Author Archives: From My Porch

About From My Porch

“I’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.” ― Mitch Glazer I was about nine years old when I realized my love of stories and discovered my affinity for people and times long gone. I think it was the summer of 1964, and my grandma and I had hiked to an abandoned log cabin to dig for glass bottles and other antique treasures. It was the first time she’d taken me up the mountain, and we left right after breakfast, leaving my two brothers and all my boy cousins behind. At that time, my grandparents lived in a ramshackle house on Hardscrabble Road, a tarred thoroughfare that wound through a valley, just a few miles past the logging town of Drain, Oregon. It took us more than an hour to reach the cabin that morning, and as we made the steep climb, my grandma told me stories about the people who had once lived there. My grandparents’ landlord, Ole Mr. Haines, was a widow-man. His late wife had been born in the cabin, and the land my grandparents’ house sat on and stretches of Hardscrabble Road were all once part of her family homestead. My grandma knew how to spin a tale, and by the time we reached the first fallen outbuilding and passed the remnants of a collapsed hay barn, my imagination was alive, and I could see the place as a working farm, the way it was when Mrs. Haines was a little girl. Looking back on that day, I can now say that I think my grandma was a little Mrs. Haines had lived out her life on her family home place, and when she died, she was buried in a plot near her people. Like Mrs. Haines, my grandma was also born on a homestead, but hers was in Kentucky and her papa moved his family from there when she was a little girl. Even though she descended from one of western Kentucky’s earliest settler families, she spent the next two decades moving around between Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi. During that time, she married my grandfather. Right after the birth of their sixth child, and after spending years as Mississippi sharecroppers, my grandparents finally moved their family out West. They followed two of my grandma’s younger brothers all the way to Oregon, where the two brothers had settled after completing duty there with Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. My grandma spent the rest of her days in Oregon, and although she enjoyed a good life there, she never forgot her first home. from the stories she told about her past I and the way she talked about her childhood, I believe she always wished her papa had never taken her out of Kentucky. I don’t remember for sure what all my grandma said that morning as we followed a set of wagon ruts up to the cabin. What I do recall is the hum of bees buzzing around my ears, and that we walked through a patch of brush and discovered an overgrown blackberry thicket. I know that she was telling me something when we stopped to pick a handful of ripe berries, because that’s when the history of that mountainside overcame me. Surrounded by briars and lulled by the quiet mountain, my senses followed her voice back through time. I settled into a new awareness, mesmerized by the rhythm of her Ssouthern speech and absorbed in her old timey expressions. Ever since that morning on the mountain, I’ve had an enhanced perception of time. And since that day, my view of most places I visit includes an imaginative or studied peek into its past. Today Betsy Thorpe lives with her daughter and three granddaughters in Nashville, Tennessee. She works as a freelance writer, and her reflections on both historic and current events have appeared in several printed and online publications. She is writing her first book, "Dutchman’s Curve; the true story of America’s worst train wreck;" a work of creative nonfiction. She is an honorary member of the Bellevue Harpeth Historical Association, the Nashville Chattanooga Preservation Society, and Nashville Historic, Inc. Betsy studied folklore and ethnic anthropology at the University of Oregon and is a scholar of early twentieth-century Southern culture and history. In April 2011 and again in April 2012, Betsy was awarded the yearlong, private use of an individual writer’s room at the Nashville Public Library, an honor the board has bestowed only on a select number of Nashville authors since 2001. When Betsy’s not writing, or day dreaming about the past, she and her granddaughters enjoy watching prime time soaps and crime shows on TV, bicycle riding, cooking Rachel Ray 30 minute meals and taking adventures together.

Who Am I ? Why Am I Here?

Who am I? Why am I here?  We have all asked those questions at one time or another.  Whether we’re probing the depth of our individual being or speculating on the purpose of our personal existence we’re performing a simple act of human nature whenever we try to figure out what role our lives  play in the greater scheme of things.

But thats not what I’m writing about here. I’m in a down to earth frame of mind tonight. Its been about five months since I posted on this blog and I want to remind you—my reader—that I am Betsy Thorpe and I am here to tell you stories about the world outside my door.


My Book, “The Day the Whistles Cried” is Finally Published and Printed

I’m back!!! It took longer than I anticipated for me to finish writing my book. I’ve been away from here for quite some time, but now, I’m ready to start blogging again. I’m just waiting for inspiration to strike. I’m just happy to back on the porch.

Members of the United States Colored Troops to be commemorated in dedication ceremony October 19

I’ve said it before and now I’m saying it again. People and events linked to Nashville history can almost always be connected to people and events associated with a set of railroad tracks once known as Dutchman’s Curve. Movements of the 13th US Colored Troops are no exception.
The Thirteenth U.S. Colored Infantry was formed in 1863. Troops from the 13th were stationed along the tracks of Nashville and Northwestern Railroad line to protect the line from raiding confederates. At that time the tracks at Dutchman’s Curve were part of the Nashville and Northwestern line.
Connected! See how that works?
This weekend certain members of the 13th US Colored Troops are getting some well-deserved attention. The African American Heritage Society of Maury County announced that a dedication ceremony to commemorate the placement of the names of 54 members of the United States Colored Troops from Maury County and 4 white Maury Countians who fought and died for the union in the Civil War will be conducted on Oct 19th, 2013 at 10 AM at the Maury County War Memorial Monument located outside the Maury County Court House.
The program includes an honor guard from the black Civil War re-enactors of the 13th U.S.C. T. Regiment who will present and post arms to honor these men, as their names are read into Maury County’s place of history.
The Key Note speakers include, Mr. Patrick McIntyre, Director of the Tennessee Historical commission; Mr. John Seigenthaler, founder of the First Amendment Foundation, and Dr. Bobby Lovett.

For further information on the event: Jo Ann McClellan 931-682-3755 or 931-698-4765

KICKSTARTER REWARD TIER 25.00—Stump the Train Wreck Lady!!

I say that when it comes to Nashville history there is always a Dutchman’s Curve train wreck connection. Challenge me. Choose an event from Nashville’s past–up to 1918 and I will try to connect it to the train wreck. Your challenge and my response will be preserved in a permanent album on the book’s Facebook page. See if you can stump the Train Wreck Lady!

I received my first challenge today—even though my Kickstarter campaign hasn’t officially launched yet.

Is there a connection between Dutchman’s Curve and the Trail of Tears?

The Trail of Tears—the forced exile march of the Cherokee people—from Tennessee to Oklahoma was authorized by President Andrew Jackson.   Davy Crockett opposed the policy.  Both men made visits to the Belle Meade Plantation from Nashville.  Harding Road—the road from Nashville to the plantation—crosses Richland Creek near the place known as Dutchman’s Curve. Traveling that road both Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett passed by the spot where the train wreck would later occur.

The Trail of tears and Dutchman’s Curve are tied together by the close association Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett had with policies that lead to the forced removal  of the Cherokee people and  the proximity of their visits to Belle Meade.

It wasn’t an easy question to answer but I connected The Trail of Tears to Dutchman’s Curve.

What is Kickstarter?

There’s just something magical about Kickstarter… You immediately feel like you’re part of a larger club of art-supporting fanatics.”
Amanda Palmer—successful Kickstarter project creator

I’ve been trying to explain what Kickstarter is ever since I told my family and friends that I plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign in September. Although most of them understand that I need to raise money to pay for editing and publishing the book I’m writing, many of them don’t get how an online pledge system like Kickstarter can help me do that.
I’m really not as tech savvy as I pretend to be and I don’t completely understand how the fund-raising site works. To give a clear explanation I’m going to share what the website at says about the Kickstarter fund-raising platform.

Kickstarter is new way to fund projects. Its full of projects that are brought to life by supporters. There are thousands of creative projects raising funds on Kickstarter right now.
Together, creators and backers make projects happen.
Project creators set a funding goal. If people like a project, they can pledge money to make it happen. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing — projects must reach their funding goals to receive any money. To date, since 2009, an impressive 44% of projects have reached their funding goals.
Creators keep complete ownership of their work. Backers are supporting projects to help them come to life, not for profit. Instead, project creators offer rewards to thank backers for their support. Backers of an effort to make a book or film, for example, often get a copy of the finished work. Creative works were funded this way for centuries.Mozart, Beethoven, Whitman, Twain, and other artists funded works in similar ways — not just with help from large patrons, but by soliciting money from smaller patrons. In return for their support, these patrons might have received an early copy or special edition of the work. Kickstarter is an extension of this model, turbocharged by the web. They believe that creative projects make for a better world and that building a community of backers around an idea is an amazing way to make something new.

What’s For Supper?

American Pizza, a favorite childprhood dish.

American Pizza, a favorite childhood dish.

Adriana made a pan of American Pizza for supper tonight. She got the recipe from my mom last week. My mom used to fix American Pizza for my dad, my two brothers and me. It was one of our favorite meals and she served it to us often. She probably found the recipe on the back of a Bisquick box. She was a thrifty homemaker and was always on the lookout for new, yummy and economical, meals to make for us.

American Pizza

1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/4 cup minced green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp salt
8 oz tomato sauce
6 oz tomato paste
4 oz can mushrooms
1/2 cup milk
2 cups biscuit mix
1 cup shredded cheese

Cook ground beef and green pepper. Pour off drippings. Add garlic, basil, oregano tomato sauce , tomato paste and mushrooms. Simmer ten minutes.

Add milk to biscuit mix. Stir until dough holds ball. Roll 3/4 of dough on flour pastry cloth. Line ten inch pie plate with dough. Place half of meat mixture on pie plate; top with half cup cheese; repeat.

Cut remaining dough into four wedges. Arrange on top.
Bake at 450 for 15 minutes.