“They say you can’t make a living on farming… but doing anything else isn’t really living at all.”
– Herman Melville
An August Afternoon
It is one of those sweltering, hot summer afternoons that frequent a Tennessee August. The air is still. Nothing is moving but the black flies, sweat bees, and mosquitoes that seem to relish the heat and are drawn by your perspiration and your inactivity in the stifling heat of the day. The temperature is in the high nineties and the humidity that accompanies those dog days of summer leave you with the feeling of suffocation as you sweat just standing in the nearby tree row for shade. There on the rise of the farm’s terrain, looking over a small pond that is just past the corn field, sits Camo. His eyes are drawn instinctively to the water, but he looks back every few moments to make sure no one is going anywhere without him. On any ignition of either of the vehicles that join him at the top of the hill, he is up and triggered by some unseen chase response that drives him to run. But for now, he is content to just sit and wait. However, in his eyes you see it. The overwhelming desire and inbred longing to sprint down the hill and splash in the water below. Camo is a Yellow Labrador, well mostly anyway. His bloodline, like most of us, is a mismatched, eclectic group of first one thing and then another, but in his spirit and to the outside world, he is pure Yellow Lab. Truthfully, if you spend any time at all around Camo you will be convinced, as I am, that Camo is not really a dog at all. I am sure there is a trapped teenage soul inside that is trying desperately to come out and play. He is energetic and smart, but it is his mischievous nature that stands out more than anything. He casually picks corn by the whole stalk and then meticulously pulls off an ear and then proceeds to shuck it clean like he was pealing a banana before he eats it, like corn on the cob at a neighborhood summer cookout. He chases chickens, but never to lay a paw or a tooth on them, he just does it for the sport of it, and I am sure he knows it bothers the rooster to no end. He eats like any good teenager too, complete with a cast iron stomach that seemingly can digest moon rocks and leather straps if given the chance. Not to mention some of the best kettle corn you have ever tasted, but more on that later.
Nicknames and Kettle Corn
The farm is the Wilson Family Farm in the Bethesda community. It is a small farming community around 30 miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. Camo’s owner (if one can really own a spirit such as Camo) and owner of the farm is Aaron Wilson. He is better known as Ace, a name given to him as a child by a former football coach. It suits him well and it has stuck with him his whole life. The farm and Camo’s playground is 140 acres of prime real estate in Williamson County. Truthfully, any land in Williamson County is prime real estate these days and holding onto farms has become increasingly difficult over the years. Growing up in this rural area and spending so much time on my grandparents’ farm as a child, I find this place comforting and even cathartic. And while it is near impossible to stop the wheels of progress from changing the landscape of our youth forever, it is good to see places such as this that has kept the wolves at bay, at least for now. The farm itself has been in his family since the late 1800’s. A history of the place is given by Ace himself on one of his famous hayrides in the autumn months when the farm is open for fall festivities. There is a massive nine-acre corn maze, pumpkins and corn stalks for decorating, a cow train ride for the young (and sometimes old alike), the aforementioned hayride (possibly joined by Camo if you approve of the company), Ace’s famous kettle corn popped on the farm, and just the ability to walk the farm and enjoy the outdoors on the nature trail or the many zinnias and sunflower patches when they are available. The great thing about this place, is that it still feels like a farm when it is all said and done. You do not get the feeling that it has become commercialized to the point where it is a petting zoo or just a playground surrounded by a farm. And while those types of places have their charm too, it is good to have a place like the Wilson Family Farm that is more natural and organic.
Speaking of natural, what is more natural than fresh kettle corn? If you are local to Middle Tennessee and frequent the festivals or farmers market in downtown Franklin, then you have no doubt heard, seen, and probably tasted Ace’s Kettle Corn. It is a bit salty and a bit sweet, but not too much of either. Even if you claim not to like kettle corn, as I did, you somehow find yourself eating an entire bag as you wander around the festivals or the farm in the Fall. Ace uses what he calls a secret ratio of salt to sugar to corn to goodness and love…it is a little like watching my grandmother or my mom make biscuits growing up. They are using the same ingredients as everyone else, but for some reason their mix just looks better, feels better, and tastes better than everyone else around. It is an enigma wrapped in a riddle, but one you can savor to the last kernel comes out of your bag. And for all you kettle corn aficionados, he will even ship it to you for you to enjoy in your own home.
The Heart of the Farm
But, back to Camo and that little hill overlooking the pond below. It was on this site a few years ago, on that hot, and humid August day, that Ace and I were talking about the coming Fall season and what the identity of the farm really was and should be going forward. It is a place that means a great deal to him and his family as it should when you have a connection to something that spans over generations with countless memories and stories of the land you now sit on. It is why the Native Americans fought so hard to hold onto their land across the country. The land itself becomes intertwined and woven into the tapestry of your very soul. On this day, sitting in what Ace affectionately calls his office, that sits next to the corn maze entrance to the right and the big field of row crops to the left that annually changes from corn to soybeans, that we discussed the farm with Camo as our secretary and only witness. The fields were full of pumpkin vines in full bloom, and they were starting to set fruit with a great variety of pumpkins. Ace wanted the farm to have a lasting memory for all those who visit it. He wanted people to get small doses of what he had experienced growing up while visiting and exploring this land. He talked of the farm with reverence and of the many pumpkins that would need to be harvested before opening the gates and what needed to be done so visitors could have a great farm experience that invigorates the soul and gets the blood pumping. It was then I saw Camo, who could contain himself no longer, and the urge to cool off and more importantly to run, kicked in. Sprinting like a racehorse, he ran down the hill and jumped into the water with a tremendous splash, swimming and drinking as he went. You can’t have blood pumping without the heart beating, and I said as I looked at Camo, “he is the heart of the farm.” He represents all that the farm experience is, a youthful energy; a slight mischievous and curious nature; a thirst for adventure; and a freedom to run and explore and–to just jump in and swim when all else fails. Camo, the heart of the farm, the nickname stuck with him over the years. Much like the nickname of his owner Ace, has stuck with him for all of his.
This article is amazing it looks like a place I want to visit I live in Indianapolis Indiana
Thank you Rodney. Please come down and visit anytime you like.
Lynn… Wilson family farm is the heartbeat of our area. So glad to know you and your family!