August 27, 2021

TOURISTS ON BROADWAY

Just to prove they were good sports, Barb and her youngest son Scott posed for the mandatory photo of them standing in front of a Nashville honky-tonk!  The Perrins were friends from South Carolina where Rick was our longtime pastor.  After I moved to Nashville, they were here for a couple of visits. On this second trip, he was attending some meetings here and Scott came along to check out Nashville. 

Barb was always such a gracious hostess, a great cook who loved to laugh and spend time around the table with guests. She also persuaded me to go to London to visit Patrick.  She and Rick enjoyed traveling together as did she and her delightful mom Ruth.  She and her mom took a trip to London and had dinner there with Patrick, who was there for a few months.  She came home and began telling me I shouldn’t miss this opportunity.  Before I knew it, Heather and I had gotten tickets to make a 5-day trip, leaving on Thanksgiving afternoon.

Barb filled me in on all the details of traveling abroad, loaned me a fanny pack to carry important documents, and helped work out our itinerary.  Heather and I were going to meet at the airport in Atlanta—she coming from Nashville, and I would fly from Charlotte.  Barb insisted that I must come have Thanksgiving lunch with her family and some other friends, and said she, Rick and the boys would take me to Charlotte to put me on the plane.  She probably thought I might back out at the last minute!

We had a wonderful meal, then we all piled into their family station wagon to drive to the airport in Charlotte.  Of course, the trip was a once in a lifetime experience—just as Barb had known it would be. 

Whether in London or Nashville, Barb always enjoyed the experience to the fullest! 

August 26, 2021

RIDING IN A POLICE CRUISER

How many people do you know that left their wedding reception in a police cruiser?  Well, I did! 

This photo shows Tom and me shortly after our wedding on this date many years ago—in the back seat of an Athens police car with two officers in the front seat.  

Tom was notorious for playing pranks at his friends’ weddings over the years and some of them were downright embarrassing. Since he feared retribution was being planned, he made elaborate efforts to hide away the new Chevrolet his parents gave us for a wedding gift.  After scouting around, he asked my great-aunt Julia if he could hide it in an arbor behind her old Victorian house near downtown. Sure no pranksters would find it, he relaxed.

At the reception he began hearing rumors that old friends were going to “get even.” There could have been a simple solution—but not if you’re an Eaves.  My brother Easy had spent years as an FBI agent in the hills of Kentucky and he immediately took charge of the situation.  

After I was dressed in my “going away” outfit, Easy sent word that he’d hidden Tom in the church basement and called for reinforcements.  I threw my bridal bouquet, then sat with my nephew George and niece Emily on the front steps of the church—in heels, white gloves and this ostrich feather hat I loved.

Soon there were flashing blue lights and the local police car pulled up.  Easy rushed upstairs with Tom, I grabbed my Samsonite cosmetic bag and we got into the car.  The driver picked up his CB radio and informed headquarters, “we’re on a call to Keith Memorial Methodist Church—taking Sally Eaves and her husband to their car.” 

I wasn’t sure whether it was embarrassing or hilarious—and decided hilarious was the answer.  They drove us to the arbor behind Aunt Julia’s house, our new car was totally fine, and we drove in the moonlight to our honeymoon cabin in the mountains.  

August 24, 2021

THE PHOTO THAT DOESN’T TELL THE STORY!

The real story the photo reminds me of was going to the first Saturn Homecoming in the summer of 1994—and this unrelated picture from that trip is the only one I could find.  Here I’m shopping (just bought some Tennessee honey) at The Produce Place on Murphy Road in Nashville. This popular local market featuring fresh local produce, coffees, nuts, cheeses and prepared foods has long been a family favorite.  Heather worked there intermittently and the owner Barry has remained a great friend.  Today she and I still enjoy shopping there.

The real reason I was in Nashville for this photo was to attend the summer Homecoming for Saturn car owners at the manufacturing plant site in Spring Hill.  Surely there are photos of my red SL1 and of the Homecoming madness—but none is to be found.  And my Saturn isn’t one of the cars parked outside in the photo.

So without any documentation, take my word for it!  When I heard the innovative story of GM’s daring vision to create a different kind of automobile, I joined many others in hoping their Saturn would be different.  When I learned they were building a Saturn plant in little Spring Hill, Tennessee, I became even more interested.  

My little dark brown Honda Civic was over ten years old and I thought a Tennessee-made car would be the ticket. Saturn also promised a unique experience for the buyer. Dealers offered a completely “pressure free” sales experience—and when you drove your new Saturn out of the showroom, you were given a sendoff with cheers and balloons from all the dealership staff. I chose a bright red Saturn SL1 and enjoyed the festive atmosphere at my Columbia dealership.

By 1994, Saturn was the third bestselling car manufactured in the United States. Their customer and owner satisfaction ratings were off the charts. To celebrate, they planned a huge Homecoming event that summer. Owners who bought tickets received a box of swag, including items to display on your Saturn for your drive to Spring Hill.  My friend Earleen came along for the fun.  As we drove across the mountains, we saw other Saturns displaying their Homecoming swag and we waved. When we arrived, the free parking was in a large field next to the plant—and thousands of Saturns were lined up in rows. Over a two-day period, 28,000 Saturn owners came to the party—about three times the town’s population!

Everything was beautifully organized, with a free picnic lunch and exhibits with giveaways in several huge white tents. A highlight was a tour of the Saturn plant, where workers had posted butcher paper to write welcoming greetings and where owners could write their thanks to the workers who’d made their Saturn. The big finale was to be an outdoor concert by Wynonna Judd followed by fireworks.  Several hours before that, ominous clouds began rolling through.  Knowing the force of Tennessee storms, I asked Earleen if she thought we should head back to Nashville or take our chances on the weather.  We decided to leave.

I was disappointed and unsure we’d made the right choice.  Then we heard a bulletin on the car radio saying a huge storm had hit the area, blowing down one of the tents.  Se teveral people were injured and had to be transported to the hospital. They cancelled the concert and fireworks because of lightning and rain.  And the field with thousands of parked Saturns was one huge mud pit.  Good choice after all!

There was one more Saturn Homecoming in 1999 but I didn’t go.  In 2001, I got a Honda Accord and by 2009 GM pulled the plug on its Saturn line.  The Saturn was a great concept—but unfortunately the traditional GM manufacturing model prevailed.  

August 23, 2021

THEY LEFT TOGETHER

Today brought tragic news that has left many people in my community and beyond in complete shock and grief.  This photo was taken in the spring of 2017 when this dad—Anglican priest Thomas McKenzie—took his elder daughter Charlie (aka Ella) with him to one of his favorite spots on earth—the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico.  In honor of her 18th birthday, he wanted to share this experience with her.  They left together and it was a very rich and meaningful retreat for them.

This morning this same dad was driving this same daughter to New Mexico again, where she was to continue her college education at St. John’s College in Santa Fe.  They left their home in my neighborhood together—and less than an hour later, both died in a car crash on I-40 West.

As the news spread through our church community, so did the shock and grief.  Just the morning before, we had listened to Father Thomas’ sermon, received the Eucharist from his hand, and shared in his excitement at beginning his long deferred (due to the COVID pandemic) sabbatical.  Twenty-four hours.

Although not a close personal friend like so many others, I’ve been a parishioner for eleven years and was a temporary interim staff person for over a year.  And I came to love and appreciate Father Thomas very much.  A masterful storyteller, he could begin his 15-minute sermon with a personal story that perfectly illustrated the lesson from scripture.  We enjoyed so many stories of his growing up in Amarillo, Texas, the amazing house his artist father built near a canyon, school experiences, and more.  Many of his stories poked fun at himself.  

He delighted in mystery and imagination. No platitudes, no assurance that he had everything figured out, and always, the assurance of God’s unconditional love for each of us just as we are. Being more than doing. 

He was also a masterful teacher—with classes on the Benedictine way, the Anglican way, the imaginative prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola, teachings of the church fathers and mothers, and rich Bible studies. He stressed the importance of “feeling your feelings” and being honest with God about them. He prescribed specific spiritual practices for specific seasons of life.

Lively conversations about books and writers, music, movies, and art usually followed Morning Prayer at the weekly staff meetings in his church office.  He produced dramatic and soul-wrenching Tenebrae services (often at the Belcourt Theatre) during Holy Week, with live music, movie clips and readings.

For the amazing gifts that Thomas and Charlie were to so many, I am thankful.  Now that they have left together on the greatest adventure of all, “we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

August 22, 2021

POWER COUPLES

Although I’ve enjoyed many interesting trips over the years, my stash of treasured photos always seems to be more focused on the wonderful people I’ve encountered along the way.  Photography can hardly capture the essence of either scenery or people.  When I recently pulled out this photo, I was struck by all that I know and love about these three couples.  Left to right are Stuart Cooper, Bill Fravel, Sallie Fravel, Laura Cooper, Pat Cannon and Pete Cannon. I took the photo at Cornerstone during one of our missions conferences when Stuart and Laura were visiting from their overseas mission assignment.

Three of these six friends are medical doctors—Stuart (Internal Medicine), Bill (Otolaryngology), and Laura (Pediatrics).  One is a nurse (Pat). At different periods in my life, two of them were my employers (Bill and later, Pete). Sallie and Stuart were from the deep South, Pete and Pat were definitely Yankees. Both the Fravels and the Cannons had dramatic spiritual awakenings as adults. Bill and Pete both had serious medical crises as adults—Bill with severe Guillain Barre syndrome, and Pete with an urgent heart valve replacement.  Sallie battled breast cancer for many years. 

They each had unique gifts and personalities—but I think their greatest connection and power was in the way they viewed other people.  They really believed that each person is created in the image of God and is unconditionally loved by God—and treated them accordingly.  They loved people in all their diversity and always sought them out wherever they were in the world about them.  The Cannons had a house near the University of South Carolina campus where they cooked lunches for hundreds of international students every week, held English conversation classes and helped these students acclimate to American life. Many of their friends including the Fravels and the Coopers came alongside to help in this hospitality.

To me, these are power couples because they lived out their faith by showing love to all people. 

August 21, 2021

IN THE PATH OF TOTALITY

The excitement and planning for watching a total solar eclipse four years ago today started long before the date!  When we learned that Nashville would be one of the best viewing spots, we encouraged Patrick, Julia and the boys to drive up to watch with us.  Of course, I ordered the four cousins t-shirts commemorating the eclipse.  I bought a colorful galaxy tablecloth, decorated special eclipse cupcakes and made sure everyone had the appropriate protective glasses to wear.  

In this photo, we’re at our handpicked viewing spot two hours before the total eclipse—on the grounds of the beautiful Ellington Agricultural Center a short drive from my house.  Quite a few other families had the same idea but the spacious lawns accommodated everyone without crowding. It was like a big picnic—with lawn chairs, blankets, food, and even a little softball game.  When we first arrived it was slightly cloudy—and there was some anxiety that we might not get the full effect.

I kept a log of our conversation and what we saw and heard over the next two hours.  The gradual changes we’d read about began to happen—the temperature dropped, songbirds grew silent, and the sky began to darken.  We could hear excited voices all around as we gazed skyward through our glasses.


Ezra (7) exclaimed, “Something’s eating the sun!  It looks like someone took a bite out of it!” Then Eli (12) said, “Pacman is opening his mouth wider and wider!” Sam (12) wondered, “How can we wait another 25 minutes for totality?”  Soon afterward, Charlotte (almost 11) said, “The sun looks like a crescent moon now!”

When totality came, there were screams of delight all around us—and really no words to describe what we saw happen—for one minute and thirty seconds. 

And then the total eclipse was over and everyone around us started packing up to leave.  There was still a partial eclipse going on but it wasn’t compelling enough after seeing the total eclipse.  In an essay she wrote after watching a total solar eclipse in Washington State in 1979, Annie Dillard said seeing a partial eclipse “bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him.”  

Before we left for home, I asked everyone to give me one adjective about the experience of watching the Great American Eclipse together.  I wrote them in my log.  Overwhelming (Heather), awe-inspiring (Patrick), beautiful (Julia), indescribable (Sam), historical (Eli), amazing (Charlotte), like the sun burned out (Ezra) and spectacular (Sally).  Paul watched the eclipse with an astronomer neighbor of his parents—with them and his brother David.

Annie Dillard closed her essay, “But enough is enough. One turns at last even from glory itself with a sigh of relief. From the depths of mystery, and even from the heights of splendor, we bounce back and hurry for the latitudes of home.”

August 21, 2017, was an unforgettable day, especially that 90 seconds of totality. 

August 20, 2021

MY TWO NIECES

Although I had seven nephews (half-nephews, to be precise; all on the Eaves side of the family), I only had two nieces (half-nieces; one the daughter of Arley’s middle son Pat Eaves, and the other the daughter of Harriett’s son Glenn Hurst).  The top photo shows Patsy with her dad Pat sitting in our sunroom on Eaves Street.  She was just 11 months younger than I was.  The bottom photos are school photos of Emily Hurst.  She was 9 in the one on the left; that was one year after her dad died.  She was 11 in the one on the right, and already looking very grown up.

I was 13 when Emily was born— more like a big sister or a cool teenage aunt to her.

Both Patsy and Emily were only children of their family, and both were “daddy’s girls.” Other than that, their lives couldn’t have been more different.

Emily was devastated when she lost her doting father and she was a troubled and rebellious teenager.  A few weeks before Heather was born, we learned that she (at just 15) had gotten married.  Patsy enjoyed her teenage years in Cookeville and was very popular in high school.  She then went to the University of Tennessee, was a majorette in the band, was named Miss Tennessee and competed in the Miss America pageant (photo below). 

Emily’s struggles continued as she dropped out of high school, divorced and remarried. At 20, she and Kenny had their son Robert (photo above). 

It’s not possible to compare my two nieces.  They were totally different women and grew up under very different circumstances. It’s not true to say that one led a charmed life and the other a tragic life either. They both experienced heartaches and losses, and both overcame great obstacles and achieved some remarkable successes. 

I enjoyed being able to spend more time with each of them after I moved to Nashville as they lived nearby. They both demonstrated courage as they faced serious illnesses.  At the end of their lives, they both experienced peace and love. They are part of my story—my two nieces.

August 19, 2021

CONNECTING THE DOTS AT LONGWOOD

In April, 2017, on a visit to Mississippi, Patrick and Julia took the boys and me on a day trip to Natchez.  It was during their big spring festival of tours of antebellum homes—a major tourist attraction each year.  We drove around, took a double decker bus tour of the town and chose one home to tour.  In this photo, Patrick and the boys are on the front porch of Longwood.

After reading A Place Like Mississippi by W. Ralph Eubanks this month, I’ve been reading books by some Mississippi writers he mentioned that were new to me.  I especially enjoyed this book by Elllen Douglas, Truth: Four Stories I Am Finally Old Enough to Tell. She was Josephine Haxton from Greenville, MS, and took her pseudonym to protect her maternal aunts in Natchez who let her use some of their family stories in her fiction. This memoir was her last book, published in 1998. In it she tackled some hard truths of some of her own family stories and in one of them, “Julia and Nellie”, Longwood.played a prominent role.

This is another photo of Longwood I took in 2017.  Ellen Douglas describes it as “a wildly extravagant Moorish castle of a  mansion (Nutt’s Folly, people called it) left unfinished in 1861…No one in the Nutt family ever again had the money…to finish it. Instead, they…sold away or lost most of the land, lived on the finished ground floor, and left the top four floors…to mice and owls and bats and children’s explorations.”

This photo shows Patrick and others exploring the unfinished upper floors of Longwood in 2017. Ellen Douglas said her father’s family (her grandparents and their four sons) rented Longwood when the boys were in high school so the boys could be closer to school. She remembers seeing that finished ground floor with her grandmother’s furniture in it. Her grandmother told her that the author’s father had his bachelor party at Longwood.

I also took this photo at Longwood—a large wooden shipping crate addressed to Miss Julia Nutt, the daughter of  the builder, Dr. Haller Nutt.  She lived at Longwood but often rented it out to help cover expenses.  At other times she lived at a nearby farm called The Forest (where this crate is addressed to her). 

“Julia and Nellie” tells the story of Julia Nutt and Nellie, Ellen Douglas’ maternal grandmother.  The two were lifelong best friends.  The author remembers Miss Julia coming to call on her grandmother when she was a little girl and the two women were in their 60s.

Douglas tells about the love story of Julia and her distant cousin Dunny.  They lived together many years, mostly at The Forest where they kept cows and raised their food.  They were ostracized by the community but Julia and Nellie continued their friendship. When Dunny died, Julia buried him.  When she died, her friend Nellie had her funeral in her home.  Julia was a Catholic but because of her longtime relationship could not be buried from the church.  Her staunch Presbyterian friend Nellie persuaded some kind priest to come pray over Julia.  She is buried in the Nutt family’s Longwood cemetery near the mansion.

Ellen Douglas concludes, “In defiance of her church and his marriage vows, they committed themselves to each other and for a lifetime honored their commitment.”

Four years after visiting Longwood, I now understand who Miss Julia Nutt was—and I’m glad to have discovered another outstanding Mississippi writer.

August 18, 2021

TODAY IS FEBB BURN DAY IN TENNESSEE

I can see her strong Ensminger features in this photo of Febb Ensminger Burn of Niota, Tennessee.  Her father Tom Ensminger and my maternal grandmother Evalee Ensminger Cate’s father Charles were brothers. To me it always seemed these Ensminger women had kind faces aswell as resolute jaws that seemed to say: don’t give me any trouble!

Febb married Jim Burn of Niota and they had a more privileged lifestyle that my grandparents. And there’s a specific reason why August 18 was proclaimed Febb Burn Day in Tennessee in 2018.  The official notice reads: “ August 18 of each year shall be observed as “Febb Burn Day” to be proclaimed as such by the governor, to honor Febb Burn’s role in the enfranchisement of women.”

IT’s a memorable story—how her letter written in August, 1920, to her son Harry T. who was serving his first term in the Tennessee House of Representatives, helped turn the tide for woman’s suffrage.  After over 70 years of demonstrations, marches, appeals, and legal challenges, the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the vote was approved in Congress.  To become law, it must be ratified by 36 states.  Tennessee was the only hope to become the 35th state to ratify—and its legislature was very divided.  

By this time, Febb was a widow and managing the family farm and business.  She had a good education and had taught school, but could not vote because she was a woman.  She wrote a long, newsy letter to her son in Nashville and urged him to support ratification.  As a young representative, he was under tremendous pressure and had cast a “nay” vote at the August 18 morning session.  After reading his mother’s letter, he went back to the Capitol and cast the tie-breaking “aye” vote. The amendment couldn’t be stopped now—and became law on August 26.

On the first Febb Burn Day in 2018, I was thrilled to go to the Howard Office Building on Second Avenue for early voting in a primary election.  As a nod to my letter-writing relative Febb, I asked another voter to snap my photo. I hope Governor Bill Lee didn’t forget to declare this special observance day today. The 101st anniversary of this important event in our history is great!  In just a few more years, my granddaughter Charlotte will be able to vote.  She knows and appreciates the story of Febb and Harry T. Burn well!

August 17, 2021

ALL THE FAMILY TOGETHER

This small faded black and white photo is the only one we have of the George Cate family all together.  My maternal grandparents George and Eva are seated.  Behind them from left to right are their four children—George Lee (Jack), Harriett, Della and Clifford.The four young Cates were born over a 14-year period.  Uncle Clifford, the eldest, was 14 when Uncle Jack, the youngest, was born. 

In looking through old family photographs, so many of them seemed to have portraits done by professional photographers—either posing in a studio or outside their home.  There is one studio portrait of the four younger Cate siblings—made when Uncle Jack was just about two years old.  Other than that, this simple outdoor photo seems to be the only family picture.

George and Evalee were a very devoted couple, Harriett always said.  He was the rock of the family—and his wife adored him. In this photo, her right arm is extended toward him.  In later years when he developed congestive heart failure, she hovered and worried constantly.  Harriett always said that led to her dying two years before he did.  She seemed to feel she could not live without her beloved husband—and so she preceded him in death.

George Cate was well known and respected in the McMinn County farming community.  He was poor but honest, hard-working and devoted to his family. He always seemed to be willing to take an unpopular stand for what was right—even with his own relatives.  I believe he was a man true to his convictions.My grandparents died long before I was born. I only have Harriett’s stories about her parents to read into this lone family picture.  I’m grateful that someone decided this would make a good picture—perhaps some Sunday afternoon at a larger family gathering after church. All together for once.