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Not Enough Superlatives in My Vocabulary

I'm here to tell you that, for once, I'm nearly speechless when it comes to describing the past six days. Amazing, surreal, fantastic, wonderful, humbling, awe struck....and the list goes on. As is my custom, I'll do my best to take you along for the ride.

Leaving the house Wednesday morning at 5:30, we were both excited and anxious for our upcoming adventure. Thankfully we did not have to wait long as we'd booked a non stop flight on Southwest that put us into Nashville at 8:45CT in the morning. It was raining pretty hard, prompting all the nice folks at the airport to wish us safe travels. We needed it!
I never could get the photo I wanted along the drive, but the clouds were seriously fantastic; it was a big sky kind of day. The trip to Paducah, our destination is about 130 miles but, of course, that distance always feels much longer in pouring rain. Bruce was a trooper, stopping at the Kentucky line so I could get a photograph. Mistake on my part because my hair did not look its best for meeting folks after getting wet!
Eventually, the rain stopped, and not a moment too soon for our liking. Crossing the Tennessee River, it began to dry out.
One thing in our favor was the absence of significant traffic. Then too, the roads are good--another plus. By now I was getting texts from Hilary, our long lost cousin, asking where we were and hurry up and get there! As a side note, we did stop for Bruce to stretch his legs, and of all places, we pulled into a little shopping plaza with a sewing shop! I bought some fat quarters (quilting lingo) to never forget our trip. Don't know what I'll make just yet, but the pieces are seriously cute. I guess it was during our stop that Hilary called again, this time giving us, well Bruce, specific instructions on how to get to their home. Pulling into the driveway thirty minutes later, they met us at the door with hugs and warm greetings.
Not for a moment did they make us feel like interlopers! In fact, after much excitement and sharing of photographs, Ginnie served us lunch--homemade cream of potato soup, Kentucky bar-b-que ham sandwiches, home grown tomatoes, and topping it off, a homemade coconut cream pie! Delicious does not describe it adequately!
Did I mention their humongous house looks like it is straight out of Southern Living? Yup, it does.

During our lunch, Hilary narrated family history, both good and bad. People have asked why in the world would we go there and the answer is, I felt driven to learn more about, as Bruce and Hilary describe it, "my people." Well, they are Pat and Maureen, Lisa, Nancy and Carol's people too so now I can share what I learned during our time with Hilary. I believe I linked, in my last post, to the article about Hilary's gardening prowess and here is just a part of his garden below.
Every single plant is encased in netting to keep out feathered friends, or in this case, enemies. He grows a purple bean that once cooked becomes green. Here he is after showing it to Bruce.
I sure hope we are as vigorous as Hilary when we are 82! Over the phone I thought he sounded spry, and now I know my hunch was more than true. As to the garden, he has the one behind his home, as well as another 3/4 acre lot adjacent to his home for growing all those vegetables. Tomatoes are his first love; he cans 200 pints every year so as to be able to eat one every day for lunch all winter long! Plus he drinks tomato juice every morning. His secret for good health? Maybe.

Following lunch and more show and tell, we piled into Ginnie's car for a tour of the area. Hardly a street we went on did not have a building built by Hilary's son Kenny. I believe he'd be my second cousin once removed? Down Broadway to the river front, we saw the amazing murals on the flood walls depicting the history of Paducah.
Honestly, they are so well done, I wish I'd taken more shots of them. The river you see is the Ohio just after the junction of both the Ohio and Tennessee rivers which you'll see more of in my next post. The sunlight made it all look very dramatic. Yup, the sun finally came out.
The flood walls were put in place following the devastating flood in 1937 pictured in this link. I read that at the time it was the largest natural disaster in America. Downtown there are still reminders of that fateful event.
Downtown Paducah also has an area where artists both work and reside in homes purchased from the city for $1. You read that right--one dollar! Here's a story from NPR on the subject. Following the downtown tour we headed to the "mall" area where we saw mostly the same stores as we find at home. A park has this interesting sculpture made from a log.
It is really remarkable--here's the explanation:
Somehow during our conversation Ginnie asked me about what I do, and before long I mentioned that I was fortunate enough to have an art publisher...one thing led to another and we were all marching into Hobby Lobby in order for them to see my stuff. Can you say weird?

Another of Hilary's sons is an orthopedic surgeon, following in his Dad's footsteps. Here is his barn from afar.
As well we saw Ginnie's daughter Melissa's beautiful home. Here's the scoop....Hilary married Ginnie's sister back in the 50's when he was in his early twenties. They lived happily ever after, producing five children, until such time as she had ovarian cancer, dying at around 60 years old. Coming from a family of seven or eight children, she had sisters, and plenty of them, one of whom is Ginnie, a recently divorced mother of three children. The rest is history and they have been together for the last 22 years. To say she is a gem is an understatement.

It gets dark mighty early in Western Kentucky, as in around 4:30 in the afternoon. Once back at their home, we shared some stories and wine, then B and I decided we might just better find our bed & breakfast in downtown Paducah before returning to meet them for dinner at their country club. It gets dark early, and is it ever DARK. That may sound like an exaggeration, but trust me, it is not. The Paducah Bed and Breakfast needs a much more lit sign for those trying to find it!
We put our bags away, met the family, three of whom were wearing Ted Cruz buttons which seemed a little premature, but I later learned they are quite passionate in their beliefs. Back to our cousin's home, on to the country club, where everyone seems to know everyone, we shared a nice meal together. While we were eating a fellow stopped at the table and Hilary introduced us, saying I was his long lost cousin, and in fact, I also was related to said gentleman standing beside our table. I think in a round about way I may very well be related to Ginnie as well. Growing up we thought we had no relatives, however, turns out, that was anything but the truth!

Returning to their home, we were in for quite a treat. Throughout the day we learned that Hilary, growing up poor, learned to do just about anything to survive. This includes, but is not limited to, making a quilt top when he was 11, which Ginnie put on display.
Then, back to the family room where Hilary entertained us with both the harmonica,
train songs, and poetry. In fact he recited a poem with about 40 stanzas. As you can imagine, we were pretty much speechless! He gave me a book on the history of Fancy Farm, and two old photographs showing both my great grandparents, and my grandmother as a child and a teenager. Astonishing! I can't remember if it was that night or the next that we watched some old movies, where I once again, saw my great grandmother.

I know I've used the word already, but it is necessary to say it again--we left there overwhelmed! As well, we needed a good night's sleep before going back in the morning for some touring. Hilary is an early riser!

Driving through the dark, the nine miles back to the bed and breakfast, we fell into bed. Marveling all the while, I might add.

Still in shock,

Gail


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