Johnny Cash may have come from Arkansas, but for years his heart was in Tennessee. He performed and recorded in Nashville and Memphis, and he made his home on a little ranch in Bon Aqua. Now, after years of lying empty, the country star’s old home is now open to the public as the Storytellers Museum.
Cash didn’t come across the 107-acre ranch by traditional means. Back in the 1970s, he discovered that his accountant had been embezzling from him and buying up property all around the country. After Cash and his wife, June Carter Cash, got wise, they forced him to sign over all the real estate to them. In the end, they sold all but one: the Bon Aqua ranch, Juli Thanki reports for the Tennessean.
"For me in '72, it was love at first sight ... a place that moved into my heart immediately, a place I knew I could belong," Cash wrote in his autobiography. "This is a great place for pottering. I can cook my own food, read my own books, tend my own garden, wander my own land. I can think, write, compose, study, rest and reflect in peace."
For years, the Cashs called the ranch home, and would often perform at a nearby general store. However, after Johnny Cash’s death in 2003, the house was abandoned and fell into disrepair. Almost a decade later, Brian and Sally Oxley decided to buy it, Amah-Rose Abrams reports for artnet News. Curiously, up until just a few years ago, Brian Oxley had never heard Cash’s music. However, when he discovered the late country musician’s “American Recordings,” he fell hard for the musician. After hearing that Cash’s ranch was for sale in 2015, they bought it for $895,000—arguably a steal, considering how much history they discovered at the site.
All sorts of memorabilia was left behind by the Cash family, including several guitars and a VHS tape with a recording of a performance at a nearby convenience store where Cash regularly played low-key and free shows. The couple also discovered a car whose design was inspired by the classic song “One Piece at a Time.” The house itself is full of history, with bullet holes in the wall left from the first time Cash taught his daughter Cindy how to shoot, Thanki reports. Later, when the convenience store went up for sale too, the Oxley purchased it as well.
Now, the Oxleys have transformed Cash’s home and venue into the Storytellers Museum. While the outside is simple, the museum houses the Oxleys' eclectic collection of Cash artifacts, from handwritten letters to song lyrics for "Saturday Night in Hickman County," a song inspired by his regular performances at the Bon Aqua convenience store. In keeping with Cash’s tradition of performing for locals, the museum will continue hosting concerts and performances at the old shop, Abrams reports.
"I can feel his presence here so strongly," Cindy Cash tells Thanki. "Dad would have loved this."