Our home for the next few days is 35 Pitts Gap Road, Graysville, Tennessee. Last April 27th, it was also the home of one of the largest tornado cells to come through the area in over 50 years. The mountain top doesn’t look the same. The tornado cut a swath 1.5 miles wide and 30 miles long. Our friends, Kenny and Julia, were in its’ path. Their home and shop were directly hit, with them inside. When we were here just after the tornado, Kenny described it for us. Now Kenny is an excitable man, but to listen to how he tells the story really brings it home. My friend Charlene shot the video, and when she showed it to Kenny and Julia, they said, “Oh my gosh, we sound like country bumpkins.” They are anything but, these are two of the hardest working people you will ever meet. They single-handedly host an event on the top of the mountain for 3000 people several times a year, in addition to working, living and surviving the tornado.
They are finally getting their world back together, four months after the tornado. They just bought a home and moved out of the camper they’ve been in since early May. They finally have running water again and a real toilet. A place to put their things, except they don’t have any things. All of it blew away in the tornado. Their home, shop, livelihood went away with the wind. Their next door neighbors, Debbie & Fox, died. The ladies just up the hill died too.
The mountain is starting to show some life. As we drive around, you can see new homes being built, brush being cut down, paths being cleared. But it doesn’t look the same.
The top of Brayton mountain has a number of roads that lead to it. We’ve driven them all, and each has a little bit of charm to it. If you take Pikeville Road down, you end up in Graysville, there is a spot along the way with a “Deaf Child” sign and the trees grow over the road just before the hairpin turns – if you listen close enough, I swear you can hear the banjos playing in Deliverance.
Another road off the mountain is Leggett Road, it will drop you in Sale Creek which is where the Fuller family runs the show. There are several businesses in town with the name Fuller in it, but my favorite is the combination Propane-Convenience Store-Children’s Clothes-Tanning Booth-Video Shop. You just can’t get more diverse than that.
The New Harmony Road will drop you in to Dayton, home of the Scopes Trial. They have a historical county courthouse and in the spring is the Strawberry Festival. Our favorite restaurant there is Bimbo’s. Everything they serve is massive. And for barbecue, Momo’s is the best – but I’ll talk about them more this weekend.
There are two more roads coming in one from Dunlop. Dunlop’s only business is the McDonalds, or at least the only business I’ve ever noticed. And then a road that connects up from Hwy 111, called Jones Gap Rd. That’s what we came in on. With the semi-truck, we have to pick our road carefully.
The people of BraytonMountain are as down to earth as you’ll find anywhere. They are the kind of folks you can count on for anything. I’m proud to call them my friends.