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Thu, Dec 18, 2014

WHITTLE: Illinois third graders want to know about Tennessee

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Dear Woodland Elementary West Third Graders:

Thanks for your “Letter To The Editor” wanting to know more about Tennessee, known as the Volunteer State.

It’s obvious teacher Kristina Rudolphs’ class at mighty Woodland School is made up of bright intuitive students. Otherwise, you’d not want to know about other parts of our great nation.

Pretty smart folks, overall, must live at Gages Lake, Ill.

My wife, Pat,  and dog Honey Bear and I reside in Smyrna, Tenn., near one of the largest lakes in the state, the manmade Percy Priest Lake that was formed in the 1960s to help control flooding and ensure adequate safe drinking water for multiple Middle Tennessee communities.

The lake is a huge economic trigger due to boating, fishing, photography, plus other outdoor recreational opportunity. Being an amateur wildlife photographer, I’ll send you some pictures of the type wildlife we have here.

My most spectacular photo-op came in May when a beautiful flock of rare American white pelicans stopped to nourish and rest on our lake, while en route to North West states and Canada. They were migrating from the Gulf of Mexico.

Smyrna and Murfreesboro are the two largest municipalities in Rutherford County, and sit 30 miles away from Nashville, home of the Grand Ole Opry and hub of the country music industry.

Singer Marty Stuarts’ parents, John and Hilda, are two of our closest friends, and they reside here in Smyrna, where we attend Parkway Baptist Church together.

We frequently attend RFD-TV Network’s taping of the Marty Stuart Show that features some of the finest musicians in the world, including Connie Smith, Dolly Parton, Willy Nelson, Ray Price and Merle Haggard, just to name a few. The program airs at 7 p.m. on RFD cable channel.

As a writer, I’m preparing to publish a book this next year about everyday folks who work behind the country music stars, as in their siblings, parents and others who help sustain and launch the performers’ careers. Next week, I’m interviewing the man who owns the world- famous Ernest Tubb Record Shops.

Music is a big employment source in our community, along with Smyrna’s huge Nissan automotive manufacturing plant and nearby La Vergne’s massive Bridgestone & Firestone tire-making factory. Thousands of families make their living in these three industries.

Education is a huge priority in our communities, especially since Middle Tennessee State University, the largest under-graduate college in the Volunteer State, and Motlow Community College are located here. You might follow MTSU’s Lady Raiders’ fabulous basketball team on television some. The nationally ranked team has made the big NCAA Tournament seven out of the last eight years.

MTSU is recognized globally for its journalism  and aeronautics programs.

History lives here, as in the well-preserved Stones River National Battlefield Park and Cemetery, the site of one of the largest battles during the Civil War. The battle was largely over control of the railroad that runs, to this day, between Nashville and Chattanooga. Middle Tennessee was a large “bread basket” agrarian community in that era that supplied food and ammunitions to troops on both sides of the war.

Another important community in our region is Woodbury, in neighboring Cannon County, where majestic Short Mountain is located.

Short Mountain has a rich history as the home of Civil War guerilla fighter Hiram “Pomp” Kersey, a Confederate sympathizer.

Short Mountain is also legendary for the making of illegal moon shine, whiskey. State officials made recent history by approving a legal distillery on Short Mountain that should be operational by next March. It’s only the sixth legal whiskey-making distillery in present-day Tennessee. It will be the first legal whiskey ever produced on Short Mountain.

According to legend, Al Capone, an infamous gangster from your great state, bought “moon shine” on Short Mountain and transported it to Chicago where they reportedly labeled and sold it as City Rum.

We’re a multi-racial and multi-cultural community, in large part because our colleges and industries attract people from around the globe.

We’re a very caring community, as evidenced by a great number of churches and charities. We’re known as the Bible Belt of the mid-South region.

My wife and I have been instrumental in helping fund and construct 17 Habitat for Humanity homes, as a part of a charity, Whittlemania, that was named after my former newspaper columns from when I was a full-time journalist. We’re currently helping feed hungry families who are suffering in this current recession period in American history and are active in seeking donations to construct a Fisher House at historic Alvin C. York VA Medical Center in Murfreesboro.

A Fisher House is much like a Ronald McDonald House in large cities, but it is designed to give free lodging for aging and ailing veterans and their families, while receiving medical care. To date, we’ve raised about $1.6 million dollars to construct the 12-suite Fisher House.

Most Tennesseans believe in volunteering to help others, which helps keep the Volunteer State tradition alive.

Alvin C. York was our state’s most famous soldier in World War I. He single-handily captured more than 60 German soldiers. He was a very skilled marksman, having learned to shoot his rifle during boyhood days of hunting deer, squirrels and rabbits at his Overton County mountain home.

Thank you again, for the letter to our newspaper, where my columns appear weekly.

Dan Whittle can be contacted at danwhittle@comcast.net
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Dan Whittle, Education, History, Illinois, Tennessee, Voices
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