From having coffee with one of the newest members of Franklin to one of the most longstanding, I’ve now covered the spectrum. If you want to get your questions answered, you need to sit down with someone like Tom. His family has been in this area since Tennessee was a state back in 1796. He’s seen this area build up over the past decades and he knows where all the bodies are buried, so to speak. And how did we meet Tom? Simple. We saw him sitting alone waiting for his lunch and we asked to join him. Remember, this is the South, be friendly and hospitable and good things will happen.
Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant on 4th Avenue just off Main in downtown Franklin was just a great backdrop for our enjoyable time together. Tom regaled me and my family about local history and what-not between bites of Sunday afternoon lunch and coffee. Puckett’s is a landmark here in town and the constant crowd proves it. The variety and quality of food is top notch and we enjoyed the tail end of the Sunday breakfast buffet. There’s also a Puckett’s in Nashville and Columbia but Tom told me that the one in Leiper’s Fork is not connected to the others anymore. See I didn’t know that.
Speaking of didn’t know and Leiper’s Fork, when I mentioned Leiper’s Fork, pronounced with a long “i” he corrected me to pronounce it with a long “e” like leaper. Then he gave me the insider’s scoop. Old-time locals call it Hillsboro not Leiper’s Fork. The name got changed long ago when a post office was sited there and the name Hillsboro was also being used by a town in Coffee County.
Besides Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant he recommended Puckett’s Boathouse on East Main. Great oysters and fresh fish flown in daily make this another crowd pleaser so come early or be prepared to wait. For very authentic Cajun food try Papa Boudreaux’s Cajun Cafe & Catering Co. on Main Street.
With a wry smile he told us to check out Mule Day in Columbia. This is a week-long annual event that starts around the end of March or first of April and features, of course, the humble mule. He warned us though to only ride a mule with a saddle because they have bonier spines than horses. Thanks, Tom.
Our talk ranged far and wide and he pointed out something to me that I’d never thought of. We were talking about Franklin’s beautiful Main Street and I mentioned that my hometown, Baxter, had a main street with the railroad running right down the middle of it. Of course Tom understood the dynamics of that. Baxter was build after the railroads came through therefore the town grew up around that important commercial hub. Franklin predates the railroads and so the railroad had to conform to the town.
One last thing. Tom, a man of many talents, in his younger days could and did catch catfish by hand. Not in some silly, splashy way you see on TV, but by stealthily sneaking up from behind, your shadow out of sight of the fish. One word of warning, don’t touch catfish whiskers, they sting.