From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

White Christmas

Snowy Christmases, past and present



We had a white Christmas in Christian County this year. The snow started about 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve and continued intermittently throughout Christmas Day. This photo was taken in late afternoon on the day after Christmas.

Keely, Taurus, and their friend Adam spent Christmas Day with us. After they left that evening, I swept several inches of snow off my car so it would be ready to drive in the morning. A couple more inches of snow fell during the night, and when I went out to start my car the next morning, I had to sweep it off again.


My kids have a favorite family story about one of the few Christmas snows in their childhood. We went to church on Christmas morning that year. By the time church was over, several inches of snow covered the ground. We were surprised! We didn't know that snow was in the forecast!

I was driving, and I had no problems until I turned off the highway to the little gravel lane that leads uphill to our house.  I made it about halfway up the long,  hill before the car started to slide. When I let up on the gas, I lost momentum and came to a stop.

Dennis got out and pushed the car. That wasn't successful, so he decided to drive while I pushed. I got behind the car and gave it all my muscle while Dennis stepped on the gas aggressively. When he got the car moving, he roared up the hill, leaving me to walk home. The kids didn't know whether to laugh or cry about leaving Mom behind, but I understood. If he had stopped, we'd have gained nothing.


Several days before Christmas in 2004, we had the closest thing to a blizzard that I've seen in Kentucky --  seven or eight inches of snow with strong wind and very cold temperatures. Dennis was in Kuwait that Christmas with AAFES (the PX system, from which he has now retired), so he missed out on that storm.

We always heat with wood, but normally, we have a thermostat-controlled propane heater that turns on when needed. During that storm, we had only wood heat. We had bought a new propane heater a few days earlier. After the installer disconnected the old heater, he realized that he didn't have everything he needed to connect the new heater.

That night, while I was shoving firewood into the stove and listening to the wind howl, I thought about Laura Ingalls Wilder's blizzard story in On the Banks of Plum Creek. Pa and Ma had gone to town, leaving Laura and Mary at home with little Carrie. When the blizzard hit, Laura knew that it was important to have lots of firewood inside. Otherwise, people had to burn their furniture to keep from freezing. With fear-driven energy, Laura and Mary hauled the entire woodpile inside their little cabin, finishing just as their parents arrived home.

Isaac's longtime friend DJ was home from Oregon that Christmas, and he was visiting us on the night of the snowstorm. The next morning, the storm had ended, and it was clear, cold, and still. Isaac and DJ bundled up and went out with the sleds.

I didn't know that they were sledding down the hills on the highway until they got back home! "We'd have heard any cars coming!" they assured me with the wisdom of 15-year-olds. I felt a little better when they told me that there were only two sets of tire tracks on the highway.

A day or two later, the snow was still on the ground and the roads were still bad. Keely got a ride home from Murray on Christmas Eve with her friend Kyla who had a Jeep.  A tall fellow named Taurus crawled out of the Jeep with Keely and spent that Christmas with us. He's been here for every Christmas since then, and in October of 2010, he became our son-in-law.

I hope you've enjoyed your Christmas, white or otherwise. And if it's snowy where you are, stay warm and be careful!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Odds and Ends (2)

More photos from the "To be posted" folder



I can say with certainty that I have not been in Elkton (KY) on a Thursday evening in summer for several years. How can I be so sure? Thursday night is Bike Night in Elkton from May through October. If I had passed through the downtown area of Elkton on Bike Night, I would have noticed the motorcycles.

Elkton's Facebook page reports 265 bikes in town on the evening of July 2, 2010, just two days before I photographed the flag and metal biker art on the corner of the town square. The poster was on display in an Elkton convenience store.

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I saw this business card on the bulletin board at the Pennysaver Market in Fairview (KY). Apparently these guys have a market for the materials they salvage. Large beams, weathered siding, wide-plank flooring, doors, vintage light fixtures, old mantels, etc. from old buildings are sometimes used in new construction to add a rustic look.

I would like to visit a building salvage yard, sometime. On the home-decorating TV shows, the designers visit salvage stores and always find a vintage piece with lots of character. Hailey Salvage & Building Material in Nashville sounds like that sort of salvage store.

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I was really shocked when I drove down Jeff Adams Road (in Christian County, KY) and saw this heap of broken boards instead of the little frame house that it used to be. Bro In Law Barn Salvaging could have recycled some weathered silvery-gray wood siding from it. Instead, the little house is bulldozed and ready to burn.

This little house was built like a barn with the boards running up and down. It always looked to me like there was nothing between the inside and outside except a single layer of board. People who grew up in houses like this one tell stories about waking up on winter mornings with snow on their quilts.

The little house is gone, but the day-lilies that grew around it are still there, I promise. They filled the yard long ago, and they've spilled out into the road ditches where they grow for a hundred yards in both directions.

One summer, I dug up a few day-lilies from the ditch and brought them home. They have multiplied and they would like to expand out of their allotted area here, too, but the lawn mower keeps them corralled.

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As the shortest day of the year approaches, these forsythia buds remind me that the cold, dark days of winter will soon pass. This photo was taken in early March; it's now late December. In less than three months, the forsythia will be ready to bloom again!

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Odds and Ends (1)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Horse and Buggy Accidents

Hazards of horse-drawn vehicles


Last week, I happened to read an article in the Kentucky New Era archives on Google about a horse and buggy accident in the early 1900s. The horse became frightened when it met an automobile on the road.

The story piqued my curiosity about such accidents. Were they frequent, when automobiles began sharing narrow roads with horses? To my surprise, I didn't find any similar stories in the old local newspapers that I searched online -- the Kentucky New Era and the Hopkinsville Kentuckian. (Such accidents surely did happen, but my brief search didn't turn up any more records!)

Runaway Horses


However, accounts of other types of accidents with horse-drawn vehicles were common. Many reports told about frightened horses running away. Often, no cause was cited for the horse's panic. That's not surprising. Just a leaf blowing across the road can be enough of an excuse for a flighty horse!

Often, passengers were injured when the runaway horses tipped over wagons or buggies. The injuries were usually not fatal, and the passengers were usually expected to recover.

Sometimes the passengers jumped from a buggy as the horse ran away with it! They suffered bruises, but survived.

Sudden Breakdowns


Some accidents happened when a piece of the buggy or wagon broke unexpectedly. Then, the startled horse would bolt. If the disabled vehicle stayed  attached to the horse, it would be drug until it overturned. Other accidents happened when a piece of the harness broke, frightening the horse.

Dr. John Clardy (you may remember his name from my recent post about Oakland Manor's history) had an accident of this sort:

Dr. John D. Clardy, while driving one of his most gentle and much used horses at his home near Church Hill last Sunday, came near being the victim of a serious accident. He was in the buggy alone when one of the traces broke. The shafts of the buggy dropped to the ground and the frightened animal bounded off on a mad run for the stable. The Doctor was jerked out of the buggy and says the first thing he knew, he was just standing on his head in the soft ground. His many friends will be glad to know that he was not injured in the least. He says he was not scared a little bit, as he never gets scared at anything.

Source: Hopkinsville Kentuckian, August 20, 1907. This newspaper page contains several more reports of horse-related mishaps, under the heading, "A Chapter of Accidents".

Passing Too Closely


Sometimes, horse-drawn vehicles came too close to each other and an accident happened. It was dangerous when one driver attempted to pass another on a narrow road. In one case that I read, the wheels of two buggies became interlocked, causing both horses to panic and both buggies to overturn. It was best, then as now, to wait for a wide spot before trying to pass.


Stream Crossings


Accidents in streams were often fatal. Many creeks and rivers were crossed at fords, and people sometimes underestimated the depth of the water and the strength of the water's flow, especially at night. If the wagon or buggy overturned, the passengers often drowned. Sometimes, they were caught under their vehicle, but more often, they were carried downstream. In some cases, their bodies were never found.

In one sad incident of this sort, an elderly black preacher, Rev. Peter Bronaugh, drove his buggy down to the edge of Little River on Second Street in Hopkinsville to let his horse drink. His young grandson was in the buggy with him. The river was running deep and fast, due to recent heavy rains.

When the horse had drunk his fill, Rev. Bronaugh attempted to drive the buggy back up the riverbank. It was muddy and the horse could not get a good footing. The buggy slid into the swiftly-flowing water and tipped over. Rev. Bronaugh drowned on the spot, while his grandson was carried downriver by the current. People saw him but could not reach him, and he too drowned. The horse was able to escape from the current at the river bend. (Source: Hopkinsville Kentuckian, May 16, 1899. The article also describes a similar accident that occurred in the same area, 25 years earlier.)

In March of 1910, respected tobacco buyer and Jessup Avenue resident James Gee was drowned when he attempted to ford Little River in his buggy at the "treacherous Second street crossing" in Hopkinsville. Gee drove into high water in darkness (7:30 PM), obviously not realizing the river's flooded condition. He had been out all day buying tobacco, and he was bundled up in a heavy overcoat and a big laprobe. It was believed that these garments impeded his ability to swim. His body was found downstream the next day. His horse also perished.

I read at least a dozen sadly-similar stories of stream-fording accidents in the old Hopkinsville newspapers. These reports are not wasted on me, even though I don't live in horse-and-buggy days. I occasionally come to streams that must be forded as I  explore the rural roads in and around Christian County. I have always been cautious about driving into stream fords, and I intend to be even more cautious in the future!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Justice Center and Jail, Hopkinsville, KY

Law and order on the West Bank


Christian County Justice Center, as seen
from the east bank of Little River


Main entrance, Christian County Justice Center
The Christian County Justice Center sits on the west side of Little River in Hopkinsville (KY). This handsome public building was designed by local architect Keith Sharp and put into service in 2002. It includes 73,000 square feet of space and houses five courts.

In a May 24, 2002, Kentucky New Era article, Sharp commented on the underlying philosophy of the building's design:

We live in a land of freedom and justice. You are entering into a place that should evoke you to think about that. Public buildings have a duty to the community to establish a sense of permanence. That sense of establishment is present in this courthouse...
(Source)

Frankly, the Justice Center has so much gravitas that I feel a little awed every time I drive by it.

The Justice Center is connected by tunnel to the Christian County Jail (located on the opposite side of West 7th Street). The jail was also designed by Keith Sharp, and it was completed in 1994. Like the Justice Center, it has an attractive, dignified facade. The City of Hopkinsville website has a good photo of the jail, contributed by Jim Creighton.

I don't often have a reason to visit the Justice Center. Unless I am called again for jury duty, I probably won't go there again until I need my driver's license renewed. I have never yet been inside the jail.

These two "law and order" buildings, the public library, and the public park along Little River form a civic campus that enhances the west side of downtown Hopkinsville. I wish all the approaches to our historic downtown area were as attractive!

West 7th Street, looking toward
Little River and the historic downtown
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.