A Father and Son Journey

 Note: I wrote this in 2005 about a year before my dad passed away.  

My dad, retired civil engineer Art Brandow (82), loves to visit achievements in engineering.  Natural scenic beauty is more my thing, but I really enjoy helping dad travel, something he can no longer do on his own.  Last October we made a father-son trip that combined nature’s beauty and engineering wonders. 

Art Brandow (82) and son Clay (53) at Norris Dam, TN. 2004.

Our week-long father and son trip to Tennessee started in Nashville with a 3-day reunion of dad’s WWII outfit, the 285th Engineering Combat Battalion. 

WWII - 285th Combat Engineers reunion, Nashville, TN. 2004.

Their unit was thrown into the breach at the Battle Bulge two-days before Christmas 1944 and then fought with General George S. Patton’s Third Army into and across Germany.  Great stories. 

Naturally, many of the stories I’ve heard before. But the collective re-telling of these stories by the Vets who shared these experiences as very young men six decades ago brings them back to life. Like the story of a near fatal attraction.  Dad volunteered to swim across a river to tie-off a lead rope to begin the construction of new temporary bridge for the advancing allied armies.  Upon arriving on the far-shore, dad looked upslope and found the hillside strewn with U.S. military-issue money. But he stuck to his duties, and he and his fellow combat engineers completed the bridge.  Luckily, before anyone wandered upslope to pick up the cash, someone noticed that the paper money had been strewn across a mine field.  What a terrible initiation to the tricks of a retreating army that could have been? 

Other stories were new to me. Like the one dad told me in private one evening about being hailed by a woman, perhaps a war-widow, living on a river barge.  She asked the young soldier if he could find her a loaf of bread?  He was able to oblige, and the grateful women surprised the youth with another form of initiation.  I’ll leave it at that. 

After the reunion, we rented a car and traveled east across Tennessee, visiting friends at Tennessee Tech and touring the scenic sites, including Fall Creek Falls State Park. 

Crossing supension bridge over Fall Creek, TN. 2004

In Knoxville, we visited the University of Tennessee, where the Army had sent Dad for wartime training and where he met a girl he remembers fondly. But then his unit was formed-up and later sent to Europe.

 We took a side-trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.   At a scenic overlook at the North Carolina stateline, dad, always looking for the next place to sit down, sat down between two young women taking a lunch break from backpacking the Appalachian Trail. 

Dad joins Appalachian Trail backpakers taking a lunch, Great Smokey Mountains National Park. 2004

Dad and the ladies had a grand old conversation, and he might have wandered-off down the trail with them had he been able.  I hadn’t seen the old man so enthusiastic about hiking in some time, proving at 82 he is not yet completely immune to the virtues scenic beauty.

 But Dad really lit-up when we topped-off the trip with visits to two grand engineering achievements, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Norris Dam completed in 1936 and the nearby Cumberland Gap Tunnel completed in 1996, which links Tennessee to Kentucky via four-lane highway.   Norris Dam put thousands of desperate people to work in 1933 during the depths of the Depression and later helped win World War II by producing abundant hydropower for Oak Ridge and other war-related facilities just downstream.

Fall Creek, TN. 2004

The Cumberland Gap Tunnel created a more scenically beautiful Cumberland Gap National Historic National Park by putting the ridge portion of the Interstate Highway underground.  Funny how love, life, engineering and scenic beauty are all connected in a way.

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About colorfulclay

Hydrologist Clay Brandow has water on his mind most of the time, but now is seeking other diversions. Dear reader I'd love to hear from you. Please leave me a comment or two. It's easy.
This entry was posted in BEST of COLORFUL CLAY, Hydrology, Veterans, Water and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to A Father and Son Journey

  1. What a warm loving story; I admire how grandpa kept in touch with his buddies after all those years. loved reading about this trip =-)

  2. Julie Forrest says:

    After living here for 15+ years, I’ve been through that section of the country many times.. I agree it’s beautiful. Enjoyed reading this very much. ~ Cousin Julie

  3. Robin says:

    Sounds like you had a great time. You were very lucky to have had that time to spend with your Dad. Most people don’t appreciate what they have until it is too late. Good thing Dad was focused on the job and not the rewards! Nice job writing it up.

  4. Mikel says:

    Hi, I just wanted to let you know that I have brought online a website about the 285th. It is a bit sparse on content so if you might have any items that you could share with me I would appreciate it. http://285thcombatengineers.com

  5. Matt says:

    Love this story Clay!

  6. Dave Heard says:

    I guess this one will cost $5 at Rotary!!!!!

  7. Dan Carson says:

    The TVA accomplished some important engineering feets but just as importantly helped the economic prosperity of a huge segment of our country at an important time. Both Clay and his dad had a lot to be proud of.

  8. Carolyn Stiver says:

    I guess this will cost another $5!

  9. Dennis Lindsay says:

    And another $5!

  10. Gary Johns says:

    Nice history write up with your dad.

  11. Mark J Pratt says:

    Really loved it as well…my Dad was a special person to me as wel!!!

  12. Bob Poppenga says:

    Great story Clay! Fun to check out your blog as I sit in LAX waiting to return to Davis from family trip to Puerto Vallarta 😎.
    + $5.00 🤑
    Bob

  13. David W. Morse says:

    I especially enjoyed your narrative on east TN. I have spent a fair amount of time in that area visiting kin and hiking the AT. Your post brought back some good memories. Thanks.

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