A Muddy Pond trip

By Joe Rector

When I published my first book, “Baseball Boys,” I received an invitation to speak at Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church in Karns. It’s the church I grew up in and where I learned many of the beliefs I hold today. The group to whom I spoke was called the Senior Beavers. I recognized most of the folks there because they were members back when I was a child. I enjoyed the time with those folks but swore I would never be one of them.

I remembered that one should not say “never.” To drive that point home, I told my dear wife that I would drive us and a couple of riders on a Senior Beavers road trip. The thought of her being stranded in the car with no help bothered me too much.

A van filled with Senior Beavers and a couple of cars left at 9:30 a.m. Thanks to the planning of David Voyles, our trip would take us to Muddy Pond, which doesn’t sound like the sort of place that folks would intentionally visit. However, the place is actually a community where visitors can stop at stores and other places.

Muddy Pond is located in or near Monterey, TN. Our journey took us through Oak Ridge, Oliver Springs, Wartburg and up Highway 62 into the country. The scenery is beautiful and akin to the Smoky Mountains. A turn off the highway feels as if it leads to a far-out road, one that killers travel to bury bodies. Still, the fields and woods are sensationally beautiful.

Our guests in the backseat were Launa Pennell and Mira Voyles, David’s mom. We began talking even before the engine started. Come to find out, both women lived in the Ball Camp community and attended school at Karns High. Launa knew my mother well; Mira lived just up the road and across the railroad tracks from our house. As we gabbed, I discovered that I knew her youngest brother, Kenneth. He was a senior when I was a freshman and was one of the cool kids at the school.

The three of us recalled all sorts of places, things, and events from years ago, and I felt sorry for Amy, who had grown up in Cookeville. She had no idea about most of the people and things we covered.

Our stops included a store where molasses was made using steam. When I visited Muddy Pond during a festival 40 years ago, mules walked in a circle as part of the process. Women in our group exited with fried pies and lemon chess pies and bottles of the brown, sugary syrup.

Farther down the road, women entered another store and loaded up carts with items used for baking. Upstairs were some pieces of furniture made by residents. I finally found something worth buying: peanut brittle. It could only have been better if the peanuts were not in the candy.

We continued the journey by traveling to Cumberland Mountain State Park. There we feasted on the restaurant’s daily buffet. I talked with Joe and Mary Hunt about his back surgery, something I had 20 years ago. Jackie Dailey, who used to work at the post office when it was located at the Karns redlight, talked about the old times at the church. Her sons, Gary and Rick, were friends, and I used to sing in choir with her husband, Joe.

Amy and I arrived home at about 3:30 that afternoon. I was tired from driving, but the trip helped me to appreciate those Senior Beavers so much. They carry the history of the church. Many of them attended when BRUMC was nothing more than a single church building with crowded classrooms and a sanctuary with a balcony. I appreciate those people who told me stories about my mother and daddy and who remembered Jim and me as something a bit better than monsters.

It also occurred to me that I have put on enough years to qualify as a Senior Beaver. These days, I find that being a part of such a wonderful group isn’t so bad.

BTW –Thanks to Mrs. Fraley for getting in touch with me recently. She, too, was a member of BRUMC years ago. She read a previous column and contacted me. We enjoyed talking about the old church. Thanks for warming my heart with some stories from my childhood.