Monday, May 23, 2011

Tennessee Renaissance Festival 2011

Photos of Tenn-Ren, May 21, 2011

We left home at about 8:00 a.m. and arrived at the Tennessee Renaissance Festival grounds at about 10:30 a.m.-- early enough that we parked fairly close to the gates. Inside, members of the court were visiting near the entrance.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Polling Place of the Past

An old precinct building in Christian County, KY

This little concrete-block building stands at the intersection of Pilot Rock Road and Laytonville Road in Christian County, KY. It was once the voting place for citizens of the surrounding rural area. Several local residents have told me that they remember voting in this building, years ago.

I believe this little block voting building served the Pilot Rock precinct. If I'm correct about that, then this is the building reported vandalized in the following news report from November 1976:

[Christian County Court Clerk Thomas E. Morris] explained that the only irregularities occurred at Precinct 27 at Consolation and at Precinct 30 at Pilot Rock where vandals launched an overnight attack on voting machines and buildings.

Damage to fuses and fuse boxes were reported at both locations, forcing officials to do emergency electrical repair work so that automatic machines would operate. There also was profanity scribbled on the walls [of] at least one of the voting sites.

Source: "Area Vote Total Said To Be Light" by Mike Herndon, Kentucky New Era, May 25, 1976, page 1

The Consolation precinct building, mentioned in the quoted report above, was located somewhere near the junction of Dawson Springs Road and Highway 800 in northwestern Christian County. A proposal for its construction was heard by the Christian Fiscal Court in 1973, so it was still quite new when the above incident occurred. I don't know if it is still in use or not.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Excellence of the Ordinary

The beauty of the typical

Last winter, I read It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See It from Here: Tales of the Great Plains, a book of stories about small town life in central Nebraska. What a good book! I enjoyed it immensely because I grew up in rural Nebraska, because the stories are entertaining, and because they contain truths, wisdoms, and observations about life that resonate with me.

The author is Roger Welsch of Dannebrog, Nebraska, whom you may remember from the series, "Postcards from Nebraska" on the CBS News Sunday Morning television show. He is a native of Nebraska, born, raised, and educated in Lincoln. His primary area of study, teaching and writing is folklore. He's the author of about two dozen books, many of them about rural life in Nebraska. I intend to read more of them.

The following passage from the introduction to It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See It from Here: Tales of the Great Plains  has returned to my mind many times since I read it.  I decided to look it up and share it with you.

My academic training and most of my teaching experience was in folklore, so I learned quite early in my intellectual history to appreciate, to appreciate profoundly the importance, the charm, the beauty, and the value of the typical. That's what folklore is. While the university art departments dwell on the exceptional and unique, the history departments focus on the significant and singular, the English departments examine the best, we in folklore are interested in what represents the typical, the ordinary, the everyday.

The ballet is not typical; the small-town wedding dance is. The events of a Harlequin romance or a soap opera are anything but everyday; the gossip and anecdotes told over the breakfast table in the cafe in Centralia are precisely everyday; they are indeed the very definition of "everyday." Is the everyday of less value or attraction than the exceptional? That has most certainly not been my experience. Nor, probably yours. Virtually every homemade quilt you have ever seen, for example, is superior by many times to 90 percent of the art that currently insults the walls of the galleries. We have all at one time or another, perhaps on a regular basis, eaten roast beef, mash potatoes, and gravy in a humble kitchen that put to shame the finest gourmet meal we have ever enjoyed. Medical science still sorts through folk medicine for the truths it may yet have in its pharmacopoeia.

Source: Welsch, Roger. It's Not The End of the Earth, But You Can See It From Here: Tales of the Great Plains. New York: Villard Books, 1990. (See pp. xiv-xv).

Here, Welsch is describing the focus of folklore studies, but that's not what I remembered. What stuck with me was the truth that many great masterpieces never become famous. They're created by ordinary people in the course of their ordinary lives. We should recognize and treasure these common works of art for the precious jewels that they are.

Image by Molly DG. Some Rights Reserved.

And I wish to add that some of the best music is made on the back porches and in the living rooms of very ordinary people -- and in rural and small-town churches, too. I remember with pleasure many examples of fine, homemade music.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Day Off for the Mules

Spring afternoon in the pasture

Several of the Mennonite neighbor's mules were grazing near the fence yesterday, so I stopped and took their picture. My presence on the road didn't disturb them at all. It's spring planting time, and this particular neighbor does not use tractors, so these work-mules have been earning their keep lately. Three more mules and a horse were feeding nearby.

The cool-but-sunny weather yesterday afternoon was very pleasant to me, a human, after temperatures near ninety degrees for several days. These animals seemed to be enjoying the spring day, too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Mennonite farm, Christian County, KY

This set of new farm buildings belongs to a Mennonite family. It's one of dozens that have sprung up around Christian County (KY) in the twenty years that we've lived here. This farmstead has appeared in the last year or two along Pilot Rock Road. The low, wide building at right is probably a dairy barn. The big, square, 2-story house is classic Mennonite architecture -- utilitarian, no waste on ornamentation.

Everything in the photo is not new, though. The silos and corn cribs may be 50 years old or more. The Mennonites often purchase old, unused silos and grain bins at "English" farms, tear them down, move the pieces, and rebuild them.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Hopkinsville's Old IOOF Building

IOOF Building and Cumberland Telephone & Telegraph

Corner of East Ninth and Virginia in Hopkinsville, KY
I had a chance to lean out of my car window and get this photo as I waited for a stoplight a few days ago. Actually, I took several photos, and this is the only one that doesn't have a car in the intersection. As you can see, the light had turned red.  I don't think it's possible to get a full side-and-front photo of this building without getting wires and street lights in it.

The large brick structure on the corner is the old IOOF building. It's one of my favorites around historic downtown Hopkinsville for several reasons.
  1. It has been restored and repurposed.
  2. It has a sturdy, solid, "pillar-of-the-community" look that befits its history.
  3. I know three of the four young professionals who rent apartments on the second floor.
  4. I've had opportunity to visit one of the apartments several times, and in fact, that apartment was where we fixed Keely's hair on the morning of her wedding.
I also like the building with the white front just to the east, the old Cumberland Telephone and Telegraph office. It fully deserves a photograph of its own. One of these days, forces will converge, and the moment will be right to capture an image of its interesting details-- giant seashell, fancy fish, cherub heads, and more.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

A Dozen Things My Mother Gave Me

Thank you, Mama!

1. A "can-do" attitude about challenging jobs and hard work.
2. The security of knowing my mom loved me and everyone else in my family!
3. Beautiful little homemade dresses. Sometimes, she must have stayed up terribly late sewing them!
4. A daily routine of family meals, my own chores, and enough sleep.
5. Plenty of "encouragement" about fulfilling my obligations.
6. The opportunity to take piano lessons.
7. Her attention -- she listened to what I had to say with genuine interest.
8. Time to read, play, and be a kid.
9. Confidence that I could sew anything I had a pattern for, cook anything I had a recipe for, and learn anything I had a book about.
10. An interest in current events.
11. Her prayers for me, every day of her life!
12. An example of an honorable life, lived by Christian principles.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Muddy Fields

The rains recede.

I don't have a rain gauge at present, so I can't provide a personal report on how much it rained at my house during the recent storms. Instead, I'll report the rainfall measured by the Christian County Wx Operations Center for Hopkinsville, KY:
  • 4.41 inches last week
  • 3.39 inches during the first three days of this week
My sense is that we had at least that much rain where I live and possibly more, especially over the last few days. The ground is saturated, and pools of water are standing in unexpected places. Mud is everywhere, and everywhere is mud. Farmers are at a standstill with spring planting, and the soil has to dry up before I can get in my garden, too.

Near Pilot Rock Road in Christian County, KY, this afternoon.
UPDATE: On the Hoptown Hall,  a Christian County farmer who lives east of Pembroke, KY, is reporting 13 inches of rainfall since the beginning of the recent storms. Another forum contributor who lives in northeast Christian County reports 5 inches of rain this week.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Log Cabins at Wheatland, MO

Old-time log houses

On the public square at the center of Wheatland, Missouri, a miniature village of genuine log houses awaits tourists. I call them "genuine log houses" because local residents of earlier times built and used them. The cabins were collected from Hickory County, Missouri, and the surrounding area.

My sister Charlotte has lived in the Wheatland area for over 35 years. I took these photos when we visited there a couple of years ago. Charlotte said that the original plan was to rent the log houses as shops for artists and craftspeople. That hasn't worked out as well as the town's leaders hoped, but the log cabins are interesting, nonetheless.

Charlotte said the fellow sitting on the porch at right is a retired fellow who volunteers at the log village on most summer Saturdays. He told us how the cabins were torn down and reassembled, Each log was numbered so the cabins were put back together as originally constructed. In the interest of weather-tightness, concrete chinking was used, and metal roofs and new windows were installed.

The photo at right above shows a "double pen" log house. The two log rooms were individual structures, connected only by the roof that covered them both.

The log structure in the photo above was the Butterfield Overland Relay Station along the Butterfield Trail in Hickory County. The Butterfield Trail ran from Missouri to San Francisco, and was named for John Butterfield who founded the Butterfield Overland Mail Company. Behind the station is a barn with round, unchinked logs.

The logs of most of the structures were shaped with axes and other hand-tools. The building of log houses -- or any log structures! -- required a tremendous investment of hard labor.

This house had a sign that said "1850s Museum". We went inside to take a look.

Feather tick and an old image

I don't know if either of the stoves above are of 1850s vintage, but they are oldies for sure. Apparently the legs of the big cookstove were bad, so it is sitting on some blocks of wood.

The Royal Princess stove at right would have had a stovepipe connected at the raised hole at the back of the top. In front of the stove pipe, you could set a tea-kettle on the flat area. The stove could be loaded through either the front door or the side door. I think maybe the shelf at right was where you set the bucket or pan when you were shoveling out the ashes. That would have made dangerous spills of hot coals onto the wood floor less likely.

Wheatland is a very small town in southwest Missouri, about 50 miles north of Springfield. Its largest industry is the Lucas Oil Speedway which brings quite a few people to town during race season and makes a lot of noise on race nights. If the logs in these old houses could talk, they'd probably say that they're amazed, simply amazed, at the modern-day happenings in Wheatland.
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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.