In anticipation of my two-and-a-half weeks back in Tennessee at the end of the month—and getting to show SVV’s parents the ropes in their foray into Southern culture—I dipped into my archives and found these photos of bopping around the Lynchburg square.
Now, most people around the world have heard of Lynchburg for one reason: Jack Daniel’s Distillery. The town name graces every poster, every bottle of whiskey. But did you know the famous little town, the town that launched the most famous name in the liquor world in history, is a dry county? Yep, that’s right; you have to venture over from Moore County to Coffee County (where I grew up) if you want to purchase a bottle of the strong stuff.
I had once heard this was due to a lack of people. Apparently, in order to reverse such a law, you have to have something like 75,000 signatures petitioning to change it. Well, Moore County only has a fraction of that number as residents. But while writing my most recent book on Tennessee, I learned that that reasoning isn’t necessarily the cause; it’s because Lynchburg residents want it to stay that way. Weird, as I’ve never known a true Southerner who didn’t like to hit the hard stuff at least once a day!
Pretty much the whole old-fashioned town square caters to Mr. Daniel or is named after him.
He even makes frequent appearances back from the grave for afternoon games of chess.
SVV’s parents only have a mere four days in our fine land, so the first place I intend to take them is Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House. Owned by the JD family, it’s Southern cooking and hospitality at its finest.
I think this poster in the foyer says it all:
Uh, yeah, the food isn’t bad either.
Fried catfish, mac and cheese, pinto beans, green beans, cured ham, baked apples, biscuits and jam, cobbler and, of course, sweet tea—I had it all…and seconds. And I intend to do the same later this month!
Each table has a darling docent, a local with knowledge to spare, who guides diners through the process and the history of the area.
I also strongly encourage those who visit Miss Bobo’s to tour the property, upstairs and down, as the building is chock full of legend and tradition.
The distillery is also well worth the tour—first of all, it’s free (and who doesn’t love free?), and secondly, the guides are downright hilarious and you get to stick your head in a giant barrel of hops and experience a new kind of drunk. You’ll also get informative nuggets like how JD reached his untimely demise. Actually, I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you, in a Cliffsnotes version: He arrived at work extra early one morning and kicked a safe out of frustration once he couldn’t pry it open. This impatient act led to him breaking his toe and catching an infection, an infection that eventually led to blood poisoning and his demise. Lynchburg natives like to tell you that Jack’s firsthand experience taught them all you should never go to work early.
All this talk of Southern calories is making me hungry (not to mention, thirsty!). Dirty South, are you ready for the pending California invasion?