Month: February 2014

The White Bluff Screamer

All around the world, visions of “white ladies,” or “ladies in white” can be found haunting old homes, cemeteries, forests, mountains, etc.

The universal thread is that they are always women dressed in white, and usually have had some form of tragedy surrounding their own legendary death.  The old folks say that they are bad omens and when they appear it is a sign that someone will die.  Some draw parallels from the Woman in White to the Banshee in Irish oral tradition; a wailing woman who was a harbinger of death. Many of the settlers in Appalachia and the Southeast in general share roots with the Scotch/Irish people and have kept with them many of the same traditions and stories that their families migrated with long ago.  This is not the first story with probable roots in the Old Country.

Tennessee has it’s own White Lady, named the White Bluff Screamer.  In rural White Bluff, Tennessee down Trace Creek Road lies a hollow where stood an old country house.  The owner of the house is now lost in time, but the story goes that he was being kept up each night by howling and screams from somewhere in the woods.  One night, he couldn’t take it anymore and he headed out with his gun to hunt whatever was making such a racket.  He searched and searched but then heard screams from back inside his house.  When he ran back to his house he found his children and wife ripped to shreds and saw a woman in a white mist.

It is said that she still haunts that area, and burns the grass anywhere she appears from the white mist.

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Buffalo Road

Yesterday I described the more recent history of Nashville’s Dickerson Road, but it did not begin with Andrew Jackson’s pride.  The natural history is much more sad to imagine, because it is no longer even comprehensible.

There is a reason that if you get off Interstate 24 at Spring Street and hang a right over to Dickerson Road that you soon come upon statues of several buffalo.  The road was a natural trail that the buffalo used to come from the North of Nashville over to the Cumberland River to get to the salt licks there.

ImageTo me they serve as an homage to the time before the pimps and pavement, and hint at all we have lost under development.

Putting the Dick in Dickerson

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

I’ve always loved maps because learning street names will tell you a lot about a place.  From the Cherokee “Hiwassee” Street and River in Georgia/North Carolina/Tennessee; the Algonquin “Montauk” Highway in Long Island; the Shoshone “Shoshone Drive” existing in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming; the “charming,” quaint New England tendency to add old to common things like “Old Barn Road;” to all the damn Peachtree streets in Atlanta, Georgia; you can start to imagine the history of a place instantly.

Ten years ago, if you drove down Dickerson Road in Nashville on a hot summer night you would see the throngs of prostitutes, junkies and pimps and you might wonder if the name begets the action of the place, or if the actions begat the name.  Today, the “victimless crimes” are not so blatant, but still there and it had me researching the origin of the road because the innuendo has always been a real high-brow joke in Nashville…

While its roots are disappointingly not lascivious, they are nonetheless entertaining.  It starts with Tennessee’s pride and joy; Old Hickory himself.  To you folks ain’t from around here, we’re talking about Andrew Jackson.  Andrew Jackson had a real reputation for his temper and rumor had gotten back around to him that prodigy sharpshooter, Charles Dickinson, had basically been running around town calling Rachel Jackson a slut.  Andrew challenged Charles to a duel, but clever as he was, decided his only real shot of living was to let Charles go first in the off chance the wound would not be fatal.  He hedged his bets correctly, and once taking two shots to the chest, he turned around and aimed true at Charles; killing him point blank.

People in Nashville were not pleased about this effrontery, especially because Charles was such a talented and promising young man.  It was proposed that a main thoroughfare in town be named after him, Dickinson Road, but a clerk wrote the name down as “Dickerson,” sealing the fate for the its future glory.