From Roots to Wings: Melissa Bratton Shares the View From Her Spot on the Rock

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I know I have really big shoes to fill with all of you “Read All About It” fans, and I feel the pressure as well, especially since Pettus was my first boss and one of my mentors as I embarked on my career at Farm Bureau. However, I hope you will continue to read this column and enjoy my style, even if it is a different one. I am a born-and-raised Tennessee girl with family spread all over the United States (so much so that I am sometimes accused of not being a true Southerner!). I grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee and still love seeing and hiking through those mountains with my sisters and now my kids while telling stories of my childhood.

Growing up country gave me roots, traveling all of the U.S. gave me wings and I like to think that gives me a unique perspective on both sides of life. I live and work south of Nashville now and get to help tell agriculture’s story through the wonderful farmers and members of Tennessee Farm Bureau. My husband, two kids, assorted animals and I live a semi-country life now on 5 acres, where we can “farm” a little and give our children the life of roots and wings as well!

So yes, I grew up on a mountain in East Tennessee, surrounded by trees, animals and, most importantly for me and my imaginative cousins, rocks. There was one particular rock that overlooked our house. High up on the hill and partially hidden by rhododendron bushes and trees, it became “our” rock.

Oh, what that rock witnessed under our imaginations – it was a fortress, a pirate ship, a jail, a safe zone, a house and so much more! It soaked up laughter, tears, secrets and tales so tall that trees looked up. Our sisters were banished or welcomed, depending on our mood or the game…and they had their own fallen tree/rock combination across the hill they marked as their spot anyway.

See more: Moonlight on the Horizon

The moss growing over the rock magically turned into rich carpet, or the slimy mold at the bottom of the ocean, or even wigs when plucked and sprinkled over our hair. The twigs and branches of trees surrounding us provided ample ammunition for swords, guns, canes, forks, even imaginary food when you threw in berries and extra “spices” of moss.

Imagination is such a wonderful part of childhood, and I think growing up country really enhanced that trait in me. Dreaming up games or adventures took us far beyond our road in Johnson County to foreign countries and across oceans, and it made us into royalty, escaped prisoners, cowboys and even explorers of lands uncharted.

As I grew older, it became a quiet place to read, reflect on life and look out at the scenic view God seemed to have placed just for me out in front of that rock. The curves and indentions on the top of it had perfect spots to sit and curl up against a tree trunk. The rock unwittingly helped shape my future and where I would go in life. I discovered a love of writing – English essays, FFA and 4-H speeches, and group skits became fun ways to express my creativity and would begin to chart a path for my future. And I sometimes wondered, “Where do other girls go to think and dream and just be?”

See more: Hit the Open Road on Tennessee Trails

Now that I am all grown up, I still look up for that rock every now and then when I go home for a visit. What memories have I forgotten? What secrets would I smile about now? What game played upon it would I want to teach my children?

I know it will become a place of great fun for the next generation of cousins to climb that hill and go exploring in the woods that surround my parents’ house. It is a comfort to know how many more stories, games and dreams it will soak in as it quietly sits among the trees overlooking Watauga Lake – generations of kids getting the chance to dream, imagine and play. I hope it can somehow know what it meant for my cousins, sisters and me to have it always be there for us. It was a place of adventure, timelessness, quiet reflection and love. It solidified not only a relationship between my sisters and cousins that will stand the test of time, but also of an appreciation of the outdoors, nature and continuity. Most of all, I hope it knows how it helped me discover a part of myself I can’t imagine life without now.

I am excited to become a regular part of your Tennessee Home & Farm reading and look forward to sharing family, life and agriculture with you as you open up future issues of our wonderful magazine!

Melissa Bratton is the associate director of communications and editor for the Tennessee Farm Bureau. Originally from Johnson County, she now lives in Maury County with her husband and two kids.

1 Comment

  1. Laura Harrison

    August 21, 2019 at 5:42 pm

    I just read this in my copy of the FB Home & Farm magazine. I wanted to give a shout out to Ms. Bratton for a wonderful job. I really enjoyed and it brought back so many memories of my siblings and me growing up on our dairy farm.
    We had a big old “thinkin’ rock” too.

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