by Chris Davis
It's just not a successful weekend if I don't make it to the Downtown Farmer's Market in time to pick up a couple of bags of salad greens from Tim Smith of the Gracious Garden farm near Holly Springs, MS. It was over just such a purchase — some sorrel greens I believe — that I learned of Smith's magnificent obsession. Like a character from a Johnny Cash song he is collecting— one piece at a time— all the parts required to build a working replica of the truck that carried Jed, Jethro, Ellie Mae and Granny from the tiny town of Bug Tussle all the way to the mansions of Beverly Hills.
That's right. Tim Smith is building a Hillbillymobile, just like the one from the opening credits of The Beverly Hillbillies.
"I have wanted to do this since I was young and realized I'd better get it under way if I'm going have time to enjoy it after it's finished," the 46-year-old farmer wrote in an email. "This is going to be a costly adventure but a dream come true."
Smith started by creating his own version of the quilt for the bench.
"I did this last January to inspire me to get the project started," he says. The fancy stitching impressed the curator of the Ralph Foster Museum in Branson, MO where the original truck is housed, and Smith was invited to take measurements.
"I figured if I was going to build the truck that I needed to go to the horses mouth to get it right," Smith says of his journey to Branson.
Although he's not had much luck in finding a 1921 Oldsmobile touring car to adapt Smith has tracked down several pieces including a period specific radiator emblem, which was found in a barn in Colorado. "I overpaid but it's a defining touch and an inspiration to continue," he says.
A modified 1950 f1 Ford frame will serve as the foundation.
The wheels may prove to be a challenge. "But I have a plan to make them of steel with wooden spokes overlaid so I can attach them with to a standard hub with brakes," Smith says. "The original only had rear brakes and that's not a safe option for Memphis traffic."
When Smith told me it might take several years to complete his project I asked to document the progress. Maybe in the process Fly on the Wall readers can help the gracious gardener find all the missing pieces of this magnificent puzzle.
And remember: The sooner he gets this beauty on the road the sooner we can all enjoy seeing it cruising down Bill Morris Parkway loaded down with lettuce and arugula. And maybe even somebody's granny.