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 www.wadehodges.com, 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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Food Inc.

Eric Schlosser is one of my favorite authors, an investigative journalist who wrote Fast Food Nation. When I read his groundbreaking book, I became more fascinated with the food industry in the world. He and Michael Pollan have co-produced this new documentary that draws from the excellent work of Pollan and Schlosser. I’ve highly recommended the books and do the same for this award-winning documentary.

600,000 without power in Oklahoma

I got my answer to the question, “Why do people go for milk and bread” when a winter storm is predicted. You never know.

How could we have known power would be out for 600,000 in Oklahoma? Turns out it was smart to buy milk and bread, because with trees down and power out, few stores could even open after the storm. Even mighty Wal-Mart has been crippled, though a friend was checking out when power went out, and the back up system kicked in for the cash registers and they never missed a “beep.”

How do you function while homebound without electricity in freezing weather? Some go to shelters, others to hotels. We decided to stay home and shared food and time with several neighbors. Some neighbors got generators. We have a gas fireplace and kept that going and cooked on the gas grill outside. Anna and two of her friends even made “no-bake” cookies on the grill burner.

Today, as most everything finished thawing, we cooked as we needed to for certain foods. We emptied lots of freezer bags into a pot and made some great chili that included cut up extra hamburgers from the day before. We kept some food outside where it was colder than the fridge or freezer.

Over the last three days, we’ve enjoyed fun times with neighbors, friends, family, playing games and eating together. Thanks to the Kings, Clarks, Smiths, Davises, Hodges for the fun times and helping and feeding each other.

We fed a few mouths here but ate breakfast at the Smiths, dinner at Kings one night, Davises the next and tonight Wade and Heather Hodges brought over meat that was thawing in their freezer, and Wade grilled four kinds of surf and turf. Good stuff.

Power returned for us this afternoon, but for still tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands across the state, power has still not been restored.

One of the funniest things about these storms is that when people are homebound, power and school are out, they go a little crazy, become disoriented. Their children make them nuts, and so what do they do? They put the kids to bed, go into the bedroom by candle light, shut the door, and start making more kids. Go figure.

They say most of the hospitals are online now and doing fine, but they’d better start thinking about hiring more maternity staff in August 2008.