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Sunday 18 June

Today another day of not much, if starting with a mad rush, got all my excitement in a single dose in about an hour, and that's been it for the day.

Yesterday a different story; once Susan was awake enough after her night schedule in the ER [. . .], off we went on our longest side trip from Jenkins, because of a Pandora's box opened by Susan: she'd found a brochure on a group of counties labeling itself for tourist purposes "Elk Country", the only attraction of which was both really very tempting and the farthest you can possibly get from Jenkins within those counties — a purported Ogham/runic inscription on a large rock near Manchester. This, despite the almost certainty that it was balderdash, proved quite irresistible, so off we went for something like two hours of highway.

In order to be completely sure we didn't get sidetracked, we did pure highway all the way to Manchester, then straight to said rock; afterwards it wouldn't much matter where we went or how much time it took.

Even that, though, led to minor adventure. Susan failed to realize she was low on gas, and we sputtered out on the "Hal Rogers" (really the Daniel Boone) Parkway about midway between Hazard and Manchester, 2 milesº E of Exit 34. Not too hot, maybe 87°, good weather, we'd had enough to drink, and daytime, so not too bad, but still about an hour and a half Susan waiting in the sun on a highway, with the occasional truck stopping. I was most of the time not with her, because although I didn't much like leaving her, we agreed I should take an offered ride — truck cab, tight squeeze — to that Exit 34, with its little gas station. Marathon gas station, however, was experiencing an electrical failure and couldn't pump gas. I asked the cashier and a man sitting in the store, well what would you do in my shoes? The man (who I later learned was Leslie Couch, owner of the store and gas station) hopped me into his car about 5 miles E to the next closest gas station at Big Creek: 3 gallons gas in a jerrycan ($8.39) and Mr. Couch — a genial man 3 or 4 years older than me who told me that he now had the best job in his life (it sounded very good) — drove me back to Susan, and although we asked twice, wouldn't even consider us sharing his gas and time expenses. Many thanks, and we drove off toward Manchester, with Mr. Couch making sure we were OK too.a

Pit stop in Manchester for gas and to get Susan cooled down and rehydrated — she was quite red — also to get directions, since that same tourist brochure gave two very different, almost antithetical, directions to get to the (nameless, which didn't help) "marked rock": one in the text, the other on its map. Locals either didn't know where it was or we failed to make ourselves understood, until we hit on the manager of a Dairy Queen that I think was already in Garrard the next town over; the map was right rather than the text, and he gave us crystal-clear directions to go with it, and we found it with no trouble — not a hundred yards from Manchester City Hall and the Fire Department: a large rock, sandstone I think, under a corrugated metal roof.

The information panels were the sheerest surmise and speculation, claiming the incised signs (about 40% of them lined out in grey paint) were a mix of no fewer than 8 non-American languages, including Greek, Punic, Hebrew and Norse. . . . Nevertheless the marks were clearly man-made, many of them if not all dated back to pioneer times — if maybe a few might have been added later by an enterprising Boy Scout or pranksters — and my guess (equally wild speculation, but I'd never try and pass it off as firm truth) is that they're native American or European trapper signs intended to have some summary meaning. Full photo shoot, argue later; we left.b

From here on we were free to get back to Jenkins by the most cowlike wandering — and indeed we did. Susan fixed on the other items in Clay County that our dubious brochure suggested and numbered; we went to Oneida for its Baptist Institute, said to have a museum and be open to the public, and be of some age for these parts (1899): nothing of the sort, neither open nor public, nor seemingly very old, and no sign of a museum.c

[image ALT: A frontal view of two adjacent small wooden buildings. The one on the viewer's left has an upper story and a pitched roof, and the one on the right, a lower more temporary-looking affair, has oinly a ground floor, extended leftwards by a sort of shed. In front of the two buildings and between them, closer to the first building, a flagpole flying the American flag. It is a view of the post office and a farm auction house in Oneida, in rural Kentucky.]

Oneida, KY: the post office and the auction house.

From there a road back S to hit the Parkway; in the winding creek country I spotted a wooden suspension bridge, which proved irresistible. Stop, I walked a fair distance on the plank bridge, quite solid if swaying a bit; Susan talked to two women who were dipping their toes in the river far below.

[image ALT: A wooden suspension bridge, seen along its length: it is about 100 meters long and a bit more than 60 cm wide. It is made of wooden planks laid transversely and reinforced on the top side by a single median strip of similar planks laid end to end down the length of the bridge; the whole is supported by a framework of metal wire suspended from rusted steel cables. It spans a small creek and leads to a large field surrounded by trees. It is a swinging bridge over the Red Bird Creek south of Oneida, Kentucky.]
Swinging bridge, ca. 1985,
over the Red Bird Creek south of Oneida.

About three miles further south, a horse show, maybe 75 people, 30 horses, several horse trailers; some of the horses very handsome — we slowed down but went on.

From there, things get harder to describe, since we got nicely lost; Susan wanted to see the Red Bird Mission (a numbered attraction on this by now fatal map), a sort of artists' collective: we got on the wrong road, and though we eventually passed by it, by then it was night and it was super-closed. Instead we saw a few splendid dignified barns, the occasional interesting fence, and the Mill Creek Cemetary (sic) Missionary Baptist Church — a turnoff onto a very small road, the undoing of us both for the night, off an already small road: a sharp piece of seeing on my part, a naïve painting as a road sign; three miles later the actual church, firmly encased in vinyl siding, a disappointment, but the old cemetery on the hill above it of unusual interest even if the earliest graves I remember seeing were only around 1908.d Susan's observational gifts on the other hand run to animals and birds, including a pretty yellow finch hunting insects in the marshy creek: six or more distinct species of bird calls in our coupla minutes there behind the church and its new asphalt parking lot.

[image ALT: An unpainted wooden building, about the size of an average house, with a symmetrical roof pitched at about 45°; it has a latticed door, and on the left side, a lean‑to shed. It is a barn in Clay County, Kentucky.]

On County Road 1524,
the best of the many beautiful barns I saw.

From there, well, endless snaky mountain roads, bearing numbers not on our maps, almost never, at the intersections, giving us directions to towns, just a bald . . . number of some other tiny road. . . . My sense of direction stayed remarkably good thru twilite then pitch night, even as the roads themselves, thru no fault of ours, veered off in unexpected directions. The Commonwealth could do much better with their signposting, that's for sure; the only place we were positive we'd been in was Big Laurel, since we read our map there by the light of the US Post Office. We seem to have been in or near Beverly, since we passed a rather Christmas‑tree-like tipple all lit up in the late gloom of mountain twilite; and later, when we were emerging from our worst lostness, we found a Mom-and‑Pop store that the owner, closing up shop for the night, felt was in Stoney Fork.º

[image ALT: An industrial facility dimly seen thru the dark against a background of low hills, comprising several large multi-story buildings connected by inclined conveyor belts and lit by many small lights. It is a coal tipple in Beverly, Kentucky.]

Tipple near Beverly.

We got home at 12:45; without too much further incident, I fell asleep quietly and slept like a rock, no vivid dreams last night.

This morning I woke on my own at about 9:15, and it didn't dawn on me for five minutes that this was Sunday and that I wanted to go to church at the Methodist Church at 9:30, last chance to see the famed windows. Incredibly, at 9:33 I was sitting in a pew there, in jacket white shirt and tie —

Service very middle of the road, as expected, of all the church I've been doing here, the most comfortable. The church celebrated Father's Day by distributing Coleman camping jugs (⅓ gallon) to every man in attendance, whether fathers or not. As with the Witnesses and the Baptists, very friendly folk: pastor and the coupla members of the congregation I talked with seemed delighted I should be photographing their windows, which were in fact mentioned in the services as something to thank God for. In the prayer requests I added SuperMike's Dad, who I learned this evening from Mike is now back home doing OK or better; Lanna Dixon — Mike told me at the store tonite she's one of his favorite people (and he's conversely not shy in the least in telling me who is not) — and her husband Charles going the extra mile to accommodate inquisitive Chicago tourist; full photo shoot of windows, which are indeed attractive if not exceptional: although iconographically they form a careful coherent ensemble, which is unusual in American churches — read, Boobykins happy to catch the thread of it and propound it to hapless bystanders. . . .e

Walked home, showered, changed, diary, laundry, mild help in kitchen — Susan made a blueberry-orange bundt cake which was good — walked back into town to see Mike at store, buy tupperware, inquire about his Dad, ask other minor questions, walked back. Veranda, chat, dinner (Susan to ER around 9 P.M.), dissuaded her from beef Stroganoff in favor of clearing left-over salad, soup, etc. which made a perfectly nice dinner.

And oof! I is finally caught up. It's around 10:30 P.M., so even left to my own devices I get to bed late here — (Oh, and Xelº finally out of the joist space: while I was at Dollar General this afternoon, Susan heated up the smelliest cat food she could find, put it ten feet from my closet door, sat by that door reading French, and Xel crept out, then to the food as Susan nonchalantly read; far enough, she suddenly closed the closet door, Xel now loose in house: though hid, better than in the joist space; access to which now solidly blocked off.)f


Later Notes for the Web:

a The famed American Automobile Association (AAA), by the way, was quite useless during all that time, although membership isn't cheap; as was a call to the local state troopers, who, though they told us they'd "send a car by" to look at us, in fact did no such thing — and for good measure, two of their cars whizzed by without stopping.

b d e Rather than burden this page with too many photographs, the following are of plenty enough interest to rate little subsites of their own, and that's where you'll find several photos of each:

Manchester Marked Rock

The church and cemetery at Mill Creek (in preparation)

Jenkins United Methodist Church (in preparation)

c Six years after I wrote this entry, I got a nice note from a former Oneida Baptist Institute student, who I wish had been around to squire me around on that summer day; the note repairs my ignorance. It turns out that many of the old buildings are long gone, but several others are still to be seen, including the log cabin home of the school's founder James Anderson Burns, which serves as a museum and craft store; and an historic one-room schoolhouse which was moved to the OBI campus in the early '80s from where it had stood for many years elsewhere in Clay County. There is in fact a lot of history here, but a knowledgeable guide is essential: the visitor is encouraged to call Dr. Paul Davidson, the school's President, and make arrangements.

Finally, two informative websites:

Oneida Baptist Institute Oneida Kentucky

f This is the last mention of Xel in my diary. She died suddenly, peacefully it seems, in her sleep in a comfortable place, on July 22, 2011. She was a sweet cat.


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Page updated: 8 Jan 13