Ok, y’all, the first thing for me to admit is that I’m a retired lawyer. Actually, I call myself a “recovering” lawyer, to garner more sympathy. But I’m not really recovering very quickly. I still have a disquieting urge to lie to people and steal their money. That’s the cold hard truth, so that’s why I have chosen the words of Mark Twain for my exculpating tagline:
“One should always exaggerate. It makes life seem more interesting.”
Twain does not say one should lie, of course, but … I can assure you that everything on this blog will be true, unless I tell you otherwise. There may be occasions when you’ll sense the vague aroma of exaggeration, but pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
My wife Anne and I moved to Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, from Nashville almost 30 years ago. It was just a dusty little farming community then, populated by several extended and intertwined families who traced their roots– legitimate and otherwise– back for several generations. We learned quickly not to speak ill of anyone in case we might be talking to someone’s cousin or uncle.
It was a wonderfully friendly Southern place. The people were kind and helpful, and we soon got to know almost everyone in this happy little community– or at least everyone’s cousin or uncle– which suited my small-town up-bringing and Anne’s love of country life from her growing-up summers on a farm in Vermont.
The town has changed drastically since we moved here, though. Affluent celebrity buyers from out of state have bought up many of the old farms, torn down their historic buildings, and built mega-houses, driven property values into the stratosphere, and attracted tourists like locusts. As a result, the descendants from the old families can no longer afford to live here, and the human character of the community has irrevocably changed.
Sic transit …
The changes are not all for the worse, of course. There are many generous and interesting people among the newcomers, and the tourists have helped support a burgeoning high-end retail and entertainment business in town.
But the old days– to which Anne and I now belong– are gone. I am preserving as many of the old stories as I can, and I will be posting some of them on this blog. They’re hilarious.
We live in a little farmhouse with a wrap-around porch built 101 years ago by the man who lived here, Burton Davis. Mr. Davis’s original house, on this same stone foundation, burned to the ground, and in 1915 he and his neighbors built this replacement on the same spot. So the farm itself dates back for well over 100 years, and with its attached smokehouse, pig sty, and shed, it is one of the few old farmsteads still standing around here.
With the acreage we have, we are able to raise horses and market our hay, and watch the earth breathe and grow. It is a very beautiful place, and we are truly fortunate to be able to live on it and be its stewards during our lives, as Burton Davis was in his.
Anne was born in Nashville, and I am from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. We met at Vanderbilt — at Tex Ritter’s Barbecue, to be precise– and we’ve been married ever since. Anne was #1 in her class at Vandy, summa cum laude and Founder’s Medalist, and the recipient of both a Guggenheim and a Woodrow Wilson fellowship.
For many years Anne was also the principal harpist for the Nashville and Knoxville Symphonies, beginning as a regular member when she was only 12 years old. She was highly regarded as a harpist and was asked to perform all of the major harp concertos with the orchestra– the Mozart concerto for flute and harp, the Handel harp concerto, Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro, the Pierne concert piece, in addition to her substantial chamber work.
Anne retired from playing in order to focus on her professional career as a teacher of Latin and French at Montgomery Bell Academy, a top-tier, academically demanding boys prep school in Nashville.
My law practice initially took me to Knoxville , where I tried cases throughout the rural Appalachian counties of East Tennessee. Boy, that was an adventure! I pursued a bare-knuckled litigation practice, concentrated in medical and legal malpractice, products liability, a scattering of plaintiffs personal injury cases, arson and insurance fraud, large-scale construction litigation, and police misconduct cases.
I was drawn back to Nashville in the late 1980s, where I served as Associate General Counsel and Director of Litigation for a major health insurance company. Life in the corporate world of health insurance proved to be such an effortless and excessively remunerative berth– compared to private practice, certainly– that I developed an unswerving, life-long commitment to a publicly funded, single-payer, universal healthcare system. With this newfound epiphany, I concluded my career in law by spending several years practicing poverty law for people in need of health care.
Since my retirement from law practice, I’ve done writing and editing work. My pieces have appeared in Vanderbilt Magazine, Nashville Arts Magazine, The Nashville Scene, The Lost Coast Review, Chapter 16, and several other publications.
Mostly, though, I’m an unpaid farm worker.
Like Anne, I’m musical, though largely untrained. Anne and I really got to know each other while I was singing in the Nashville Symphony Chorus and she was playing in the orchestra. Soon we began performing duets together– harp and voice– doing Renaissance and Baroque pieces as well as some of the lovely old Stephen Foster songs.
During those years, I was also offered the chance to sing Bach’s B Minor Mass and St. Matthew’s Passion, Brahms’s German Requiem, Messiah of course, and other great oratorios. I sang every week with the Episcopal Cathedral choir in Nashville– the most exceptional group of musicians I’ve ever been around– which specialized in Baroque and Renaissance composers as well as prickly modern ones. It was the musical experience of a lifetime.
Today, my voice has been reduced to belting out rock and roll chestnuts at our local Leiper’s Fork music venue with an outstanding band of players– exciting stuff like Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, Little Feat, Delbert McClinton, and so on. It ain’t Bach or Monteverdi, but, hey … “Johnny B Goode tonight!”
So thanks for coming along. I’ll try to … “make life seem more interesting.”