Parkers Crossroads, TN - Events of Monday, July 16 to Wednesday, July 18, 2012
On Monday, we drove about half an hour back to the west to Jackson to Casey Jones Village to learn about the legendary railroad engineer, Casey Jones. Just before the Civil War, Jackson, TN developed into an important hub for several railroads. A lot of the tracks were destroyed during the war (many of them by Confederate Brigadier-General Nathan Forrest that we wrote about in our previous post); but after the war, the railroads were rebuilt.
Casey Jones Village has a museum dedicated to Casey Jones who was railroad engineer from Jackson, TN who lost his life in a train accident on April 30, 1900. We started our tour of the museum with a video that told the story of Casey Jones.
Casey Jones was born John Luther Jones. Casey was a nickname he got because of the name of the town where he was born - Cayce, KY. As a boy, he spent time around the railroad yards near his home, and he eventually got a job with the Mobile and Ohio Railroad in Jackson, TN.
Casey was promoted to brakeman, then to fireman. In 1887, he switched to the Illinois Central Railroad and got a job as an engineer running freight trains where he developed a reputation for his trains always being on time. Casey was transferred to passenger trains in 1890 running one of the four legs of the Cannonball Express. The Cannonball Express provided an almost impossibly fast passenger schedule between Chicago and New Orleans.
One night after Casey had just finished his regular run from Canton, MS to Memphis, he was asked to work a double shift and take the train back to Canton because the engineer regularly assigned to make that run was sick. The train was late departing, and Casey was determined to make up time as he sped along at about 75 mph.
As the train approached Vaughan, MS, which is only about 15 miles from the destination of Canton, Casey had made up almost all the 90+ minutes he was behind schedule. Near Vaughan, two freight trains had pulled onto a siding to allow Casey's passenger train to pass. Unfortunately, the two trains were too long to both fit on the siding, and the caboose and three freight cars of one of the trains were sitting on the main line directly in Casey's path. As they prepared to move one of the trains to another siding, an air hose broke locking up the train's brakes making it impossible to move the overhanging cars.
By the time Casey's fireman saw the lights of the caboose sitting on the tracks directly ahead, Casey knew he would not be able to stop in time. Casey told his fireman to jump, but Casey stayed with the train and was able to slow it from 75 about 35 mph before his train slammed into the caboose of the parked freight train. Casey Jones was the only fatality of the wreck and was credited with saving the lives of his fireman and all the passengers on his train.
There were numerous train wrecks back in those days because they didn't have telephones, two-way radios, or sophisticated signal lights to warn of dangers. Most of the accidents were quickly forgotton, but the memory of Casey Jones lives on today thanks to an African-American engine wiper by the name of Wallace Saunders who worked at the Canton, MS railroad shop. Saunders, who looked up to Jones, wrote a ballad about the wreck that got passed on to Vaudville performers. Although the song wasn't very accurate, it became extremely popular and made a hero out of Casey Jones.
In addition to the video, the Casey Jones Museum has a lot railroad memorabelia and artifacts like conductors' uniforms, lanterns, tools, photos and scale models.
Next to the museum is the house where Casey Jones and his family lived while he was in Jackson.
Casey Jones Village is somewhat of a misnomer. With "village" in the name, we expected there would be other vintage houses, a general store and maybe a railroad depot. Instead, there is a row of commercial shops down one side of the parking lot and the Old Country Store and Restaurant across the parking lot from the museum.
The Old Country Store is interesting. Antiques are displayed alongside new merchandise that is for sale. The concept of combining a country store with the restaurants at Cracker Barrel was based on the Old Contry Store and Restaurant at Casey Jones Village.
By the time we finished up at the museum and at the Old Country Store, it was mid afternoon and we were hungry. Catfish Galley, which got good online reviews, wasn't very far from Casey Jones Village, so we headed there for a late lunch.
Catfish Galley serves hushpuppies while you're waiting for your meal, and they are the best hushpuppies we had ever had. They are very sweet, more like an extra-crunchy doughnut hole than a hushpuppy. We had two baskets.
As the name suggests, Catfish Galley specializes in catfish. We both got two-piece catfish lunch specials that included two sides for $7.50. A three-piece special is available for $8.50. Margery had slaw and onion rings for sides, and Paul had slaw and fries. The catfish was moist, light and flaky. The coating was nice and crunchy, but not so thick as to overpower the delicate flavor of the fish. The sides were also good.
On Wednesday, we chilled out around the motor home in the morning, then drove avout 20 minutes south of Parkers Crossroads to a barbecue joint in Lexington, TN called Scott's Bar-B-Que.
There are a good many barbecue joints in the area, but this one caught our eye because they do whole-hog barbecue and have available a thin, vinegar-based sauce that sounded a lot like eastern Carolina barbecue. Unlike a lot of other barbecue restaurants we have seen that serve pork plus some combination of ribs, beef brisket, chicken, turkey and sausage, Scott's serves only pork.
We also saw an interview online that somebody did with Ricky Parker, the owner of Scott's Bar-B-Que, where he explained how they do their barbecue. Parker buys a special breed of locally-grown hogs. The hogs are fed a special diet and have about 3% fat. Hogs from other sources can have as much as 10% fat, or they can have almost no fat.
The hogs are cooked over a low, slow fire. If you lean through the order window a little, you can see the whole hog right there in the warmer behind the counter. Instead of removing all the meat from the carcas as soon as the hog is done cooking, Parker carves off chunks of meat as you order. Since the meat is cut to order, you can request meat from a specific part of the hog. Shoulder and belly meat have the most fat and is therefore the most tender. Most of the fat was removed as the meat was being carved, so we got nice, tender, juicy meat without excess fat.
Scotts only serves sandwiches and sandwich combos that come with two sides. They also sell pork by the pound and sides in bulk containers to go. We decided to get a pound of pork, a pint of cole slaw and a half pint of potato salad. We also requested a couple of plates so we could eat in.
The pork barbecue we had at Scott's wasn't real smokey, but as we said, it was very moist and tender. We heard another customer request "brown stuff," which is meat that has picked up more dark color from the fire because it is located closer to the outside of the pig. Being located closer to the surface means it probably has more smoke flavor, but it also means it could not be as moist.
Scott's has two kinds of sauce. One is a thin, vinegar-based, hot sauce, and the other is a thicker, slightly sweeter sauce. We liked a combination of the two.
After our late lunch, we drove back to the motor home for some relaxation. The next day, we did some our pre-departure chores in preparation for heading out Friday morning to our next destination.