Deputy dummy guards the red, white, and blue exterior of Ciderville.
Deputy dummy guards the red, white, and blue exterior of Ciderville.

Ciderville

Field review by the editors.

Powell, Tennessee

We visited Ciderville to talk with owner David West about its many outdoor and indoor displays, and found him in a back room, eating spaghetti with one of his old country music buddies.

David West outside the log cabin that contains his birth bed.
David West outside the log cabin that contains his birth bed.

Ciderville has been many things over the years, but mostly it's been a music store frequented by country musicians. Between mouthfuls of spaghetti, David told us that he was born in a little house behind the store (he'll show you his birth bed if you ask) and that he'd worked more-or-less full-time in this spot along the old Dixie Highway since 1958, when he was sixteen.

"I'll show you the barrel we built in '55," said David, and there is indeed a giant barrel out front that once served as a kind of countertop for cider sales. It juts into the parking lot behind a large "Ro-Ho the Rooster" (named for a character in an Archie Campbell song) and next to a car that appears to have crashed into the building. The car may commemorate the time, David recalled, that a 1964 Cadillac drove head-on into Ciderville and left barely a scratch on the building ("My daddy made these bricks solid," said David). But, frankly, we're not sure if that's the connection, or if there's any connection at all.

Beached Ark grabs eyeballs out by the highway.
Beached Ark grabs eyeballs out by the highway.

Talking to David about Ciderville can overwhelm your brain. We spent over three hours with him, and we don't know if we understand much more about the place than when we arrived. "Everything's got a story and I've got millions of 'em," David told us. "It would take me about 20 years to get through it all."

Take, for example, the cemetery with headstones of human children and statues of cats and dogs next to the log cabin that has David's birth bed. "I used to be in the monument business," David said, explaining that the graveyard is for the pets of his family and of Ciderville's employees. But by the time it occurred to us to ask what had happened to the children -- Are they buried here, too? -- David had moved on, talking about somebody named "Humpy" and a long-gone nearby roadhouse that sold bootleg liquor. "It had a great big old screech owl out front," said David, "and if the owl's light was blinking it meant the Law was on a rampage tonight."

Hillary Clinton delivers Ciderville's mail.
Hillary Clinton delivers the mail.

At the back of the cabin -- the limit of Ciderville's public area -- is a tree with a hand-painted sign, claiming that it came from a magnolia planted in Washington, DC, by President Andrew Jackson. David pulled out a $20 bill, flipped to its back side, and pointed to the tree on the engraved image of the White House. How did it get behind David's cabin? That's a story, he said, that involved Ronald Reagan's chief of staff, the Museum of Appalachia, and the time when David was being driven to Nashville to receive the title of honorary Colonel -- like Colonel Sanders -- from the Tennessee governor. "Young kids are gonna miss out if they don't see stuff like this," said David of the tree, but really he meant everything at Ciderville.

It's tempting to find deep meaning in all of David's displays, but he steered us clear of such thoughts. The corpse-like figure in the back of Ciderville's old squad car isn't a body, David said, it's just Ciderville's version of Otis the Town Drunk from the Andy Griffith Show. Noah's Ark is out by the highway not because David is a Scripture-quoting man, but because, "We ain't got a boat and we need a boat." Hillary Clinton sits in a mail truck for no reason at all. There's a crashed airplane that we thought might be a memorial to Patsy Cline, but David said, no, it's there because he wanted a helicopter, "but you couldn't hardly find a helicopter, so I found this." We wanted to ask David why he crashed the airplane, but by then he was off on another topic, talking about the time Jerry Lee Lewis stopped by for a drink of cider.

Shadowy passenger inside one of Ciderville's encrusted cars.
Shadowy passenger inside one of Ciderville's encrusted cars.

Ciderville's cider: Hillbilly approved.
Ciderville cider: Hillbilly approved!

Some of these outdoor displays go back a quarter-century or more, and they've acquired a crust of lichens and moss that give them all a veneer of regal antiquity, even Ciderville oddities such as its "toe truck" and cement sombrero man.

The interior of the store offers a similarly rich visual smorgasbord, the walls covered with photos and memorabilia. Some of it is labeled but most of it isn't, leading to more potential confusion. We wracked our brains trying to identify the celebrity in the store's largest portrait, and it turned out to be not a country musician at all, but Virginia Hance, a woman who ran a beauty shop up the road. "Real pretty lady; she cut a lot of the stars' hair," said David.

"People give me these things because they know I like them and they could come see them," said David. "I say, 'You hang it wherever you want to, just don't cover nobody else up.'"

Beyond the Andrew Jackson tree, where the property becomes private, are more displays in a warren of yards and buildings occupied by David and members of his family. There are dummies with stuffed scarecrow bodies, and a frightening chainsaw bear, and the bathroom sink that David bought for his parents with his first paycheck (they didn't own one until then), and the outhouse that the WPA built for David's family in the 1930s, still in its original spot. if you arrive during business hours, and David isn't busy, and you're courteous, he may give you a tour back there.

"I'm like a walking computer," said David, although it's a computer whose files can't be accessed by anyone except David. He's an unfailingly polite man with so many stories that simple questions quickly veer into unrelated subjects, and five minutes later you've forgotten the question. And that may be okay. Ciderville, taken as a collection of quirky stuff, is enough to enjoy on its own. "This," said David, "is the greatest place on earth."

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Ciderville

Ciderville Music Store

Address:
2836 Clinton Hwy, Powell, TN
Directions:
Ciderville Music Store. On the west side of TN-9/Clinton Hwy, six miles south of Clinton. Public outdoor displays are on the hill on the north side of the building.
Hours:
Store Th-F 12-5, Sa 10-4 (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
865-945-3595
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Airplane Filling StationAirplane Filling Station, Powell, TN - 4 mi.
Clinton Twelve StatuesClinton Twelve Statues, Clinton, TN - 6 mi.
Museum of Appalachia: Perpetual Motion MachineMuseum of Appalachia: Perpetual Motion Machine, Clinton, TN - 10 mi.
In the region:
Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary, Petros, TN - 21 mi.

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