Tag Archives: James K. Polk

Should I…?

14 Apr

It is quiet. The only sounds are the hum of the air conditioner; the chimes on the porch; and the clicking of the keyboard. Nothing is moving. The dog is lying nearby on a blanket. Lots of questions are running through my mind.

Should I write about the controversy of moving the remains of President James K. Polk? Last week, I visited his ancestral home in Columbia, Tennessee and met the people who would like for him to be there. The worst part was someone in my group not knowing that he had been president.

Should I be outside? After all, it is a beautiful day.

Should I listen to Will the Circle Be Unbroken by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? Earlier, I listened to some of it. The album starts with “Grand Ole Opry Song.” Luckily, we were able to attend their 50th Anniversary concert at the Ryman Auditorium. It was a great show.

Should I clean out my emails? Yep, I have a couple of email accounts, and both of them have gotten out of hand. I need to go in and delete some stuff. It is terrible to let spam hang around.

Should I get a flip phone? I have noticed something. Everyone who has a smart phone is always on it. They are addicted to it. I should not say they. In reality, it is we. Anyway, I also noticed that those who still have flip phones are never looking at them. That could be the way to go.

Should I check the mail? Wait, it is a holiday. Have you ever gone to the mailbox before realizing that the mail did not run. It has become a holiday tradition for me.

Should I put up the computer and do something besides type? I believe that I should.

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Hey, James K. Polk Ranks 11th

12 Oct

The other day, I bought a magazine that ranks all of the presidents, and I was pleasantly surprised to see James K. Polk of Columbia, Tennessee ranked 11th – behind John F. Kennedy and ahead of James Monroe. Polk is not a president that comes to mind when thinking of presidents, but he made a huge impact. Ever heard of California? He brought it into the fold.president-magazine

I wonder where the winner of this year’s election will rank. If I had to guess it will be toward the bottom. I, like a lot of people, am not crazy about either one of them. There are over 300 million people in the United States, and these are the two that made the finals.

Tomorrow, my colleague in history and I are taking part in a forum about the election and its historical significance. At least, I hope it is about the historical significance. I really do not want to get into a political debate with people arguing over the issues. The history of presidential elections is interesting as long as personal feelings do not get involved.

Anyway, the magazine lists Abraham Lincoln as the best president and James Buchanan as the worst. That is typical, but it is also interesting that they served back to back. It is also interesting that Buchanan served as Secretary of State for James K. Polk, who finds himself climbing the charts.

Sadly, they do not include William Henry Harrison, who died a month after taking office. I understand they he was not around long enough to do anything, but they should at least put him in a footnote. After all, he was president. On top of that, he was part of one of the most important campaigns in presidential history. In fact, my history colleague is writing a book about it. Have you ever “gotten the ball rolling?” Read the boo land find out why you do that.

I probably need to study up for tomorrow’s forum. I think I will start with the candidacy of Horace Greeley.

The Tennessee Bucket List

29 Mar

We spent Saturday afternoon roaming around Nashville. We ate lunch on the patio at Burger Republic and played around at Centennial Park. In between, we browsed through some shops. It was while browsing that I found a book called The Tennessee Bucket List: 100 Ways to Have a Real Tennessee Experience. Actually, it only lists 99 ways because the last one is something that a writer would put in there when he could not think of anything else to add.

Anyway, I bought the book because I wanted to know how many of these I had done. Heck, I have lived in Tennessee my entire life. I must have done most of them. Also, buying the book meant I could write a blog post.

Here goes the list of my real Tennessee experience.

See a Show at the Grand Ole Opry – I have seen the Opry at the Opry House and at the Ryman Auditorium. Thanks to a former student my wife and I were lucky enough to see the Opry backstage at the Ryman. She got her picture with Riders in the Sky.

Behold the Beauty of a Tennessee Walker – We have had box seats at the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration since I was a kid. Most people go to Shelbyville for the horses. I go for the donuts.

Watch a NASCAR Race – Actually, I have been to a NASCAR race in Alabama. I will be at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time in the Fall, and that will be for a football game.

Sip Moonshine – Everyone has done this, right?

Wander the District – You cannot have the full Nashville experience without going to this part of town.

Explore a King’s Mansion – The TV Room is my favorite part of Graceland. The Outlaw Josey Wales is playing all of the time.

There are three tv's. I left out the one showing the trivia answer.

Be a Part of an Archaeological Dig – I am not sure how much digging is done in Tennessee, but there was once a dig on my family’s farm.

See a Civl War Reenactment – The dad of one of my friends took me to a reenactment of the Battle of Stones River. It was surreal to see people pretend that they were living in the past.

Enjoy a Goo Goo Cluster – You have not had candy until you have had a Goo Goo.

See Seven States at the Same Time – Rock City is an old-time roadside attraction that has survived into the 21st Century. If you are near Chattanooga, then you have to, as the barn roofs say, See Rock City.

Take a Walk Down Music Row – You may not see a famous person, but you will pass buildings where awesome music has been created.

Walk the Field at Shiloh – Almost 110,000 Americans fought on this land. There were more casualties in this battle than in all of America’s previous wars combined. It is a haunting place.

Explore Cades Cove – When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was formed, land was taken from people who had lived in the mountains for years. This community has been preserved in its rustic state.

Stroll Down Beale Street – The Blues was not born in Memphis, but this is where the great Bluesmen gained fame.

See the Sunsphere – In 1982, the World’s Fair was held in Knoxville. It is the last World’s Fair to make a profit, but the Sunsphere is all that is left.

Buy a Pair of Boots – I admit that I have done it.

Stand in the Footsteps of History – Everyone should visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is housed in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. A few years ago, I took my family.

Explore the Titanic – Yep, the Titanic is in Tennessee. Specifically, it is in Pigeon Forge. It sounds strange, but it is an awesome museum.

See a Shark – Yep, sharks are in Tennessee. Specifically, they are at an aquarium in Gatlinburg, which is down the road from Pigeon Forge.

Hear Al Green Preach – I am cheating on this one. I have never heard Al Green preach, but I have heard him sing.

Visit Franklin on Foot – Downtown Franklin is a great place to visit. The city has found the right combination of preservation and enterprise.

Behold the Statue of Athena – Actually, we saw this on the same day I bought the book. Nashville has the Parthenon because it used to be known as the Athens of the South. Inside the Parthenon stands Athena.image-10

Strum a Guitar – Everyone has done this, right?

See a College Football Game – I have seen games at Neyland Stadium, Dudley Field, Nissan Stadium, the Liberty Bowl and Cumberland University’s Nokes-Lasater Field. However, the coolest one was Chamberlain Field in Chattanooga, which opened in 1908. When it closed, it was the second oldest college football stadium in the country.

Play Miniature Golf – It is one of my favorite things to do. The best place to do it? Hillbilly Golf in Gatlinburg.

Spend the Afternoon Shopping – The book talks about Opry Mills. However, the Mall at Green Hills is the best.

Savor a MoonPie – It is an awesome snack, but it is best paired with a RC Cola.

Visit the Grave of Meriwether Lewis – This is the Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame. He met a mysterious end in a tavern along the Natchez Trace.

See a Bear in the Woods – I saw a bear with her cubs at Cades Cove. Luckily, I did not end up like Leo DiCaprio.

Go Line Dancing – Everyone has done this, right?

Spend a Day at Dollywood – I have been to Dollywood after it was called Dollywood. I have also been there when it was called Silver Dollar City. I have also been there when it was called Gold Rush Junction.

Watch the Marching of the Ducks – The Peabody Hotel in Memphis is a nice hotel. It is also the home of some cool ducks.

Go Whitewater Rafting – Everyone has done this, right?

Visit the Country Music Hall of Fame – We try to go there each time they open a new exhibit. It is a great museum

Explore Market Square – This is a part of downtown Knoxville with a lot of cool restaurants and shops.

Pig Out of Memphis-Style Barbecue – Nashville people do not like to give Memphis credit for anything. However, they are tops when it comes to barbecue. Go to Rendezvous.

See an Eagle – A few wild ones can be seen around here.

Discover the Mighty Mississippi – At times, I have just sat and watched it flow by.

Ride a Sky Lift – For years, it has been a Gatlinburg landmark. Everyone has to ride it at least once.

Visit the Jack Daniels Distillery – Jack Daniels is produced in Lynchburg, which sits in a dry county. You cannot buy alcohol where the most famous whiskey is made.

Sit in the “Scopes Monkey Trial” Courtroom – One of my greatest moments as an educator was talking about the Scopes Trial in the courtroom. It is worth a visit to Dayton.

Sing “Rocky Top” – I have sung it thousands of times at the top of my lungs. However, I cannot bring myself to sing the “WOO” part.

Tour a Plantation – They are everywhere.

See a Lady Vols Basketball Game – I have seen a bunch of games and seen a bunch of victories. However, it is not the same without Pat Summitt.

Tour the Home of a U.S. President – There are three. I have seen two. Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk.

Ascend the Space Needle – It is a ride high over Gatlinburg.

See a Titans Game – I have done this a bunch. It was fun when they were winning. These days, it is not as much fun.

Cheer on the South (or North) – When I went to the Dixie Stampede, we were late and could only get tickets on the North side. I was told that the North never wins. That night they won.

Take a Riverboat Cruise at Night – Nashville’s General Jackson is a great ride on a Summer night.

Enjoy an Orchestra – We love going to the Nashville Symphony. They are awesome.

Sink Your Teeth into a King Leo Peppermint Stick – I am not crazy about them, but they are a Christmas tradition.

Walk to the Top of Clingman’s Dome – It is Tennessee’s highest point. Just watch out for the fog. They do not call them the Smoky Mountains for nothing.

Listen to a Country Music Concert – Everyone has done this, right?image-11

Visit a Fort – There are forts, but they are not as cool as forts in the American West.

There is my list. I will not write about the things that I have not done. I am sure the author of the book would love for you to buy a copy to see what else is in there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History is Local – Tennessee Style

30 Apr

Another academic year is coming to a close, and, over the past few days, I have been reflecting upon it. Things have gone decently, but this is the first year that I have wondered if anyone is listening. As usual, there have been some engaged students and some who would probably rather be somewhere else. However, I have gotten more frustrated this time than ever before.

At our university, all students are required to take two semesters of History, and I realize that most of them are taking it because they have to take it. They are not planning on being historians, museum curators, lawyers or any other of the great professions you can get with a History degree. Still, it would be nice if they did not stare out of the windows or sneakily play with their phones. Heck, it would be even nice if some of them brought paper and pencil to class.

Honestly, it gets frustrating. I may not get them to love the subject, but I want them to get something out of it. To accomplish this, I sprinkle some local history in with the American history. They may not be interested in the millworks of New England, but they may be interested in the millworks of our town. Simply, not all history takes place far away. Some of it takes place right around the corner in places they pass everyday.

That is why I throw as much Tennessee history into the mix as I can. This might perk them up, and it might help them realize that this state has played an important role in our nation’s past.Tennessee Flag

We cover the three Tennessee presidents – Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson – because presidents are important. Did you know that Polk is the president that brought California into the United States? Yep, a guy from Columbia, Tennessee did that.

However, I like to go deeper than that and talk about people who they may have never heard of.

Peter Burnett, a Tennessee native, was the first governor of California.

Grantland Rice, perhaps the greatest sportswriter to sit behind a typewriter, was from Murfreesboro. He wrote about the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame and a line that goes like this:

For when the One Great Scorer comes

To mark against your name,

He writes – not that you won or lost –

But how you played the game.

Cordell Hull, a graduate of Cumberland University (where I work), was known as the “Father of the United Nations” and won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on that organization.

David Crockett, defender of the Alamo and hero to millions of kids in the 1950s, was a Tennessean.

Sam Houston, who led the rebel forces in the fight for Texas independence, had his first law office here in Lebanon.

W.E.B. DuBois graduated from Fisk University and taught school in Wilson County before going on to create the NAACP.

George Rappelyea thought of a publicity stunt to draw attention to his town of Dayton. They arrested John Scopes for teaching the theory of evolution and hosted the Scopes Monkey Trial, one of the many “Trials of the Century.” It sparked a debate that continues to this day.

John Butler, the legislator who sponsored the anti-evolution bill, represented the neighboring counties of Sumner, Trousdale and Macon.

Oak Ridge is a small town that came to prominence as one of the sites of the Manhattan Project, which brought us into the atomic age.

In 1920, legislative leaders met at the Hermitage Hotel to discuss voting for or against the 19th Amendment. It is a long story, but they eventually approved it. That made Tennessee the decisive state in women getting the right to vote.

John Chisum was born in Tennessee but gained notoriety as the “King of the Pecos”, one of the most successful cattlemen in the West.

I could name others, but these are a few that I can think of. I really think mentioning local people helps students learn a little more about American history. At least, I hope it does.

The Honeymooners – An Offer We Couldn’t Refuse

20 Jul

Day 4 of the honeymoon was supposed to be a day of rest. I promised Necole that we would have some pool time, and this seemed like the right place. The weather was warm and the pool chairs looked comfortable. However, plans changed when one of Necole’s friends suggested a winery for us to visit. Luckily, we were able to get a midday tour and tasting.

We drove to the Inglenook Chateau, owned by Francis Ford Coppola, and it was what one would imagine when they think about a winery. Of course, our idea of a California winery comes from Falcon Crest, the old television series. Walking up, I expected to see Jane Wyman at any moment.Honeymoon 017

The tour guide took us through the wine making process at Inglenook. He also took us through its history as one of the area’s great vineyards until it fell into decay under corporate ownership. Coppola saved it with money from The Godfather and has spent decades bringing the estate and wine to its former glory.

After the tour, we tasted fantastic wines and spent a few dollars shipping some of it home. The tour and tasting whetted our appetites, and the guide suggested the Rutherford Grill, which sat across the street. When Necole and I sat down, we both commented that the restaurant reminded us of Houston’s, a place that used to be in Nashville.

Later, I found out that the Rutherford Grill and a lot of other restaurants in California are owned by the Houston’s corporation. It began and was headquartered in Nashville until the owners decided that they were too good for us. They would probably find it interesting that Nashville has one of the nation’s best food scenes and has dozens of restaurants better than the ones they own.

Anyway, I am getting off track. We returned to the hotel and made it to the pool. I got under a cabana and took a nap while Necole got some sun. It was late in the afternoon, and we learned from experience that the Sonoma temperature changed quickly as the sun goes down.

Soon, it was time to eat again. As you can tell, we did a lot of eating on this honeymoon. This time we wanted some casual and laid back, so we went to Mary’s Pizza Shack on the plaza. It was as good as any other pizza, but my focus wasn’t on the food. My mind kept going over the history that was around me.

I had read that this plaza was an important part of the Bear Flag Rebellion, when California declared its independence from Mexico and asked to become part of the United States. That’s the simple version. Like all things, reality is a bit more complicated. I won’t use this post to provide a history lesson because that’s not what I was thinking about while eating pizza.

I was thinking that President James K. Polk, from Columbia, Tennessee, wanted to bring California into the fold and used every means necessary to get that done. I was also thinking about Peter Burnett, native Tennessean and California’s first governor. I was wondering if the people of California realize the role Tennesseans played in the history of their state.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel and found ourselves wanting more. With this in mind, we went to Carneros, a place that was recommended by one of my Twitter friends. We sat at the chef’s bar and watched them work in the open kitchen. Necole had an awesome creme brulee, and I had a so-so cookie concoction.

The day was great, and I realized that the Tennessee guys who moved Houston’s could not have gone to California if some other Tennessee guys had not gotten it in the first place.

Bane, Beyonce and Buffalo Wild Wings

6 Feb

Everyone knows that the Super Bowl turned into the NFL version of Vicki Lawrence’s 1972 hit “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia“. The biggest sporting event that the United States has to offer came to a screeching halt, and officials of all sorts began to scramble all over themselves. Well, Twitter didn’t come to a halt, and those in the Twitterverse began to scramble to come up with the wittiest comments.

Like millions, I scanned my Twitter feed during this dark time and, like millions, noticed that I was reading the same stuff over and over. Twitter people come up with some very imaginative and funny lines, but they can also become copycats. I noticed that a few themes began to emerge. The first person who tweeted this things were being original and funny. The next billion or so were a little late to the “Super Bowl of the Dark Ages” party.

Bane was everywhere. Or was it Baine. No, it could have been Bain. For a one syllable named villain, there sure were a lot of spelling versions. He was an obvious reference for the interrupted game. It the movie, he blows up the field during a kickoff return for a touchdown. In real life, the lights went out after a kickoff return for a touchdown. I understand the reference and found it clever the first time. But, I didn’t find it clever the 10,000th time.

SPELL MY NAME!!!

SPELL MY NAME!!!

Beyonce was also all over Twitter. Of course, she was all over Twitter before the lights went out. All of the tweets were about her pulling all of the power out of the stadium or about her booty bumping into the generator. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if either one of those were the actual cause.

We bow to you, Mrs Carter.

We bow to you, Mrs Carter.

I thought the references to Buffalo Wild Wings were the most ingenious. For those who don’t know, the restaurant chain has a long running advertising campaign where patrons delay sporting events to stay in the bar longer. If I was the CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings, then I would have a new commercial out a fast as possible.

Yes, it was us.

Yes, it was us.

Those were funny, even though they got stale after a while. Another trend I did not find funny at all. Several tweets went out that mentioned how it was rich people who were trapped in the Super Dome this time. Obviously, this was a reference to people being trapped in the Super Dome during Hurricane Katrina. Also obviously, it was coming from people with a more liberal view of politics. I know this because there were some other tweets about it being the fault of the GOP.

Making fun of the GOP is fine, but I felt that the tweets took light of the situation during Katrina rather than making an overt political statement. It’s strange that those who consider themselves the most enlightened are sometimes the cruelest when attacking those who disagree with them. Folks on the extreme left and right will think this crazy, but I think they have more in common than they realize. Close-mindedness and refusing to understand the other view come to mind.

Ok, I didn’t mean to get on a political soapbox when I am actually on a Twitter soapbox. Now, back on track.

I’m not good at being funny on Twitter because I have an affliction. I think of clever stuff after the moment has passed. With that being said, here are some not clever things that I thought about after it was all over.

Andrew Jackson saved New Orleans once. He should have gone down there and saved it again. I know. History humor is not that humorous. Still, it took a Tennessee person to save New Orleans from the British, so I figure he could save it from Bane or Beyonce or Buffalo Wild Wings.

Hell, they already put up a statue of him down there.

Hell, they already put up a statue of him down there.

As an aside, it seems to always take a Tennessee person to get something done. Jackson saved New Orleans. Sam Houston brought in Texas. James K. Polk grabbed California. Cordell Hull created the United Nations. Tina Turner was Beyonce before there was a Beyonce.

I also thought of Marie Laveau, the witch queen of New Orleans. Redbone sang a song about her, but there is something better. If you knock on her grave three times, then she may grant you a wish. I knocked, but I didn’t get the wish. I figure she turned out the lights because the Super Bowl interrupted Mardi Gras.

Knock three times.

Knock three times.

However, I had another idea that was most fitting. The lights went out to honor Don Meredith, quarterback and Monday Night Football personality. Watch the video to understand why.

Turn out the lgihts. The party's over.

Turn out the lights. The party’s over.

That’s about it for my Super Bowl Twitter analysis.