i began this journey in October. It lasted ten days. i’ve been trying to capture my feelings about the journey since then, beginning a narrative at least five times. Now, it is time to move forward.
October 11, 2022, i went on a tortuous airline trip back home. And i mean “home.” I had pushed for a marketing trip to produce sales for my book, Steels Decks and Glass Ceilings. Through the gracious help of several good folks, it happened…in spades. The trip turned into more than a marketing trip. It became an ego booster and reconnection journey, beginning with a stop at “home.”
That first stop was Lebanon, Tennessee. i grew up there, leaving when i was 24 for the Navy’s Officer Candidate School. i stayed in the home that was my other home, about two blocks from the house where i grew up. From our births, Henry, as in George Henry Harding, IV, and i have been close. We were Christened at the First Methodist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee, before it had added on the extra wing; before the church moved to West Main when Jim Horn Hankins, H.M. Byars, and my father bought the property and tore down the sanctuary and the old wing, and turned the new wing into offices; and before it was torn down by the First Baptist Church, which eventually bought the property.
That Christening took place on Sunday, May 6, 1945, two days before Victory in Europe (VE) day. The service program saluted the coming VE celebration.
From the beginning of school in 1950’s, Henry and i ran together, even when Henry went to Lebanon High School and i went to Castle Heights Military Academy.
On this trip, my stay was in the house where he and i spent countless hours with his maternal grandparents and his mother and father, and his brother Jim, or as we called him, “Beetle.” Henry’s wife Brenda was not only a positive addition to the Harding family, but she is one remarkable woman, and one of the best hostesses for a houseguest ever.
i was planning extensive time seeing other folks and traveling around. Didn’t happen. i went out to dinner with my other good friends forever, Eddie and Brenda Callis, and the Hardings. i saw James Cason at Sammy B’s in what had been Castle Heights superintendent’s home. James and i consider ourselves the Lebanon experts on the Goat Man, and i have spent several martinis discussing the subject with him for many years. i signed books for three people at Sammy B’s on Saturday, including a classmate, Laverne Patterson Griffin and Beetle, who dropped by.
That was it. Oh yes, Henry and his Brenda and i went to the local Cracker Barrel, which is headquartered in Lebanon where it started by Danny Evans, a Castle Heights alumnus.
But i chose to remain in that wonderful old home with my compadres. Brenda’s food was terrific, which included Henry’s remarkable barbecue. And we spent many hours on the open and enclosed back porches just talking except for watching Tennessee beat Alabama, and in the den with Henry putting up with me watching Padre playoff baseball.
It was one of the most peaceful, restful stays at home that i can remember. A return to history.
Thank you, Henry and Brenda, and everyone else in Lebanon. Next time, i will visit with more of you.