Howard and Sam Dig For Gold in Tennessee

Howard Claude in 2004

Ron and Gidget lived in a trailer park on Nolensville Road in Nashville, Tennessee called Claude Country Village. It was the owner and namesake of Claude Country who introduced me to the Marcinkos. But before I tell you more about Gidget and Ron, I want to set the scene and show you this village where they lived and give you some background that only the owner of the trailer park could give. This is a story about many people but this particular chapter is about two men from Arkansas seeking their fortunes in Tennessee. One was a born-salesman named Howard Claude and the other was founder of a rising star in retailing; a man named Sam Walton.

When I lived in Nashville, Tennessee, I commuted past a large trailer park that most people barely noticed. Virtually invisible to bypassers, the residents lived in mobile homes tucked back in a holler with a bluff behind that overlooked about forty acres of land. I asked many people who drove along Nolensville Road daily, “Have you ever noticed a trailer park near the corner of Old Hickory and Nolensville Road?” They would invariably say, “There’s a trailer park there?”

There was a rumor a big box retailer wanted to buy the land the trailer park sat on, and I wanted to know what would happen to the nearly one hundred residents if they had to move to make way for a new development.

I finally noticed the park in 2004 because I read the Tennessean daily, and the business section was reporting that Walmart was looking for a new location to build a Supercenter. Land in Nashville over the past few decades had become like gold but the terrain is very rocky and hilly and often very difficult and expensive to develop.

Over months of considering different large tracts of land, the news came out that Walmart developers were considering purchase of a mobile home park on Nolensville Road. City Council Member Parker Toler had already made some enemies with his aggressive push for development of a Target and shopping center on a wooded knob near I-65 on Old Hickory. Now he was quoted calling the little trailer park on Nolensville Road a blight, a clear set up for removal and development of this land for a large retailer.

In addition to Claude Country, a bar called Eddie’s Southside Bowery, and a Phase One Used Auto Sales flanked the entrance and were included in the assessment by Toler, that this area was drug and violence infested and needed to be removed and businesses developed and tax base improved.

One day driving by the park I decided to pull in and talk to the owner and find out if the park was indeed for sale. [following the new model of, where readers pay 99 cents to finish a good story, you can tape four quarters to a postcard and mail to me if you want, or just click below and read free].

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What is success?

Cover of "Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Succe...

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What is success? A year after John Wooden died, just short of his 100th birthday, his definition of success still lives on . . .

A few years ago I read a book about an American hero, John Wooden. I reviewed the book in Wineskins and I want to share that here.

Review of John Wooden’s and Jay Carty’s Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success: Building Blocks for a Better Life. ISBN: 0830736794. Price $17.99 136pp (Regal, February 2005).

Coach Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” has been used and copied by tens of thousands of coaches over the years, but now he is offering something more in his book: an inside view into the faith behind the man, behind one of the greatest basketball coaches ever.

Wooden teams up with his former assistant coach at UCLA, Jay Carty, who mentored and personally trained Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) when he was a freshman.

Wooden draws from his forty years of coaching expertise and Carty from his twenty-five years of coaching and teaching in Christian camps and seminars to write this new clear, concise—and most importantly—biblically tested new book, Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.

I read few success-oriented books, but Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is not the typical success self-help book. Far from it. Continue reading