The Pearce's Pennington Bend Camp







William Wayne Weems




2023 by William Wayne Weems



  
Photo courtesy of the author.
Katherine Pearce (L) with friend Edna Earle Carney at the front door of her Pennington Bend “Camp”, 1947.  
Largely unnoticed by Nashville natives (most bedazzled by the “Country Music” industry), a minor celebrity has moved into their area. Master Auto Mechanic Derek Bieri has moved his shop and home from North Dakota to a rural tract South of Lewisburg, TN. While his garage is a broad based business, his fame on “You Tube” and the cable TV “Motortrend” channel stems from his highly crafted videos of taking long abandoned, rusted and rotted auto hulks from sheds and overgrown fields, getting their engines revived and running (!), driving them back to his shop, and restoring them to a point that they could provide routine auto services (!!). ( His “Motortrend” show is titled “Roadworthy Rescues”).

In 1956 I shared part of Derek’s experience at the Pearce family’s riverfront house (which they called a “Camp”) on Pennington Bend Road in Nashville. Despite its rustic, “log cabin” type construction, the “Camp” was easily three times the size of the average early 1950’s suburban home. At the North end of the  Pearce property was an enclosed two-car garage (soon to be occupied by a 1957 Chevrolet “Nomad” station wagon. Still, my beating heart).  At the South end of the Pearce property there was a brick barbecue pit larger than most Nashville restaurant installations. The entire river side was a screened dining area, backed up by an industrial kitchen, tableware, and a 75 person set of “Fiestaware” dishes, etc.

But the Pearce couple were childless, and their”vacation home” social center was perhaps naturally set up for their several adult guests. Any children bought along were ultimately left to their own devices. The riverbank was too tall and steep for easy access to the water (and recurrent floods destroyed the Pearce’s wooden staircases and boat slips).  The kids could do chores like hand crank ice cream freezers, play lawn croquet, or play board games and the adult card games (“Rook”, etc.)…. but they couldn’t easily watch TV.  There WAS an early Zenith VHF/UHF TV with one of the first 21 inch rectangular picture tubes (elevated on its own living room floor platform, but floods ultimately got it too). However, it took adults up to 10 adjustments simply to change channels, so we children were forbidden to touch that TV.

So it was that boredom often led to childhood mischief at the Pearce’s. Do note that we were relatively well mannered 1950’s children, so I am not speaking about any gross or criminal mischief. Still, perhaps it is best I use pseudonyms in the account below.

1955. A gaggle of we children were lounging in the living room area of the Pearce “camp”. The infrequent visitor “Missy” observed she had seen a TV program showing how a person threatened with binding with rope or cord could ultimately defeat their potential bondage through simple positioning techniques. I demurred. Two years before at my home across town a bunch of neighborhood boys had offered to disprove a similar contention of mine by tying me to a swing set. Since my curiosity gained their permission, they tied me and showed me how they were doing it. They then wandered off, claiming they would give me 20 minutes to free myself before their return. I couldn’t budge.  Since both my Father and Mother were at the store they had opened I had been home alone, and after 20 minutes had passed with no sign of my boy neighbors, I began to question the wisdom of my prior assertions. Then a pack of five dogs appeared. Acutely aware of my vulnerability, I winced each time they sniffed me before trotting off. 40 minutes after trussing me up, my boy neighbors returned to free me.

The boy I will call “Elon” (because he later went to Texas and became a multimillionaire. Why him, and not me?) observed he knew where a ball of stout twine was kept, and we could soon see just how an accomplished escape artist Missy was. As Missy apparently shared my earlier rashness, she was soon hogtied on the sofa. Her Mother looked on serenely, since her daughter was in no real discomfort, we children were too young for sexual antics, and antsy Missy was obviously not going to wander off into problematical mischief. I did free Missy once she admitted defeat.

1956. Missy and others from the Pearce’s extended guest list had reappeared at their Pennington Bend “camp”.  Elon and I were fascinated by the news that a wooded river lot to the South was soon to be cleared off and three abandoned auto hulks on that land would be shortly hauled off to the scrap yard. Missy seemed restive … the other girls at or near her age were not coming or would be late. The adult activities had reached such a focus that Elon and I knew this was a good time to ignore their cautions and warnings and check out the overgrown autos. We invited Missy along, but she was (justly) afraid of snakes. She looked at the absorbed adults, threw herself on the sofa, put her hands behind her back, bent her legs backward and said “Why don’t you stay and hogtie me?  I won’t mind if I can still watch the TV”.

Elon and I were headed toward the door, but stopped and looked at each other in surprise. We were not yet at the age where we would feel obligated to explore interesting proposals from any willing female, and although we had not heard the exact term, we suspected Missy simply  “wanted attention”.  Still, boys of our 1950’s era, if asked, would likely say girls of their age might as well be hogtied and out from underfoot. Elon looked at me and said “We could hogtie her THEN go off and check out the cars”.  I glanced around the otherwise empty living room and an image of a sniffing dog came into my mind. No way would I immobilize someone and simply leave them. “Sorry, Missy” I said, “We have to check out those cars before our parents find out what we are doing”.

So Elon and I ran down Pennington Bend Road to the auto lot, which had already been partially cleared.  Two of the autos were empty shells, but the third looked mostly complete. Still on its wheels, doors closed, glass intact, it even looked dry inside. I opened the driver’s side door and slid under the steering wheel. If Derek Bieri could travel back in time he might comment on the distressing smell of the interior, then glance at the dash and mutter “ late 1930’s…pristine antique”. Elon did not share my bemusement with those old wrecks. He had found a large brick and used it to knock the hood ornaments off the totally ruined shells, then moved to the front of the car in which I sat. Placing the brick next to its hood ornament, he said, “always wanted to do this”. I asked him to stop…that ornament had a plastic crest, and in some older autos so fitted that plastic crest would light up with the headlights. “Why should we care?” Elon asked. “These cars will be in the crusher soon.”

When I still asked him to stop trashing those wrecks (some parts might be salvageable) a malicious gleam appeared in Elon’s eye. He said, “You better move, because I am going to throw this brick right through the windshield of that junker!” I glanced at the corner of the windshield and said “You won’t bust it out…it says ‘safety glass’.” It hadn’t occurred to me that designation meant the old “safety glass”….two glass panes bonded with a central sticky but clear plastic sheet.

I really didn’t think Elon would throw the brick at that car while I was behind the wheel. I was wrong. He flung it with considerable force at the center post of the windshield. The entire supporting structure gave way, the windshield panes fractured but stayed together, the driver’s side panes flipped over the top of the composite steering wheel and draped across my chest. The brick itself deflected into the edge of the faux ivory steering wheel and  spun upward, tearing a long gash in the rotting headliner before thudding into the remains of the rear seat. There I sat, uninjured but draped with a mat of crinkled glass, a mound of rotted debris building on my head from the torn headliner, and only one thought came to mind: I should have stayed at the Pearce “camp” and hogtied Missy.


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