Nashville to Memphis is 257 miles and takes over 4 hours to drive on interstate 40 without any stops. I did this journey in 2013 as part of a longer solo road trip that started in Nashville and ended 4 weeks later in New Orleans. This particular leg of the trip between Nashville and Memphis was notable for one particular incident that has stuck in my mind ever since and can be linked perhaps to my increasing interest in southern gothic.
After a couple of hours on the road out of Nashville, I started seeing signposts for Kentucky lake. I knew nothing of this place at the time, having never heard of it. But it was called Kentucky, which spiked my interest straight away. What a nice surprise to be near a lake called Kentucky while I was in Tennessee I thought. I read later that Kentucky lake is the largest manmade lake in the eastern United States and almost stretches across the whole width of Tennessee.
Eventually I crossed a wide road bridge on the I40, which gave me a glimpse of the size of this huge waterway that stretched far northwards into the distance. On the other side of the bridge I started seeing signposts for a tourist park and sightseeing location, and I decided to take a little detour to get what I hoped was a lakeside view.
As soon as I got off the main interstate, the road became a lot quieter and I got a sense of remoteness pretty soon after leaving the freeway. There were no obvious signs saying how far my destination was, so I kept driving. The road was called Birdsong road, which was very comforting, but above my moving car I could see large raptors, of a type I could only guess at, circling in the clear, blue, early afternoon sky.
Despite these things, I was having a good time. It was a lovely warm day, I had some nice music to accompany me, and I estimated I was about halfway to Memphis with still plenty of daylight hours ahead of me. Every now and then I'd see a few shacks at the side of the road amid the trees. Some of them were a bit rundown but as I drove on the quality of the various dwellings I encountered started to improve which gave me more comfort.
However, after ten miles or so I started to get a bit weary that what first had seemed like a minor detour was turning into a longer excursion, and I started to think about turning back to the interstate. As is normally the case when having these type of doubts, things changed abruptly. The geography transformed and around me I saw holiday homes with motor boats and RVs parked alongside, but not a person in sight. I was getting closer to my end point. And then suddenly to my left a flash of bright red against brilliant blue caught my eye and I slowed the car before coming to a stop.
What I saw was a small white boarded chapel with a sharply pitched roof and steeple, which were both the colour of blood red set back from the road about 100 yards away. A well tended patch of lawn stretched up to the chapel and in the centre of the field stood a small cluster of tightly packed gravestones.
It was a pretty scene and one I thought worthy of exploring and taking a few photographs. So I reversed the car and parked it at the side of the road nearby some tracks that lead to a deserted farm outbuilding. There wasn't a soul about but the birds were singing aptly around me despite the large birds of prey that I saw frequently high in the sky.
The entrance to the chapel and cemetery was marked by two small statues of the Virgin Mary. I thought it best to walk between the statues rather than taking the more direct route through a patch of daisies and wildflowers. To the side of the entrance was a sign staked into the ground stating 'Davis Park', which I presumed was the name of the family either buried here or owning the land, or perhaps both.
The chapel was beautifully maintained and the white walls and red roof made it stand out from the trees and bright blue sky. It was a captivating scene, and I walked between two trees to get a closer look. I still saw nobody around but thought nothing of it. It was a beautiful, peaceful place.
I had walked about 15 feet away from the two trees when the silence was broken by a loud rustling behind me. I turned abruptly but saw nothing. The rustling got louder and then I saw movement in one of the trees. My first thought was it was one of the many large birds I had seen on my way here. I concluded that it was landing in the tree to roost and it was making a bit of a commotion at the same time.
I stood there watching the tree branches shaking and rustling as something moved between them and then suddenly something large fell to the earth with a thud in the gap between the trees.
I was totally transfixed. What appeared before me was a 6ft, twin tined, barbed tree branch that had fallen with such force that it had impaled itself into ground that I had crossed only several seconds before. The fork-shaped branch stood there defiantly with its tines pointing skyward, stuck in the soil for what seemed like an age, while I looked at it dumbfounded. Eventually it toppled backwards. I snapped out of my trance and reached for my camera to take a shot of this strange occurrence.
It took me a little while to compose myself as my imagination ran wild.
I quickly turned my back on the pretty, little red and while chapel and hastened back to the relative safety of the car, before scooting off in search of the lake and what I hoped was some human contact.