, in Fly, Tennessee, Fly’s is anything but plain, just like its fifth-generation owner, Wilson Fly. While he may hide behind a beard and seem quiet, don’t be deterred! He is always excited to talk to visitors, which is a good thing because they stream into the store all day long. Neighbors (delete comma) like Miranda Lambert come in to buy odds and ends, grandparents come in with grandkids to buy candy, and cyclists are always pulling off the road to grab a bite before they continue on their ride.
Fly’s has been accommodating the community since the family started the general store in 1890, around the same time as the Panic of 1893, the presidency Benjamin Harris, and the creation of the Tootsie Roll. The family also prides themselves on having contributed to the local happiness and well-being by selling 25 pound bags of sugar to moonshiners during Prohibition. The history vibe inside this place is reminiscent of your grandpa’s catch-all barn. Inside, treasures like an old hornets nest, deer antlers, cans of motor oil, old Saltines tins, Argo laundry starch, and tools are plastered from floor to ceiling. In the front window you’ll find the leg braces Wilson wore after he was diagnosed with polio whe he was 18 monoths old.
It’s impossible not to check out Wilson’s handmade birdhouses, furniture, and other wood projects in the yard on your way out of the store. On the back of each of his pieces, he burns the Native American sign for the dragonfly as a trademark and homage to his ancestors who believe that the dragonfly is a symbol for good luck.
If you’re still hungry after all that traveling, before you head out you can ask Wilson to make you just one more bologna sandwich for the road . . .
At this point, you are just a few miles away from the famous Natchez Trace Parkway. Follow it 440 miles south and you’ll find yourself in Natchez, Mississippi where more adventures are sure to find you. When out exploring on two lanes always remain curious, come hungry, and pay a visit to these backroad businesses that have supported and loved their neighbors for all these years.