Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Grassy Cove, Tennessee: John Kemmer

Our next visit was with John Kemmer in his general store in Grassy Cove, Tennessee. Like any rural area in this country, where decedents of pioneers and settlers still populate the land, many people share last names and are distant cousins here. There are a lot of Kemmers in this county and their presence here goes back hundreds of years to when the area was first settled.
The inside of the store conjures up a bygone era; shelves stacked with dusty green glass bottles, old fashioned bristle brushes for shaving, Liberty overalls and hats, hunting gear and yellowed pictures hanging on the wall of the first Kemmers in the area. John himself is seated in a comfortable-looking chair behind the counter surrounded by haphazard stacks of books that he reads as he waits for customers.

He is quiet and seems mildly inquisitive about the two of us poking around his store, asking him questions about his farm. John tells us he doesn't really like being a farmer- he much prefers the store. He has downsized his operation from 200 head of cattle to 80, and if his daughter isn't interested in taking it over, he will happily sell the cows and quit farming. Government intrusion is an issue that has been rough on John; even in his store he has felt the tightening of the governmental leash in areas like the ability to sell food (We had hoped for some ice cream, but found only a non-working freezer).
John was the first farmer we talked to who was really "over" farming and ready to get out of it. He's ready to sell it all, buy an RV and wander the country, but his daighter's interest in inheriting it keeps him there. The general store seems to be less a business and more a place to keep the physical records of a fading history. One mile down the road, his cousin, George Kemmer also keeps a similar store, with an equal amount of antiquities and artifacts.

Before we left, we bought an Italian bristle brush and I caught sight of an arial photo of the Kemmer farm tacked up to the wall where only John could really see it from behind the counter. It made me think that even though John is ready to be done farming, he retains a love for the land that has been in his family for so long.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

My brother is married to John's daughter! It's so neat to find an article about John and Grassy Cove. It's so beautiful, my husband and I often envy their lifestyle. It's funny how things you don't have seem so cool, and those that have them (a huge beautiful farm in the hills of Tennessee) often want for something else. C' est la vie I guess.

Anonymous said...

Recently happened into Mr. Kemmer's General Store. This wasn't a planned stop but was needing directions. Being a fan of the Walton's the store was a very interesting place. To bad I didn't know of another store as this so close. I would like to return there someday but likely only in memories. Big Charlie Horse

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