Sunday, November 29, 2015

Small Town, Big Town

It seems as if I've been hot for as long as I can remember; the summer heat has dragged on forever so I'd pretty much forgotten what it is to be cold. Waking early on Friday morning, I got Bruce to accompany me down to the river for sunrise. Waiting in the warmth of the car while I took photos from every spot I could use! While doing so I realized my hands were getting mighty chilly. Freezing temperatures will do that to a person.
Once the sun rose higher than pictured, I jumped back into the car and we decided to see if there were other places along the levy walls where you could access the river. We drove and drove, and before you know it, we were on another road and crossing another river. I saw there was a boat launch sign and B agreed to drive down in there so I could see what I could see. Fantastic sight is what I saw!
It is not often that I see steam rising from a body of water due to cold, that's for sure. Oh yeah, before you read on, I must warn you this will be long and full of photographs because we need to get back to the here and now on my blog before I forget everything that has happened this past week!

Moving on....

Returning to the b & b for breakfast, I saw this neat bird in the frost bitten grass. Anyone have a clue on what kind of bird this is?
It was still pretty early and our hostess must have still been in the kitchen because the dining room was empty. We ate our breakfasts here:
I may very well be mostly a mid-century modern girl, however, I still appreciate a good antique, particularly when it is upholstered like this!
Our plan for the day was a visit to the National Quilt Museum situated a block or so from the river. Oh my, oh my, was it ever wonderful.
Look how gorgeous the day turned out after the early morning freeze! It is hard to know where to begin while trying to describe the glories of the museum because each room contained magnificent works by supremely talented folks, including several men, one of whom actually created a quilt made of wood. Sounds crazy doesn't it? Here is a link to his website, and if you appreciate creativity, I suggest you click on it!
No photographs allowed of the entire piece, but in keeping with the super nice spirit of the place, they gave us a sample to photograph. There were miniature quilts, red and white quilts, WW1 quilts, prize winning quilts, and more, each and every one spectacular in their own way. It's a darn good thing they did not allow photographs inside because this post might go on into tomorrow!

Bruce may not be a quilter, but he is a craftsman, and can appreciate great work and skill when he sees it. Eventually it was time to go, lunch time long past. We roamed the few downtown streets looking for a place to eat. The light and buildings were perfect.
The days may be short, but vacationing near Christmas does have some advantages.
There are a few empty spaces, but mostly the town seems to be prospering, or as much as a small town can. There are reminders of the past on most blocks.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at JP's, followed by roaming around in the little shops looking for Christmas gifts. Orlando peeps will be surprised/amused to learn that in one of the antique shops we came across a box of matches from Ronnie's! The sun begins setting around 4:30 in the afternoon in that part of Kentucky...goodness.
Our server at lunch told us he lived across the river in Illinois; the narrow bridge just down the road took you there. My darling husband, always looking to please, thought I'd enjoy a trip over into Illinois, so off we went. A very good thing I was not driving, as even Bruce admitted it was very, very narrow.
I did not get the name of the town we crossed over to, however, it looked more like I expected Kentucky to look--dirt poor! By now I'd heard from Hilary, asking us to come back out to the house at 8 to meet more of the family. How could we say no? We began looking for a little gift to take with us, stumbling upon a Moonshine distillery owned by a woman and her grown son.
Housed in one of the old downtown buildings, it was pretty neat. Chatting with the son, he asked B what brought us to Paducah? After a small explanation, B mentioned Dr. Hunt. Wouldn't you know it--he not only had fixed the broken arm of the son when he was a teenager, but Hilary's son, also an orthopedic surgeon, replaced both of the woman's knees! That's a small town for you. She told us that when he was practicing, Dr. Hunt was a pretty big shot. :)

So, remember I told you how dark it is on some of the roads? As we were driving on the highway towards Hilary's house, I had only just suggested to B that he turn on his bright lights, when what should appear in the middle of the highway but a HUGE deer. As in a buck with about six points. You've heard the saying, "deer in the headlights", right? It was just like that....we are so hoping he made it back to safety. Ginnie and Hilary, once again, welcomed us as if they'd known us their whole lives. In attendance? Two of Ginnie's adult children, along with children and spouses, as well as Kevin, the builder, and his wife, Beth. Hilary posed B and I in front of the fireplace, photographing us for posterity. With his phone, I might add. After visiting with everyone for a while, we took our leave, heading back out into the dark, dark night. What an experience it all was!!

After a serious breakfast with Valerie, our hostess, we got back on the road again, heading to Nashville, using the scenic route through an area between Kentucky and Tennessee called, "The Land Between the Lakes." Did I mention it was raining again? We made a stop at the Barkley Dam on the Cumberland River. Have you seen any good dams lately? This was pretty neat.
Nearby is the Kentucky Dam, which is even larger. The sky was pretty dismal by now with the smallest sliver of light peeking out from the huge cloud cover.
I had my heart set on driving through the bison and elk reserve in the LBL, so in spite of the constant rain, Bruce drove slowly through, with both of us eyeballing the winter landscape for signs of life. We did not have to wait too long before seeing the herd of bison, or part of it anyway.
I believe the area encompasses 750 acres of prairie land, looking mostly brown this time of year.
All that brown makes it even harder to spot the animals, however, on our second trip through, I finally spotted some elk up in the trees. Can you see them?
Fortunately I have a zoom lens bringing them close while still far away. We learned elk weigh around 800 pounds. I love facts like that, don't you?
Continuing along the hilly, winding main road in the rain, we came across an area where the buffalo roam.
Eventually we made it to Nashville, checking into our downtown hotel. While B rested for a bit, I did a little roaming around, finding a place to listen to music later on. We were in Music City after all. Once he was refreshed we headed the few blocks to Broadway where the neon shone brightly against the gray sky.
There were so many great signs I could do a whole post on them, but I'll confine myself to just two more.
I did see a lot of folks wearing boots, that's for sure, and there is no shortage of places where a person interested in them could purchase even more pairs.
Sometimes inclement weather can really make photos pop! Because we had a little time to kill, we went into a place, I think it was called The Swinging Door Saloon, where folks were playing music both on the ground floor and upstairs as well. We came to learn later that this is pretty standard for Nashville.
Nearing 6:00, it was time to head over to The Listening Room Cafe, a block from our hotel. Songwriters, in this case four, took turns playing their songs, mostly ones record by major stars. It was absolutely great, made even better by our position at a front table.
They each had their own style, and you might be happy to learn that none of the songs were the standard country fare of trucks, beer, ripped jeans and so on. In fact, it was so good we stayed around for the second show, featuring a singer with a voice the likes of which neither of us had ever heard before. Think Mariah Carey with a male voice--CRAZY BIG.
Stephen Salyers may not have been singing about ripped jeans, but he was sure wearing them! Distracting is what they were.

Sunday morning, after a good breakfast in the hotel we began a little exploring mission. Nashville has all sorts of buildings under construction, apparently tearing down much of what was there before. I wish I could have seen the entire Johnny Cash mural behind the fence.
Speaking of boots..
I hope you're not bored yet because there is still more to come!

Writing came to a halt around here because we went to church; last week it was a church of a different kind we visited around this time.
That's right--the Ryman Auditorium, the "Mother Church of Country Music." An excellent tour if you visit Nashville. Fully restored it looks great inside.
Trying to be succint (!!), I'll leave it at that...well, wait, here's something interesting. Here is the homemade dress worn by Tammy Wynette during her first appearance on The Grand Old Opry.
Love it!!

Heading back outside, music blared from every joint on Broadway. We stopped here,
after having a bar-b-que lunch at Jack's, a Nashville institution. The line was long when we went in, winding out the door as time went on.
The music in Layla's was not hillbilly by any means--more like Southern rock. I loved that the band was old guys, one of whom invited Miss Vickie to sing onstage. Singing a Bonnie Raitt song, she was mighty good for a non-professional.
As music lovers, this was a real treat, however, the time had come to head to the airport. Although we often don't go back to a place we've visited, we are both anxious to return and listen to live music all day long!

Arriving early at the airport is not my favorite thing to do, however, it is Bruces, so I did not complain. Much, anyway. Fortunately a little girl came over to entertain me, making the time fly by. Sarah, traveling with her Grandmother to Orlando, was a ball of fire.
Perhaps that was a fitting end to our trip since I never knew my own Grandmother? Make of it what you will...

your reporter at large,


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Entertaining Chauffeur

Before I get to the business of pie making, let's go back to Kentucky, shall we?

Pretty much every time we are traveling and said travel includes a water view, I make it my business to photograph the sunrise. The Ohio River is but a mile down the road from the b&b so after waking early I threw on some clothes and drove there.
Welcome to Paducah indeed. As you can see I missed the actual sunrise, arriving a wee bit late, however, it was still pretty and peaceful with barge traffic just beginning to show life. Below, if you look at the right side of the photograph you will see how the Tennessee River merges with the Ohio.
The cloudless sky was a welcome sign for our upcoming tour through the countryside. I was absolutely dying over these red, red, trees.
Our hostess asked us the previous night what time did we want breakfast, and 7:30 was the agreed upon time, so as to not keep Hilary waiting. Here's another look at the place, opened in April, it is lovely inside, albeit with some interesting hosts who spent FIVE years restoring the place!
Returning to Hilary's home, we learned Ginnie would not be accompanying us as she had a hair appointment. We wasted no time hitting the road to Fancy Farm. That said, we did take a circuitous route for sight seeing and detailed narration of whom lived where and how everyone is related!

When B is driving I have no problem asking him to stop, however, I was a little reluctant to ask Hilary in spite of his assurance that he did not mind. Thus, sometimes I shot photos out the car window while we were driving as I wanted to remember everything and the surest way for me to do so is with a photograph.
One thing that really struck me is how I was expecting things to look more rugged and messy than they did, making for a very nice surprise. Except this house below...
The photograph does not do it justice--the back of it was pretty much sinking into the dirt! Hilary got out to chat with the man who lives here. Upon his return to the car, we all were quite puzzled as he looked as neat and tidy as a man can be. How he lives here is quite the mystery.

There was pretty much no traffic on most of the roads we traveled. Hilary was intent on showing us this historical marker and I'm glad he did.
If you could see how empty it is in these parts, you too, would be amazed that a man could reach such heights! Not too far from here I did ask Hilary to pull over so I could get this shot.
Now you may recall that I'd contacted the author of the Fancy Farm website, and she graciously agreed to meet us. By now I asked Hilary about calling her--his reply was "I don't know why you want to meet with her, she can't know a DAMN thing more than I do!" He is colorful like that.

Two miles down the road and there it was, the famous St. Jerome Catholic Church, the heartbeat of Fancy Farm.
As a reminder to the parishioners, they have a handy sign out front proclaiming thanks and giving go together.
In truth there is not a whole lot to see in Fancy Farm because all of the wooden buildings that comprised their downtown burnt in the 1950's, but one place remains that is pretty much like it always was, including serving Royal Crown, a soft drink we did not even know was still made.
Parking the car out front, unlocked I might add, we took a look inside the church.
Hilary is having a chat with the organist, no doubt asking who her family is. This is a pretty fancy church for such a tiny place, however people come from miles around to worship here, as well as go to school in a nearby building. Hilary is 82 and took his first communion here back in what, 1938? Yup, that's right, he said he was five years old and shaking in his boots!! We walked around looking at the inscriptions on all of the stained glass windows. Our Great Grandmother was a Toon, and pretty much all of the Toons are related in some fashion.
Bruce suggested he take our picture together on the steps of St. Jerome.
This is as good a time as any to show you what our Great Grandparents, as well as our Grandmother looked like. Although there are no dates on the back I'm presuming these were taken more than 10 years apart.
Our Grandmother, who I now know was called Lottie by everyone, is in the middle. Hilary's Mother, Anna, is on the left in both photographs. Amazing isn't it? What is so fantastic about all of this is knowing more about the people in the photographs, including the fact that Tommie, as he was called, pictured on the far right had polio, thus his hand is held in an unusual fashion. Hilary had plenty of stories to tell from his childhood about the folks pictured here with many of them being quite colorful.

By now he'd agreed that I could call Cynthia. We were to meet her for lunch at Droopys, the building pictured above. While she was driving the ten miles from Mayfield, we toured the famous picnic grounds. It takes quite a complex for a community of 490 people to feed 12,000 once a year on the first Friday in August, something they have been doing since 1880!!! Here are some of the pavilions...
Some are for seating and some are for the bar-b-que pits, the likes of which I've never seen before. Apparently wood is placed in the bottom to make the hot coals, sort of like some folks use a much smaller version for lighting charcoal.
From there they shovel them in underneath these pits.
The pits go on and on; by our estimate at least as long as a football field!! We had just enough time to visit the land where Hilary was born just down the road. He'd told us that a railroad track ran through his front yard and he was not exaggerating!
During the war years, when he was a teenager, trains came by carrying supplies about every five minutes. Talking to Tom and Matt Monday evening, Tom was curious about the train songs Hilary so loves. Well here are a few classic train songs, a few most of us have heard before. I can't exactly remember what happened to their childhood home where his parents lived for all of their years. All that remains is a 50 year old barn and wide open spaces where Hilary and his four brothers once raised tobacco, had rabbit traps, and hunted squirrels.
The life he leads these days is a far cry from whence he came.

Despite Hilary's reluctance to meet with Cynthia, he had a lot to say once she arrived. Was she ever nice! Droopys, the only place in town was quite the place. Oh how I wish I'd taken a few more shots of the interior.
And, oh so reasonably priced! One reason Hilary was disdainful of Cynthia's knowledge is because she's not from around these parts, having come from Louisville about twenty years ago. We learned she came to FF to marry an Elder boy, and so she did. She met Jimmy's sister years ago at a Red Cross event and they became fast friends. When her marriage broke up in Louisville she decided to make the move to FF and has never looked back, living on a farm that has been in the Elder family for three generations. She is the new historian for Fancy Farm, thus the website. For the record both Bruce and I had an RC cola for posterity's sake.

Following our lunch, we went over to the old school where generations of Fancy Farmers went to school, a Catholic one, natch. Hilary reminisced as we went into each classroom that once housed an entire grade of students.
The bottom floor has been beautifully restored with one room outfitted as a museum. Upstairs, there is work to be done, however, that is where all of the boxes of research were to be found. Turns out that for the 150th anniversary of Fancy Farm, a priest wrote a book about the history and families that made up the town. Mind you all of this was before the internet,so everything is on paper, all the marriage certificates, land deeds, baptism records and so on. Cynthia pulled out the Courtney folder which was not all that big because our family actually lived nearby in Murphy's Pond where we would next attempt to visit.
I say attempt because it is down a long dirt road, well a few of them do have a little gravel.
Unfortunately the road into Murphy's Pond also contained a lot of standing water and mud, making it impossible for us to actually see the old homestead. I have in my possession letters written to my Mother in 1966 seeking her approval to sell her stake in Murphy's Pond to the Nature Conservancy. Those letters are filled with history and gossip including several mentions about Anna's boys, Hilary and Howard who are big shot doctors! Howard, or Joe, as Hilary calls him, is also still living in Michigan. He's 87 and we darn near got to meet him as well because he was driving down for the holiday. Sadly he did not make it before we left town.

While we were at the school Cynthia's husband showed up and invited us to his farm. Who could resist? We didn't. They grow tobacco and have some livestock as well. I was most anxious to see their two foal and I did not have to wait long!
Actually, I'm getting ahead of myself because we first went into a barn where Jimmy has workers stripping the tobacco leaves for shipping. The Mexican gentleman are here on work visas, housed and fed by the Elders.
Before the leaves are ready for stripping they are smoked in a tobacco barn for some period of time. Oh wait...barn cats! In plenty of stories I've read about barn cats, but now I've seen them for myself.
I mean they were everywhere!
Yet even more!
If ever there were a photograph that I've taken that I really, really like, the one below would be it.
We were walking up to the barn to see the ongoing smoking process.
Fires are lit in a deep bed of sawdust and keep smoldering for who knows how long! I've forgotten many of the details. Jimmy was quite the talker, and as we were leaving, he and Hilary got into a long discussion about the various merits of planting specific tomato varieties. According to Hilary, as we were taking our leave, Jimmy might very well talk into tomorrow. That, my friends, is a prime example of the pot calling the kettle black!

A drive over to nearby Mayfield, the county seat and the closest thing to a city around those parts, and back to meet up with Ginnie for dinner. We dined at an excellent Mexican restaurant where, of course, Hilary and Ginnie are well known.

Beginning our day with Hilary at 8:30, we parted ways 12 hours later! Can you even imagine him spending so much time with us, talking all the while? And he tells us that his brother Joe likes to talk!
Really, really, a great day. You may be wondering how Bruce was handling all this family talk, and I bet you won't be a bit surprised to learn that he was the perfect gentleman each and every moment.

Back to reality...the pies won't make themselves,


You Just Never Know