Dateline: Rural Knoxville, Tennessee
Past the gilded domes.
Beyond Wall Street.
Out of sight of the Washington beltway.
Comes real America.
America in the bleachers, not the luxury boxes.
Red plastic cups, not crystal, two-by-four wood picnic tables; linen table cloths packed away for the grandbabies.
Out here, what’s right is pretty easy to figure out.
It’s hard work.
To the right of me, The Great Smoky Mountains are trying to hide behind the Tennessee early evening haze.
On my left, a man on a tractor is mowing a field. On a knoll above him, cattle are looking for shade.
And through the lens of my camera, in front of me, stands a family of five: Elite Angler Ott DeFoe and his wife, Jennie, their 3 children: older sister, Abbie and the young 3-year-old twins, Parker and Elizabeth.
As I zoom in on Ott, I see a former truck driver.
As I zoom in on Jennie, I see a former waitress.
As I pull back some with the lens, I see two high school sweethearts who married almost right out of high school.
And they are smiling.
And the children are smiling.
And behind the big lens, I smile, too, because these are friends of mine and I know their story,
and from their story I know that past the gilded domes, past Wall Street and the political beltway,
that out here in real America,
dreams can come true,
even on three mailbox roads.
My Hometown: Ott & Jennie DeFoe
It all started right here…in a 1997 Mercury Grand Marquis…
“My father let me borrow the car, I was 16 and…” Jennie looks at Ott, then turns to me, “It was our second first date…”
Ott is laughing as Jennie is talking, “…it was really our first date; it was the one that stuck…”
“…yeah, db, it’s where we had our first kiss…”
Jennie pokes Ott in the ribs, “…don’t say that, it’s embarrassing…”
Ott looks at me and smiles, “…First kiss. Right here, db.”
Jennie hugs Ott and laughs.
Both Ott and Jennie are around 28-years-old, been married 10 years now, spent many a Friday nights…
“In these stands, db. Other than fishing, I wasn’t much into sports, wasn’t an athlete…”
“…but Ott did have a truck back then that would fit me and my girlfriends so we used to get him to drive us to the away football games. My girlfriends always tried to get us together, even my mom: The first time Ott came to my house, he took off his shoes before coming in, said 'yes, ma’am' and 'no, sir' to my parents. My mother pulled me aside and said, ‘Jennie, you hold on to this one. That is the kind of young man you should marry.”
And not very long after that, marry they did, right up there in that church on the hill…
Ott is standing on the hill looking up at the church, “That’s the Asbury United Methodist Church. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places, built in 1855; it was the church I went to as a child.”
“We had about 110 people in there for our wedding,” Jennie is telling me as she leans on the hood of our car.
"It was August 7, 2004; John Thompson, my youth pastor, married us. So we were married in Ott’s church by my pastor; it was pretty nice.”