My father, after helping with at least the fifth move of one of his children to some new town and new apartment through the wonders of U-Haul, declared that he had “enjoyed his last Adventure in Moving.”
U-Haul no longer uses that phrase for their tagline, but after driving two full days from Tennessee to Washington with a van of family furniture, I am channeling my dad. No more adventures in moving for me!
Andrew and I flew to Nashville on Monday, where my sister Debbie met us at the airport and deposited us at the U-Haul office to pick up our van. Then my niece’s husband Jason and their daughter Kate joined us to help load the van. They were a godsend (not to mention Andrew’s many contributions over the three days), and we quickly had all the pieces of my dad’s home that were moving to Maryland strapped in and ready to go.
We already have a family bedroom suite from the Bearden side of our family (my grandmother’s family), but after my father passed away we inherited furniture from Uncle David Jefferson Wagner. You may recognize the first two names. Uncle Dave was like a grandfather to my dad, and I was named for him (along with my mother’s father – Thomas Jefferson Roberts).
We were also thrilled to pick up two chairs made by African-American craftsmen in Franklin, Tennessee in the mid-nineteenth century. My father worked with Williamson County historian Rick Warwick to confirm that one of the chairs was made by Richard “Dick” Poynor (1802-1882) while the other was an all-hickory Patton chair (another Williamson County enslaved craftsman). Warwick’s 2005 book on the region’s material culture – Williamson County: More Than a Good Place to Live – describes Poynor’s life and work as follows:
“Richard “Dick” Poynor was born a slave in Halifax County, Virginia, on June 22, 1802….The Poyners were well-established as craftsmen in the community as Robert Poynor’s estate inventory of 1848 included ‘mechanics tools, some shoemaker’s tools, some blacksmithing tools and some chairmaking tools.’ It is assumed that Robert taught his slave, Dick, the art and mystery of chairmaking….Sometime between 1850 and 1860, Dick obtained his freedom and, if tradition is correct, purchased the freedom of his second wife, Millie….By 1851, Dick had moved from the Robert Poynor farm near Brentwood and was working at his horse-powered chair-factory and hillside farm off Pinewood Road in western Williamson County, 12 miles from Franklin.”
With the help of his son, Poynor produced hundreds of chairs in his factory. The “classic signature of a Poynor chair is found in the graceful arching mule-eared post secured with a wooden peg in the top slat.” My father had written a small note to go along with the history of the chairs that implored us to “keep them in the family.” Candice and I are thrilled to have both of these chairs.
Early on Tuesday, Andrew and I set out for the 13 hour drive home. One of the flukes of geography in Tennessee is that between Gordonsville and Cookeville, one drives over the Caney Fork River five times along I-40 in about a ten-mile stretch. On Tuesday, that whole stretch was covered in fog. Then I had to adjust to being passed by 18-wheelers…and having the winds whip our van. The 4% grade coming down the Cumberland Plateau is especially interesting in a truck, and Knoxville traffic is always challenging – no matter the vehicle.
By the time we made it to Bristol, we were famished and ready for lunch. But rather than take the quick bite from a chain along the interstate, I had to introduce Andrew to “State Street” in Bristol – where one side is in Tennessee and the other in Virginia. We found a great place to eat, and Andrew straddled the state line…in the middle of the street. (The kind folks who stopped and let us take our picture had – no doubt – seen many others do the same.)
Along the way through this beautiful section of our country, Andrew and I listened to about 20 podcasts that he had carefully “curated” to appeal to my interests. We especially enjoyed the 99 Percent Invisible podcasts about various aspects of design. It felt appropriate that we were driving through some well-designed communities and were also carrying pieces of well-designed furniture that had meaning for our family.
Oh, and we talked and caught up on life.
Tuesday evening found us in Staunton, where we spent the evening with our good friends Doug and Tidge Roller. More architecture talk (Doug is a retired architect) and good food in historic, downtown Staunton, before hitting the bed.
We were fortunate in that traffic was light for the interstate between Murfreesboro and Silver Spring, and even the Washington beltway was manageable. We arrived home mid-day on Wednesday, unloaded our van (Jeez, that old furniture is heavy) and then returned the van. I loved being with Andrew for 3 days, and having the chance to catch up with family and friends. But…no more adventures in moving for me. At 61, it is time for a younger generation to take over.
Andrew and I listened to some of his music on the way home – Chicago House Music, Beyoncé (of course), 70s and 80s soul and disco music, and more. But the song that kept coming back in my mind was the Steve Earle tune he wrote to try to capture the classic “bad hillbilly murder ballad” feel. Carrie Brown includes the classic line about Bristol, “I shot him in Virginia. He died in Tennessee.” So here you go – enjoy a little bluegrass murder number with Earle and the Del McCoury band.
More to come…