If you are looking for something to do this summer without having to travel too far, then I have a few suggestions for you. I have recommendations on somewhere to go, something to read, something to watch and something to listen to while you attempt to escape the heat.
VISIT: A few weeks ago, Michael and I, along with some friends, toured Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. The prison, which was closed several years ago, has been reopened. It comes complete with tour guides, a short documentary and an on-site restaurant. If you haven’t been, I suggest you take this tour. It is full of history. This is the prison, nestled among some gorgeous mountains in Petros, TN, that housed James Earl Ray. He is the man convicted of gunning down Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King in Memphis.
Our group was very fortunate the day we went to acquire George Wyatt as our tour guide. George graduated with me, and my friend, Penny, who was also on the tour. It was the first time we had seen him since graduating in 1978 from Cumberland County High School.
Wyatt, a former inmate at Brushy, was once infamous for blowing up Hiawatha Country Club at Lake Tansi to cover up a robbery. He has now become famous for leading tours over at the prison. He has been featured on several television shows, news articles and online stories.
Wyatt in no way minimizes his crime. After serving two and half years in Brushy for the explosion that left a building in shambles but no one injured, Wyatt hopes his incarceration will serve as a deterrent to others, particularly young people, as he tells his story and gives vivid details about life in a maximum security prison. Wyatt left prison and then worked 30 years without ever reoffending. He says he never intended to go back to Brushy once he was paroled but was contacted about doing tours there and loves every minute of it.
If you have a day without commitments, I suggest you travel over to Petros on a Thursday-Sunday (those are the days George works) and do his tour. Leave yourself enough time to eat at the Warden’s Table Restaurant. Don’t forget to pet the prison dog. It is a huge and beautiful Great Pyrenees which sports long gray and black fur. He usually hangs out in the gift shop where it is air conditioned.
READ: If you are looking for something interesting to read this summer, I suggest a fictional work by Sandie Jones entitled The First Mistake. It is a dizzying plot with twists and turns which will keep you guessing until the end. If you prefer non-fiction, pick up a copy of The Bigamist. This story is one of the wildest things I have ever read. It is about an alleged CIA employee with numerous wives, children and yes, you guessed it, crimes. It is a chilling read that you will not be able to put down.
WATCH: If you want to live vicariously through someone and get a massive adrenaline rush, watch the documentary Free Solo. It is one of the most heart-stopping films I have ever viewed. Alex Honnold is a rock climber who climbs El Capitan in California without any ropes, belts and safety devices. I heard an interview with him and wanted to watch the film as a result. I knew prior to watching the movie how it ends, but there are parts in it that are so scary I had to turn my head away to keep from viewing.
El Capitan is 3,200 feet of granite towering straight up above the trees, in Yosemite National Park and this man climbed it free of any harnesses or help. It is an unimaginable feat. As “Dateline NBC” always says prior to one of their mysteries, “don’t watch alone.”
We viewed the award-winning documentary on our “On Demand” channel. It is also available for streaming on Netflix.
LISTEN: I am an active listener of podcasts. If you are too, or even if you aren’t but want to start, I recommend “Fall of the Titan.” It covers the murder of former NFL and Titans’ Quarterback Steve “Air” McNair. McNair’s body was found nine years ago on July 4 in his Nashville condo. The crime was ruled a murder-homicide. The creator of the podcast has a few questions and his own theories about what happened that fateful holiday, and I think you will too after listening to it. You can find it on Apple, Stitcher or any other podcast app you prefer.
EAT: I highly recommend any of the above activities be enjoyed along with a juicy watermelon or a great big ice cream cone in the flavor of your choice. It is summertime, you know, so calories from the ice cream surely don’t count!
Mark your calendar for some upcoming local activities which may be of interest to you. There are concerts scheduled for Thursdays at the Amp and Waterfest Family Fun Day. Thursdays at the Amp have proven to be very successful outdoor events at the amphitheater near the courthouse.
This year’s summer concert season is already underway and will feature East Valley Three on Thursday, July 11, followed by Earl, Joe and Chet on July 18, and Daytripper on July 25. Food vendors will be in attendance but be sure to take a blanket to sit on while enjoying the music. The concerts are sponsored by Downtown Crossville and Tennessee Arts Commission. They are free and open to the public.
Family Fun Day is slated for Saturday, July 20, from 3-8 p.m. at Crossville’s Meadow Park Lake.
Activities include canoeing, kayaking, pontoon cruises, wildlife exhibits, food, free ice cream and live music.
Participating organizations include Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Obed Wild and Scenic River, Cumberland Mountain State Park, Leisure Kraft Pontoons, Stones River Watershed Association, Boy Scout Troop 278 and Cumberland Medical Center.