This is the first image I remember of Johnny Cash. He was sitting on the deck of the house he and June Carter Cash had leased, just down the road from us on the Long Creek arm of Table Rock Lake. He'd sent one of his sisters up to invite us to come meet our new neighbors.
It was a somewhat odd meeting, he seemed nervous, even shy. He and June were sitting at a picnic table, eating soup that June had made. They invited Josh and me to join them, we'd just eaten and said our no thank-yous. But Johnny never took his guitar off while he ate. He'd say a few words, strum 3 or 4 notes and go back to eating. June did most of the talking that day.
Over the next 2 years, Johnny and sometimes June, would stop by and visit. They had to drive past our farm and garden to go to town and he'd often stop and buy eggs. He liked our organic, free range eggs, and he liked the farm. Sometimes he'd come by and we'd just walk around in the garden, him telling stories, me listening and feeling fortunate to have this amazing musician in my garden. He had a farm in Tennessee that he was proud of, and where he and June lived when not touring. He told me about his buffalo, about the ostrich that he had to get rid of because it tried to kill him, about the chickens he missed hearing sing.
This was back in 1993 and '94, although I didn't believe it had been that long until I looked at the canceled stamp he and June gave us when the Kingsland Post Office opened for one day, to cancel the special Carter Family postage stamp and to commemorate Johnny's birthday. That was back when he and June were doing guest appearances on the t.v. show, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and David Letterman.
They'd come by the house and say they were flying out to Los Angeles and did we want them to bring us anything. Then in a few days they'd stop by and tell stories about the appearance. With David Letterman, Johnny was upset because Letterman wouldn't let Johnny sit and talk like Letterman did with most guests. He'd overheard Letterman say, "That guy's spooky, I don't want to have to talk to him." Johnny was hurt and evidently word got back to Letterman because a few nights later, Letterman apologized on the air.
The Cash's were here because they had a music show in Branson and the show ran for almost 2 years. We went to see it several times, including when both of their kids, John Carter and Roseanne Cash were visiting. It was always a great show but the producers never put much money into promoting the show and the attendance was always low. Johnny once said to me that he could go to Japan or Australia and draw 100,000 people for a show, but in Branson he was lucky if he got a thousand.
One day Johnny stopped by and went in our herb shop at the edge of the garden. Usually he just looked around the garden and visited, but that day, he said he had a sore throat and wondered if I had anything for it. He was getting ready to leave for a months' tour of Australia. I looked around for something, anything I might have that would help. In my shop I sell my books, the products and dream pillows we make, Nail Fungus Soak, but little else in the way of medicinals. But that summer I'd been making raspberry vinegar and had made some with thyme. Thyme, as you know from my last post, is an antiseptic and antifungal, raspberry vinegar is soothing to the mouth and throat. So I handed him 2 bottles of my raspberry vinegar. He paid me and left and I didn't see him and June again for over a month.
The day they got back, they stopped in front of the house and got out. Johnny said in that amazing, deep voice, "I want to thank you for that vinegar, I think it saved my Australian tour. Now, I want 6 more bottles, just to keep on hand." I was so pleased I almost laughed out loud.
Here's the recipe, which you can also find in my little book, Making Herbal Vinegars, along with 54 other herb vinegar recipes. Not only is it soothing to itchy throats, it's my favorite salad dressing, just by itself.
4 quarts fresh raspberries (2 reserved for later)
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Enough pasturized apple cider vinegar to cover the berries (about 4 quarts)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
In a glass container, combine 2 quarts of fresh raspberries and the 4 quarts of vinegar. Cover and briefly shake the container daily. At the end of 2 weeks, strain out and discard the berries and replace with 2 quarts of fresh berries. Cover, shake daily for an additional 2 weeks.
Strain out and discard the well-drained berries, then filter the vinegar through a cheesecloth or coffee filter. Add 1 tablespoon of brown sugar, stirring to dissolve, and add the sprigs of fresh thyme. Bottle and keep out of direct light, such as in a pantry or kitchen cabinet. It will be ready to use in one more week.
I've always found that famous people like to be treated as just people, and so I've never made a fuss over the people I've met. I never once asked Johnny or June to take their photo, something I've regretted over the years. They certainly wouldn't have cared, and it would have been nice to have. But I always treated them like neighbors, and they treated us the same way. I've a basket that June brought one day from an antique store. Another time she brought me a glass cake plate she'd found because it reminded her of one her mother, Mother Maybelle Carter had.
Happy birthday, Johnny! We'll have raspberry vinegar on salads today to celebrate the memories of you as our neighbor.