Story and Photos by Kailee Shores | Assistant News Editor
Jerry Anderson surveyed the road ahead. “I’m probably one of the only people in this town that can tell you exactly how wide that bridge is,” he said, pointing to the bridge across Boiling Fork Creek as he rode from his house on South College Street to the Winchester Municipal Airport.
Anderson knows the exact width because in 2007 he taxied an RV4, a single-engine plane he built in his garage, across the bridge on a one-and-a-half-mile journey to the airport. With a police escort, of course. The wings of his plane, which he still flies, barely cleared the bridge but only after removing the wing tips.
The retired chiropractor is a well-known figure in Winchester, known for his love of flying, his adventurous spirit and smooth saxophone sound that is put on display at gigs almost every weekend.
That mile and a half journey started when he was very young. Anderson began flying when he was 13 years old. “The first dream I remember having was about a plane,” he said.
At the airport, he heaved back a hangar door, unveiling the second plane in his fleet of flying craft. His gleaming blue and white 1964 Cherokee 235 has flown countless trips over the years to and from West Tennessee, turning the four-hour drive from Winchester to Huntingdon, his hometown, into a mere hour-long flight. He’s also working on a helicycle, an experimental helicopter that he’s been building for several years.
His latest accomplishment is securing his helicopter license. He showed photos of the R22 he flew to be certified. “You fly this one with no doors, so you definitely want to wear your seatbelt.” He often flies open air craft. His RV4 is also fitted with a removable top.
Anderson, 71, a chiropractor for two-plus decades, landed in Winchester in June of 1986 by way of car troubles. “I tell people my muffler fell off,” he said, which isn’t entirely untrue.
The pilot had just finished chiropractic school and was interviewing for associateships in Murfreesboro and Winchester. Anderson resolved to tell the prospective employer in Murfreesboro that his muffler fell off his car so he would only have to make the trip to Middle Tennessee once. As fate would have it, “the muffler did fall off the El Camino, and I took that as a sign,” he chuckled.
Wearing a black shirt and khakis, Anderson stands out against the backdrop of a bright blue pool and his wife’s colorful array of flowers. Anderson’s wife, Terry, is a hairstylist who operates out of their garage-turned-hair studio. “Terry is the only hairstylist who can control my hair,” he said, gesturing to his wild gray hair.
Anderson’s mind is a menagerie of stories. They come one after another in the memory Rolodex of his mind, often beginning with a burst of laughter.
Tiger, one of several cats Anderson rescued as kittens after they took up residence at the airport, moseyed to the patio steps near the doc as if settling in for story time.
As a child, Anderson was sickly, diagnosed with scoliosis and asthma. He was on a cocktail of medications prescribed to him for much of his early life.
His illnesses prevented him from doing things most little boys do. He couldn’t play sports or run wild like the others. “Anything I did seemed to trigger an asthma attack.”
Instead of playing football, Anderson began to write sports for his local newspaper. He started working for the radio station as well, borrowing a friend’s telephone to call in the game reports.
His voice is smooth like butter. He pronounces and chooses his words with purpose, making his work in radio seem only natural.
That first radio job led to work at other stations, exposing him to a wide variety of music. Anderson said his music tastes were strongly influenced by the genres played at the stations employing him. In most cases, this was not the music his friends were listening to.
Among his favorites are Dean Martin, Jim Reeves and Elvis Presley, and even though he wasn’t listening to much popular music, no teen alive in the 60s and 70s escaped without a love for The Beatles.
He has been playing saxophone since he heard “Yackety Sax” by Boots Randolph in 1965 and has been playing and singing with Tullahoma’s South Jackson Street Band for some time.
On his phone he opened an audio file of his recorded cover of “Come Fly with Me.” He sang along with himself, smiling ear to ear.
His health caught up to him when he was about 20 years old, by which time he was already a flight instructor. He went to see a chiropractor for an adjustment because he was worried he wouldn’t pass a flight physical. He didn’t realize that the trajectory of his life was about to take a sharp turn.
Anderson recounted each maneuver the chiropractor performed, saying, “He read my spine like a roadmap.”
He left that appointment with a newfound respect for all kinds of non-invasive care, especially chiropractic. That adjustment ultimately led to his career as a chiropractor.
“If you spend any amount of time with Jerry, you’ll learn every little health trick,” said David Moore, a close friend and retired mental health counselor from Winchester.
Even though he has retired his chiropractic career, Anderson has no intentions of slowing down or staying on the ground, the blue skies still beckon. He continues to grace the ears of all who will listen with his sax and once he’s done building his helicycle, well, you’ll hear him before you see him.
Kailee Shores is one of nine Middle Tennessee State University journalism students who spent two and a half weeks in Franklin County this past May writing stories for the Herald Chronicle. More of their work can be found at www.theroadtripclass.com.