Good Morning and my very best wishes to you and your family for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday. Like many I will not be traveling this year to be with family choosing instead to stay a little closer to home. I can only hope that yours will be a safe and healthy gathering filled to the brim with your holiday “fixings” and your very favorite turkey inspired libations.
Over the past few weeks I have ventured down many a “country road” looking to capture the beautiful nature of our great state that we are so blessed to experience in this area. One of my all time favorite hidden gems is an area in Gurley called MoonTown and I have been very fortunate to have had some dear friends that owned a vast farm in the area. This small community takes its name from the Moon family and has nothing to do with the Space program. In 1814 Richard Moon patented land in this part of the county. In 1820, John and Hester Moon were married. John had come from Pennsylvania. In 1826 they had a daughter, Mary Ann “Polly” Moon. In 1842, she married Andrew Sublett. Today, the MoonTown area is home to many Moon and Sublett descendants which included my dear friends, Ann and Harry Berry. Ann and Harry have passed on and the Berry farm is currently maintained by their son and their grandchildren!
As you turn off Hwy 72 and head down MoonTown road you will eventually come to a barn that proudly displays a sign, “Welcome to MoonTown, Home of Ann and Harry Berry.” Anyone and everyone that had the pleasure to know Ann and Harry know what a welcome this really meant. I met Harry during my years at NASA and became their “city boy” project to refine me into a country boy. As our friendship grew over time I began to feel like I had become one of their family members.
Over the many years of our friendship and my county education, I learned how to mow down corn stalks and pick corn from a pickup truck window (just roll down the dam window Harry would say with drink in hand), cut trees and rocks for firewood (because Harry thought I spent more time cutting into rock as the trees laid on the ground) and pick the perfect tomatoes from the garden while listening to Ann share her thoughts. The garden was her therapy place and I was in some small way her country tomato therapist. The benefit and result for me was helping her and learning how to make the best tomato juice you could ever have to pair with to make tomato soup and of course, Bloody Berry’s.
The farm was a scenic photographers paradise and even though a lot has changed it still offers many opportunities and beautiful vistas. During the early years “Uncle Moon’s” cabin with a one-holer out house was a major attraction for me. Word is a huge hog escaped from the pen and found its way into the residence where it proceeded to demolish the fragile building. Needless to say the next stop for that hog was the barbeque pit where it was served up for one of Ann and Harrys epic country gatherings. If you were a county politician during that time period – the path to election included an invitation and attending the Berry’s 4th of July celebrations and shaking a lot of hands. The Berry farm and those epic barbeque’s was where I grew fond of Brunswick stew. When asked what type of meat was in it, Harrys reply was, “Oh whatever roadkill Ann found on the side of the highway!”
One of my favorite locations to shoot on the farm was back in the “hollow” where numerous vehicles were stored and a pair of rain dependent waterfalls cascaded down from the top of the mountain. Many of the vehicles have disappeared over the years but the “signature” Big B Grocery truck still resides. The ad on the side of the vehicle proclaims “fresh meats”!
During the many years of our friendship I had the absolute pleasure of getting to know two of the most amazing people that tried their best to country-fy this city boy! It has always been and will remain as one of my homes away from home. If you do make it out that way remember it is still a family residence and working farm and be respectful of the surroundings.
While out in the Gurley area, stop by Boarhogs Barbeque on Hwy 72, grab some vittles and sweet tea and stop by the Moontown Airport which sports one of the longest grass fields and over many years has played host to one of the largest grass field fly-ins in the US. You will find it just as you turn off Hwy 72 on to Moontown Road. You never know what you might see taking off from the field.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING – ENJOY!!