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The Legend of Butcher Holler


Article & photos by Nancy Brannon

Loretta Lynn is renowned for her country music career, winning numerous awards and being a member of The Grand Ole Opry for 50 years. But she is almost as famous for her Tennessee Ranch on Hurricane Creek. In fact, Loretta Lynn’s Ranch is the 17th most visited attraction in Tennessee.

On Labor Day weekend there were over 100 horses at the Wrangler Camp registered for a week’s stay. About 3,500 people came to the weekend’s concerts featuring Loretta and Merle Haggard, and 1,500 folks were staying at the Ranch that weekend.

Many visitors come for the organized trail rides in May and in September. The Ranch has plenty of facilities to accommodate visitors and their horses. There are three covered barns; there are panel stalls, plus a picket line for horses where folks are camping. They also have contract horse rental – about 20 head are available.

Accommodations for people range from primitive camping, to RVs, to cabins. Their newest Cozy Cabins have one bedroom, one bath, a kitchenette, and a hide-a-bed in the living room. The Log Cabins have a loft with one bed, a small bedroom, bath, kitchen, and living room. The cabins in Boone Hill have two bedrooms with queen beds, a kitchenette, and bath.

The Ranch hosts guided trail rides for half day at slow, medium, or fast paces. They also have slow rides for all day. Trails have varying degree of difficulty; some require experienced riders, but they have an experience level for everyone.
There are other outdoor activities, too. The Ranch has a swimming pool; visitors can go tubing in Hurricane Creek, or canoeing and kayaking in the clear waters.

This is the 30th year the Ranch has been hosting organized rides, although the Ranch has seen some misfortunes this year. In January, a tornado swept through the Ranch, leveling hundreds of trees, taking off 28 roofs, and forcing Loretta had to take cover in her home. They had to cancel the organized ride in June because of tornado damage, but they still had Wrangler Camp. Then the Cook Shack got struck by lightning and burned. Still, they carry on at the Ranch, repairing the damage.

In addition to organized trail rides, folks are attracted to the many concerts held throughout the year. Labor Day Weekend featured Kacey Musgraves on August 30, Loretta Lynn on August 31, and Merle Haggard on September 1.  The Ranch hosted Gospel Fest September 28-29, and the season’s finale is Fall Festival October 4-6, with the Charlie Daniels concert October 5.

The trails are open all year, except for about 4-5 weeks. They are not open during the MotoCross events or during deer gun season. Generally, the Ranch is open the second or third weekend in April through mid-October, unless there is freezing weather. But they do not have trail bosses year round; only on particular weekends with organized guided rides.

The Ranch is host to several MotoCross events per hear. One of the year’s biggest events is the Grand National Motocross, when more than 30,000 people descend on the property over two weeks.

The Middle Tennessee Dirt Riders event runs the last weekend of March and the first week of April. Another bike event runs 15 days, the last week of July through the first two weeks of August. Another runs from end of March to first of April. This year the Ranch was site of the 32nd running of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, July 28-August 3, 2013. Read about this year’s Motocross at:

This is third year that the Ranch has been offering horseback riding clinics. Randy Speegle, from Benton, TN, is the resident horse trainer, who leads the riding clinics at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. He has been training horses for 38 years and calls his methods “No Bull Horsemanship.” Randy was Reserve Champion at the Mustang Makeover two years ago. He also has an act in which he jumps his horse onto a moving flatbed trailer, traveling at 15 mph. He does the jump with a Mustang and with a Spotted Saddle Horse.

The Ranch has a Trail Challenge event during organized rides, and Randy is the official certified trail challenge judge. It’s a fun course to ride!

In addition to the clinics, Randy fixes horses at the trail rides. If folks are having trouble with their horses, they hand them to Randy to fix. He works on horses with problems, gets them fixed, and then teaches the owner how to keep the horse fixed.

The Mill, Plantation House, and barn were on the property when Loretta Lynn bought the land. Loretta and her husband had been on a camping trip at Kentucky Lake, and traveled back home through the Hurricane Mills area. Loretta fell in love with the house and told her husband she wanted it. “That’s my Tara!” she said. So in 1966 Loretta and Mooney Lynn purchased the 1876 mansion on the river, the town and 1200 acres. Over the next few years, they preserved many of the nearby buildings and commercially opened the area as the dude ranch. They lived in her “Tara” for 22 years, but Loretta now lives in a modern house behind the plantation house.

This mill and other historic spots nearby are on the National Register of Historic Places. This mill and dam were built by James T. Anderson in 1896, and the Mill generated the first electricity in the county, around 1910.

 There are several museums on the Ranch. The Coal Miner’s Daughter Museum holds Loretta Lynn’s memorabilia and awards from her career and mementos from her friends in the music world. Loretta’s Frontier Homestead is a collection of log cabins with artifacts of frontier life. There is a replica of the house where Loretta grew up in Butcher Holler. The Grist Mill Museum shows the production of corn meal in the late 1800s, the original generator used to supply electricity to the Mill and Plantation Home, the Post Office, General Store, and a Moonshine Still. The Native American Artifact Museum houses over 5,000 artifacts to explain and preserve the Native American historic culture.

“This whole ranch, trail rides, and camping started with Mooney wanting to make a place for his horse buddies to come, drink, and hang out,” explained Ranch Manager Will Rourk. “And it just kept expanding. Mooney had organized a wagon train up east, so folks asked him to organize a trail ride here in west Tennessee. He did, and it just kept growing every year. Friends approached Mooney about organizing a trail ride at his ranch. Mooney agreed and that was the start of the trail rides 31 years ago.”

Lynn and her husband once had about 200 horses. They had cow, ranch, and cutting horses, and Mooney was a two-time cutting horse champion.

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