Loretta Lynn at Home In Hurricane Mills (1994)
Originally published in the May 10, 1994, issue of Country Weekly featuring Garth Brooks on the cover. This story is presented here in its entirety.
Loretta Lynn is a homebody these days—living in the lap of luxurious country living.
But that doesn’t mean the dynamic legendary songbird has surrendered to the soft, sweet life.
Visitors these days are surprised to find her contentedly scraping around in her two-acre vegetable garden, planting tomatoes and pepper plants. Or tending her impressive doll or salt and pepper shaker collections. Or touring her 5,000-acre spread by Jeep or horseback.
“I’m spending more time at home these days than in my entire life—and I’m loving every minute of it,” Loretta told Country Weekly on a recent visit to her stately Double L Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
“Home is where the heart is and where the heart should be,” she continued. “Home is what country is all about!”
It’s impossible to draw comparisons between the grey, grimy hillsides around the coal-mining community of Butcher Hollow, part of Van Lear, Ky., where Loretta was born, and the rolling green pastures of Hurricane Mills and the splendor of her 20-room antebellum mansion which looks as if it was snatched from Gone With The Wind.
Similarities almost don’t exist.
But they both have very special places in the heart of country’s first lady. And today Loretta Lynn has the best of both these worlds.
Just a few hundred yards from her lavish white-pillared colonial home, and next to the Loretta Lynn museum, is an exact replica of the coal-miner’s shanty in Butcher Holler (as the locals call it) where little Loretta Webb, the second of eight children, was born 59 years ago.
“I’m surrounded by memories here—the Butcher Holler house is exactly like it was, and I pop over to see it regularly—it’s a sweet fast trip down memory lane.”
Tens of thousands of fans share Loretta’s sweet dreams, both past and present, when they visit Hurricane Mills. Loretta prefers to call it her Dude Ranch rather than a theme park because it doesn’t offer glitzy rides—just the museum, general store, playgrounds, and other exhibits.
She recently shot a television commercial for a ham company there with old pal Grandpa Jones. “That’s how country my place is,” she said.
Loretta is spending more and more time in her huge vegetable garden. The day before our visit she spent the entire day in the garden. Her produce goes on sale at the ranch’s tiny family store. “So fans can buy fresh vegetables grown with the help of these tiny hands,” she chuckled.
She expects the place to be jumping the first week in June when she hosts the ranch’s annual Indian Pow-wow which attracts crowds from all over the world. The ranch will also host several thousand fans when Loretta headlines several concerts later this year—“so I won’t have far to travel to work,” she laughed.
Events are forever changing in Loretta’s personal life. A year ago it was all happening in Branson, Mo. Plans were under way for the building of Loretta’s own entertainment complex there, including the $8 million 2,000-seat Butcher Hollow Theater.
“But that all kinda unravelled when my husband fell sick,” said Loretta, talking about Mooney, her husband of 46 years, a diabetic who was stricken with a series of heart problems. Her Branson project was dropped and she returned to Hurricane Mills where she tends to her ailing husband.
“I don’t regret that Branson deal falling through,” Loretta said. “I much prefer being at home than in Branson—although I’ll still be appearing there from time to time.
“What I do dwell upon is all the tragedy around me last year. First my husband fell sick, then my dear brother Melvin Webb died of pneumonia during that same stressful period, then my dear friend and old singing partner Conway Twitty died.
“I tell you, I never want to go through another period as gloomy as that as long as I live.” What pulled her through those dark days? “God,” she said simply. “He is the only one you can turn to when things get like that—and He comes through for you every time.”
And how is Mooney today? “He’s still in delicate condition, and we have to monitor his vital signs several times a day,” said Loretta.
“But he’s a lot stronger than he was a year ago. Just the other day he was talking about us going on vacation together. He’d like to go to Scotland. You never know, we might make it there one of these days.”
At the moment, extensive travelling is not on Loretta’s schedule—even though she owns homes in Mexico, Hawaii, the Bahamas and a hunting lodge in British Columbia.
“But I’m quite content to spend all my time here in Tennessee,” she laughed. “You know we didn’t even mean to buy a place as large as the Double L.
“At the time we bought it we had a small ranch just outside Nashville. We thought it would be a good idea to find a small homestead or farm further out in the country.
“We drove out to Hurricane Mills one Sunday afternoon, saw this place, and fell in love with it right away.
“We just had to have it. But we didn’t really set out to buy 5,000 acres—plus the entire town and its post office!”
Turning her back on the glitzy showbiz life, this coal miner’s daughter has always been a bit of a farm girl. Maybe it’s due to her humble origins, but she has always been self-sufficient.
When she had her smaller spread she tended her own chickens and cattle. “Everybody knew just how much I loved puttering around my little farm,” she recalled.
“When I’d travel into town for the Grand Ole Opry every Friday, dear Roy Acuff would greet me at the door as I walked in, `How many eggs did your chickens lay today, Loretta? . . . how many pounds of butter did you churn?”
It is a less tense, more laid-back Loretta these days. Her spiritual strength has obviously brought her spiritual contentment.
“I’m not working to the same breakneck schedule I used to, thank goodness,” she said. “The busiest Lynns around at the moment are my twins, Patsy and Peggy.
“They’re terrific singers. They’ll be coming out with their first album soon. I’m not about to do anything to help them with their career—I don’t need to. They sing beautifully, and will do very well on their own.”
With babies Patsy and Peggy now in their mid-20s, Loretta is acutely aware these days about how fast time flies. Since her life is an open book, and even a movie—her autobiography Coal Miner’s Daughter to be exact—she doesn’t care who knows her age.
“But I did when I was just starting out,” she chuclkled. “For some reason, Mooney did not want me to tell people my age.
“I still laugh when I remember being interviewed by a Louisiana disc jockey. He asked me my age, but remembering what Mooney told me, I repled that I could not answer that question..
“A few seconds later someone on the same show asked me what year was I born—and I told him!
“Mooney was sitting in our car outside the radio station listening to the interview. When I came out, he told me, `Loretta you’ve got to be the dumbest girl I know!”’
Mooney’s changed his mind, now. With that terrible last year behind her, all is well with Loretta at the moment. “I’ve even started work on a sequel to my autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter,” she revealed.
“I’ve started putting together all kinds of materials and notes. It’s going to be a really big book this time round—two or three times bigger than the first time. And you can be sure there will be a movie too!
“It’s been over 20 years since I started writing that first one. I always felt I was too young then to put my life story on paper.
“I’ve done a lot of living since then and have had much more experience. So I’ve got a lot more to tell. The sequel will be quite a book.”