On the way back from our Smokey Mountain vacation we took the old highway through Madisonville to get some smoked bacon from Benton's Country Hams. While waiting for our smoked bacon order to be freshly sliced to our liking, a gentleman noticed our Auburn University attire and asked "you folks are too young to remember the games, but have y'all ever heard of Jerry Wilson...or Tommy Lorino?"
He recalled meeting a large man named Jerry Wilson (and Tommy Lorino, both from the 1957 Nat'l Championship Auburn football team) in France during the war. He had asked "are you the Jerry Wilson that spent the afternoon in our backfield," referring to the Auburn vs Tennessee football game. I'm not sure if he played or if he was just another faithful fan, but the man was obviously in the presence of someone he admired. What's more, they were now on the same team, fighting for the USA. Jerry had responded by asking where he was from. "Aww...just a little town you've probably never heard of in Eastern TN called Madisonville" the man had answered. Jerry said he knew exactly where Madisonville was located because he went through there on the way to Gatlinburg...a trip many folks from Auburn made for honeymoons and anniversary trips. The man told us that his little town was like so many others since the Interstate had been built. He explained that Madisonville is now a place people travel by, not through. Such true words the man had shared. My wife and I were on our way back from Gatlinburg on our anniversary trip and had elected to take Hyw 411 so we could stop at Benton's. The trip north had been via Interstate, and had taken us right by his beautiful little country town.
It was nice meeting the gentleman, sharing his memories, and enjoying the flashback by visiting the smokehouse filled with the aroma of fresh pork. If you never visited a country slaughter house as a child you might not appreciate the smell as much as I did. For those of you--I hope there will always be Wal-Mart, Bruno's, and Kroger for your culinary purposes. Thanks to the military service of the man from Madisonville, Jerry Wilson, Tommy Lorino, and thousands of others, we have our choice. Thank you, US Veterans.
PS: Mr Allan Benton himself was there at his place of business too. The sausage was excellent, and I can't wait to try the bacon. It was reassuring to see that it's possible for a business to remain viable in a day of automated processing and imported goods. Hurray for the little guy!