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Hitting the Road: Johnny Cash’s Storyteller’s Hideaway Farm

Posted on Thursday, March 28, 2024 at 3:23 pm


While the Johnny Cash Hideaway Farm is located just one-hour outside of Nashville in Bon Aqua, Tennessee, this 107-acre farm with 1830s log cabin farmhouse proved to be the perfect escape for the Man in Black when he needed time away from the demands of being a country music icon.

Described by Cash in an interview as, “the center of the universe” and “where gravity starts,” this simple two-story log cabin farmhouse perched atop a hill would be an important part of Johnny Cash’s life for more than three decades.

Since 2015, the farm has been owned by Johnny Cash fans Brian and Sally Oxley who set about restoring the home and opening it up for the public to enjoy.

“We have gone through a lot restoring this place so it will be a long-term preservation,” Brian Oxley said. “We kind of start everything with preservation in mind, that it will last beyond us.”

The cozy cabin is a world away from the Cash’s main home that was located on Old Hickory Lake in Hendersonville before it was destroyed by fire in 2007.

“I always call this Johnny’s man cave, because for the most part when they had free time Johnny headed out here and (his second wife,) June headed shopping,” Sally Oxley said during a tour of the home.

Brian Oxley said he and his wife are both the children of missionaries, and both grew up out of the country and therefore, he was not aware of the music of Johnny Cash until he was much older.

He points to a portrait of Cash on the cabin wall that hangs above a black leather chair with colorful embroidery that once sat in Cash’s home in Hendersonville.

“Actually, it all started with that picture right there,” Brian said. “That was at my friend’s office in Illinois and he had paintings done of all his favorite characters and I asked him who that was and that is how it all started.”

After listening to Cash’s American Recordings album, Oxley bought the one-time home of Cash’s parents, Ray and Carrie Cash, in Hendersonville before learning about the Bon Aqua farm and deciding to purchase it.

While the farm would become a central part in the life of Johnny Cash, it was only through an act of fraud that Cash came to own the property in the first place.

“He didn’t go shopping for it, it fell in his lap,” Sally said. “His bookkeeper was swindling his funds and buying properties in his own name with Johnny’s money.”

Rather than press charges against the man, Johnny and June, took possession of the properties, selling them all except the Bon Aqua farm. That was in 1972. The farm remained in Cash’s possession until his death in 2003 when it was later sold by his son John Carter Cash.

Today, the onetime hangout of Cash and his close friends is open to the public for private tours. Visitors will see a selection of items owned by Cash and his family, including instruments and the handwritten lyrics to his song “Saturday Night in Hickman Country,” written at the farm.

One sentimental item is a collection of antique glass bottles located on a windowsill collected over the years by Cash and his daughter Cindy.

“She used to do that with her dad and she was the one that brought him to the farm the last time he came,” Sally said. “She realized he was saying goodbye to the farm when he told her to take those bottles home because they had been in the window for many years.

Sally said Cash’s final visit to his Bon Aqua farm came in the last few months of Cash’s life following the death of his wife.

In addition to the farmhouse, the Oxley’s also purchased and restored a building located just down the road at the crossroads in Bon Aqua that was also once owned by Cash. Now known as The Storytellers concert venue, the facility hosts a variety of events including life music and weddings.

In the eight years since purchasing and restoring the farm, Brian Oxley said the most challenging thing has simply been getting people through the front door.

“Nobody hardly knew about it because it was Johnny’s private place,” he said. “He didn’t have tours here. This where the Highwaymen hung out. We have pictures of Waylon Jennings sitting on the porch there. This is where Carl Perkins came, but it wasn’t for the public because this is where he was resting.”

Brian said bus tours and other visitors are slowly starting to return following the decline caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Last week we had four buses, today we have a bus coming, tomorrow we have a bus, so it has started to pick up but it took me eight years and I wanted to do everything top notch,” he said.

Before leaving, visitors are also welcome to stop by and see the custom Cadillac inspired by Cash’s 1976 hit song “One Piece at a Time,” which now makes its home in what was once Cash’s tractor barn.

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The Marion Tribune – January 11, 2024