Fond memories of Granny

By Danny By Danny "The Vagabond" Crownover

Many of us share precious memories of our grandparents and the many things we’ve done with them.

The Vagabond has been blessed in so many ways growing up with his Granny.

Granny was a part of the old ways. She lived a very simple life in middle Tennessee.

She was a tough old lady and lived to be nearly 100 years old. She was independent until almost the end, and she left so much to make The Vagabond what he is today.

Effie Gibbs Harris was from early stocks of Scotch and Irish that came through the Appalachians and settled on the western side of the Cumberland Mountains.

She was born in 1902 and married William Vanoy Harris, who also came from Scotch/Irish stock.

The Vagabond’s grandfather, William, was a section worker for the old L&N Chattanooga – Nashville Railroad line.

He also descended from the famous Cherokee Vann family of Georgia.

The Vagabond was just a year old when he died.

The area in which my grandparents lived was among the rolling hills of middle Tennessee, so well known for that part of the state.

They lived in a tiny, isolated community called Haley, which was hardly made up of eight families.

The L&N Railroad divided the community and was the very reason for its existent, being made up of railroad workers.

The Vagabond recalls seeing one of the old yellow railroad section houses before it was torn down.

Going way back to early years around the 1850’s, Gadsden was in the middle of Memphis and Charleston and was suppose to have this railroad line.

Early Gadsden settlers hoped to run this westward railroad through downtown Broad Street.

They even went as far as to name the town for the major railroad promoter, James Gadsden, in hope to get it through.

Instead, the line went through Chattanooga and on to Nashville through the little town of Haley.

Haley is located about three miles from the small town of Wartrace, which is the home of the famous Strolling Jim Walking Horse and Hotel.

The town is also known for its famous guitar shop where country singers pay for a well-made guitar and for the little shops in its little downtown square.

Granny lived in a simple old Victorian house dating back to the early history of the railroad.

She heated the house with a tall upright coal stove.

The Vagabond recalls her going out to a coal pile next to the smokehouse bringing several pounds of the stuff to the side porch.

During the winter, the family would sit in rockers around that stove to keep warm.

The old wood cabinet radio would be on WSM playing the old country music that that played violins and descended from music the Scot/Irish played.

While Granny had a black and white TV that could pick up two channels, she loved listening to Grand Ole Opry more than anything.

When I was young, I remembered snuggling up with granny at night. The old coal stove would die out but by then we would be under a ton of covers to keep warm.

On those nights, you could hear her old wedding clock going tick, tick, tick, and finally bong, bong, bong, giving the hours of the night.

Since Granny’s Victorian house was in front of the railroad, one could hear the late trains approaching from several miles away.

Closer and closer the train got, when it finally shook the house and come through with a roar.

When the last car passed by, it was almost instant peaceful silent.

After waking up, Granny would take split wood and start a hot fire in the kitchen woodstove.

Many times The Vagabond woke up and warmed himself up against that old cook stove, which also warmed up the kitchen.

Most often The Vagabond woke to the smell of Granny’s gravy, biscuits, eggs, thick bacon and ham, which just could not be beat!

After The Vagabond was a little older, he had to start sleeping by himself in the hallway on a roll-a-way bed by the front door.

He never got a wink of sleep those nights as he recalled the “haunt” stories that Granny often told.

Where she lived, Granny had a chicken house, a barn, a smoke house and a garden.

Her life centered on self-sufficiency, and she enjoyed her spare time swinging on the swing that hung on the long front porch.

When she was young, Granny would take The Vagabond’s hand and walk a little way to a small country store down the road.

There, she bought what she needed and bought the young Vagabond a popsicle as a treat.

There was also the memory of passing an old filling station, the kind that you pumped gasoline into a suspended glass globe and then allowed to drain into the gas tank.

A church/meeting house was located nearby and was never locked.

There was a small library in the building, and the Vagabond would obtain a book to read and often return it the next day for another book. 

Just pass that building was an old truss bridge where Granddad used to fish.

It is now long gone, dismantled to make way for “progress” in being replaced with a new ugly concrete bridge.

Not long ago, The Vagabond would ride up to Haley and meet in nearby Wartrace with some of Gadsden’s famous runners – Linda and Dr. Webb Sledge, Dink Taylor and Ken Brewer, to name a few.

The race is always on the first weekend of May and is known as an ultra-marathon race of 41 non-stop miles.

The race runs near Haley and where The Vagabond’s grandparents are buried.

Many times The Vagabond would attend these races and visit where memories once were.

Granny had a lot of sayings that the Vagabond has remembered.

One saying was to eat all of your meat, including the fat, as it would “grease up your joints.”

When asked, “Granny, how do you feel?” she would crack a smile and say, “With my finger!”

The Vagabond could write a book about Granny.

The experience of having the opportunity to see and live the simple ways of life as it was in early years was something The Vagabond will always cherish.

As of this moment, The Vagabond is getting ready to camp out in the Great Smoky Mountains and go fishing. Camping out does not come close to living the old way of life that Granny lived.

These memories of Granny are happy ones. She showed her love so these memories will never be forgotten.

The Vagabond to this day misses his Granny.

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