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Chapter 1

Jeremiah Beeson had a business problem nagging at him as he sat in his oak-paneled study in his ranch-style home in Knoxville. Another burst of wind-driven rain pelting the windows that Saturday morning served only to exacerbate his mood. On the wall opposite his desk hung the several portraits of his family business predecessors. He felt he did his best thinking here among these pictures of his forebears; their rather sober expressions helped to coalesce his thoughts. His eyes fell on the portrait of his great-grandfather, Adrian Beeson. Looking for some kind of inspiration or revelation or guidance or he wasn’t sure what, he went to a bottom drawer of the credenza and pulled out some old albums and shoeboxes where he ran across several old letters to the family discussing the death of Adrian Beeson. Jeremiah gleaned the following information: Adrian Beeson passed away in 1960 at the ripe old age of 96. Having outlived all of his contemporaries, he had been recognized as the oldest man in eastern Tennessee. Many of the folks at the funeral mentioned how he seemed to have a smile frozen on his face. His had been a hard, but full life. He was one of those so-called hillbillies in his day. He was not a descendant of a Stuart or a Jackson or a Davis or a Beauregard. His was not of plantations and debutante balls, but he had succeeded in bringing all his offspring on their own through the years. A shirttail relationship to Davy Crockett was his biggest claim in life. Adrian knew what it was like to talk to a mule all day long and he frequently dined on squirrel or possum, but he knew how to survive just on hushpuppies if need be.

Some folks felt that he was smiling because the Lord had let him through the pearly gates even though he had never acted like a God-fearing soul. If there was a family Bible, no one knew its whereabouts. He had nothing in common with the Hatfields or the McCoys. His essential belief was ‘live and let live’. Others, more close to him, felt that he was still celebrating his and his pappy’s success in escaping the ‘revenooers’ in those desperate days when making Tennessee’s famous white lightning was the only way to feed and clothe the young ’uns. Rumor had it that the ‘network’ from those days was still alive, but now moving different types of merchandise. The consensus of the more polite crowd was that he was unable to contain his joy in that he had come from such humble beginnings and now had progeny owning businesses in nine different states.

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