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Log Cabins and Railway Carriages
It is amazing where music will lead you. In this case – to a shotgun shack in the Appalachian Mountains and an art deco railway carriage in Chattanooga.
Recently we went to a gig by US folk artist Diana Jones. She sings songs of Appalachia. Mine disasters, murders – cheerful stuff. She’s very good – and talked about recording her latest album in a shotgun shack at the Museum of Appalachia.
As we were due back in the US of A for a wedding – this was too good an opportunity to miss. So we headed south into the Tennessee Hills.
Webmaster John gets megapoints for booking us into a cabin on a ridge.
There was no wi fi, and barely anything resembling mobile phone service. It was like stepping back into another era.
The people who lived in cabins like this usually built them out of timber from their own land.
Before saw mills arrived, they split the wood by hand. The families who lived in them were often the poorest of the poor.
Unlike them – we had electricity, running water and central heating.
The cabin was fitted with a comfortable bed, a shiny bathroom and a modern kitchen. But the 1964 Sears catalogue on the coffee table was totally authentic – and fascinating. You really could buy anything from them…
We drove to a nearby famers market and I bought some fabulous heirloom tomatoes to add to a salad for our dinner. They looked – and tasted – like nothing I had ever had before – really giving us an old-time feel.
The gaps in the cabin walls were filled with some kind of modern concrete-like substance – not just mud, but the feeling was there. John, however, did NOT play the banjo on the porch.
So – why shotgun shack? The popular answer is that you could fire a shotgun from the back porch, through the open doors and hit someone standing on the front porch. There are other explanations: that the planks they were built of came from crates that used to hold shotgun pellets. A more serious explanation suggests it’s a mis-pronunciation of an African word used by slaves. Personally – I like the first explanation the best.
We headed a bit further south the next day – and forward a bit in time to the era of the big bands.
I remember my Dad playing piano and singing Glenn Miller’s Chattanooga Choo Choo. Well – guess where we ended up.
The railway traffic was moved out of the centre of town a long time ago – and the original heritage building rescued to become a hotel. The carriages – yep. You got it…
There were lines of carriages parked at the old platforms – each with power, heating, and of course….
I know – it was tourist central, but we were tourists and we loved it! So much more fun than a motel beside the interstate (and a lot more expensive too, which is why we spent the rest of the trip in motels by the side of the Interstate).
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