A party of 40 showed up for lunch and dinner at Cedar Bluff Aubrey’s restaurant on Middlebrook Pike every day for 10 days.
They actually came for breakfast, too, so it’s a good thing they like dining al fresco.
The 40 diners were goats, and their dining room was the kudzu-laden hill behind the restaurant. They stayed on the hill, which backs up to the Aubrey’s parking lot, for almost two weeks, feasting on the kudzu and clearing the hill in the process.
Cedar Bluff Aubrey’s general manager Andy Burleson said the whole situation was a win-win. “The farmer brought them to the hillside and put up a small electrified fence – more to keep the coyotes out than the goats in – and just let them do what goats do,” said Burleson. “He charges a dollar per goat per day, which is a bargain when you start looking at the prices to clear a kudzu hill. And, as word spread, the customers loved coming to the edge of the parking lot and watching them.”
Aubrey’s owner, Randy Burleson, said the suggestion came from Grant Houser, the chef at Sunspot, another of the Burleson family of restaurants. “When you are a local entity and as tied to the community and each other as we are, our family of employees seems to always have good ideas, and they ‘know somebody who knows somebody.’ It makes the whole company better,” Randy Burleson said.
As for the goats, they ate their way through the entire hillside, never straying, happy as long as the kudzu and grass held out, then trotted back to the transport when their owner came to get them.
“The owner said as long as they had something to eat, they would stay right where they were, and they did,” said Andy Burleson. “We took pictures to document the progress they made each day. It was pretty amazing.”
I saw the goats on the last day of their visit, but it wasn’t until I got Andy’s “before” picture that I truly appreciated how much they ate. Having been subjected to hacking my way through kudzu in my childhood in West Tennessee as my grandmother led us back to the “best” blackberry bushes, I appreciate the expert work. Kudzu is thick, strong, unforgiving and – worst of all – snaky.
Great idea, Grant, Randy and Andy!
Wisdom of granddaughters
One of my friends – a Nana to all girls – shared this story with me from her 5-year-old granddaughter.
In kitchen-table conversation one day, her granddaughter told her, “Nana, my daddy says Momma has eyes in the back of her head, and that’s why she always knows what I’m doing.
“I haven’t ever seen them, but I know that you have eyes on the top of your head.”
Nana was puzzled. “Why do you think I have eyes on the top of my head?” she asked.
“Because,” her granddaughter astutely replied, “that’s where you keep your glasses.”
Sherri Gardner Howell, a former features writer and manager at the News Sentinel and publisher at Blount Today, has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons.