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Sunday 25 June

10:20 A.M., Greyhound bus station — like all of them, a depressing place — in Nashville, bus at 11:15; trip over, barring unexpected and unwanted adventures of course.

Wednesday 21st I only had one item on my agenda, even if it wound up taking most of the day: photograph the interior of St. George's Catholic Church in Jenkins. The idea, suggested by Father Randall the other day, was to join him at his usual 9:30‑ish breakfast at Hardee's and take it from there. So, armed not only with camera as always, but also with computer in case it turned out useful to show bits of website to either him or someone else, wandered downtown around 9, and stopped at the Flower Shop to say good-bye to Carol Ann and I had the presence of mind to realize I could order a delivery of flowers to Susan for next week. Hardee's at 9:30, several men having a long breakfast and chewing the fat, various ages and including a very alert bright boy of about 10, with his father. Father Randall there but life unpredictable: during the course of my self-introduction I mentioned I'd not been able to locate, let alone see, Devil John's grave; unobtrusively Seth's Dad Craig calls around on his cellphone and a few minutes later, tall, thin handsome uniformed man turns up, his uncle, the elected Constable of Letcher County, Roger Hall (I later found out he's commonly known as "Hunky") — who knew exactly where Bad John Wright was buried; and for a good reason: before becoming a US Marshal which is what he ultimately became famous for, as a young man he served in the 13th Kentucky Regiment, CSA — and Mr. Hall is a very active member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Eastern Kentucky section; he and the other 130-or-so members spend a lot of their time and money tracking down the burial places of all the members of the 13th Kentucky, checking their graves, and ensuring that each has his US Government-issue tombstone. The stones themselves are provided gratis by the government, but setting them up is private responsibility: so they travel all over the country, so far even to Las Vegas, Texas, and my own Chicago. Constable Hall figures he's participated in setting up the stones for about 400 of the 700 the association has done so far, including those I saw and noticed in the cemetery at Thornton — and John Wright's grave in Pound: hop in the car and I'll take you there.

Well, I'd been very, very close: but to the wrong cemetery. Same Exxon station on the four-laner at the turnoff for Pound, same hill behind it. No, not the road on the left to the reservoir; I knew that. But not the other road either, to the right and to the cemetery I've by now visited twice (and very carefully too); instead, the white house between these two little roads, private gravel driveway that dead-ends fifty feet up right by the house, the property of John Mullins. Then you walk thru his back yard, a huge swath of beautifully mowed and tended lawn maybe the size of a football field — and "Wright Cemetery" is at the back of it. Maybe Hunky was being kind to me, but he says that it took him several years to find the place himself.

Mr. Mullins was at home, Seth and his Dad had tagged along in a second car, introductions all around, and off we went to the cemetery: and I immediately recognized the grave, after all I'd seen an old photo of it. Mr. Mullins and, if I understood correctly, all three of the Halls, are descendants of Devil John, and the cemetery, after a brief period somewhere around 1950 when it was open to burials to anybody, is now returned to its original status as a family cemetery, John Mullins, his brother and his two sisters owning it and having the say over who may be buried there.

[image ALT: A small cemetery of fewer than a hundred graves, widely spaced in a clearing in the woods; three men and a boy are standing talking to the left side. It is a view of Wright Cemetery in Pound, Virginia; the men are descendants of Bad John Wright, a notorious figure of the early history of Jenkins, Kentucky.]

Wright Cemetery in Pound, VA, the burial place of Devil John Wright. (Who is he, you ask?) His headstone is the tall one that in this view appears rather isolated at the far end of the cemetery right next to the woods. Four of his living descendants complete the picture.

Other interesting details provided by Mr. Mullins, who also showed me a pocket knife that had belonged to his great-grandfather, whose daughter his grandmother had given him when he was a boy, and that his father had the wisdom to buy from him for a dollar so it wouldn't be lost: when his father died, he inherited his own knife back.

[image ALT: A small bone penknife with four steel blades, all extended. It is believed to have belonged to Bad John Wright, a famed 19c U. S. Marshal of Jenkins, Kentucky.]

Each blade is marked John Primble, India Steel Works.
The company was sold in 1985; the purchasers still use the tradename.
The older knives are considered quality collectibles.

Well this had turned out to be a long informative excursion under ideal conditions — I've had a lot of luck scouting around on this trip — and of course by the time Hunky Hall had driven me back to Jenkins, Father Randall vanished and church closed; a groundskeeper named Alonzo and I sat under a sort of porte cochère between the church and its annex, with the expectation he'd be back at 1 from his hospital visit in Whitesburg — pretty amazing how the good father gets around and works at his age — but 1 P.M. came and went, niente Padre: so I checked in with Margaret at the Library next doors for a few minutes, who suggested I might excerpt my Jenkins site on compact disk when I'm "done", so they'd have a good searchable electronic record, a good idea. (Also, Roger Hall may still have some unfound graves of his soldiers in Chicago, I volunteered to help chase 'em down if given instructions.)

Father Randall's white car now parked in front of the church — you can see it from a back room of the library, and in fact several people in various parts of town with a good line of sight keep watch over the rectory — so back I went to St. George's, and sat with Father Randall and Alonzo for a while, and eventually, around 2:30, I took my photographs of the inside of the church: and that was basically the end of my day.

Thursday 22d was a long tiring day for Susan; we left at about half past noon, SuperMike popping in to wish me a good trip back to Chicago — and from there, with only the occasional rest stop, no meal since I'd made a large refrigerator management salad before we left, Susan drove straight to Nashville, to the Preston Hotel, a dismal place in a dismal wilderness of highways and junk food outlets nominally near the airport but in fact much farther from it than a number of other hotels large and small. The Preston reminded me of the Aurassi in Algiers, though by no means on the lavish and monumental scale of it, but for its small size, it managed to be every bit as sterile and unpleasant as the Aurassi: I spent two hours there, mostly reading up on Nashville and its attractions, while Susan attended the opening session of her conference. At 9:30 they let her out, and we found the Marriott in downtown N'ville, some 6 or 7 miles away, with no difficulty at all. A quick dinner at a large spaghetti joint called Demo's — very middling, but we were hardly in the market for fabulous eats, just for something open, and most everything, including the hotel's own restaurant, was closed. To bed.

Friday 23d Susan went to her conference, and I left the hotel at about 9 to explore. A couple of blocks and I found something called the Arcade, not quite sure what it was once — it had a general air of having been late 19c — but it's now a sort of mall of little shops and eateries, bedecked in bunting and the state flags of 32 states, apparently no room for the rest of them. A young man wandering around in there with an Apple portable and I fell into conversation, both of us tourists sort of, it turns out he and his wife leave in November to go live and study in Italy for three years, starting with two months as he put it, "near Florence" — actually in Livorno, which of course by Italian standards is a fair distance away; I chattered about Umbria and walking, now he knows — at his own request — where to find more such chatter on the Web. . . .

McKendree Methodist Church, not far away, a very cold-looking Greek temple affair on the outside, I dubiously tried the front door, locked, just as their church secretary came to it; enthusiastic and knowledgeable, Ruth Baggett gave me the history of the church and building, opened up the Archive Room for me, then let me wander around take pictures; some very nice painted glass windows and the inside much nicer than the outside — and bits of first-hand oral history: there was apparently a tornado that drove thru Nashville not long ago, August 1998 I think, and she was in the building at the time: though she took cover in the bowels of the building, immediately after the center of the tornado had passed, she couldn't resist finding a door or window to peep out of, when it was still less than a block away — my kind of person, she said she figured she'd never get another chance to see such a thing.

[image ALT: A painted-glass depiction of the Last Supper, with a central figure of Jesus blessing a loaf of bread and eleven disciples, half of them seated at the same table with him, the others standing nearby, looking on or meditating. Judas can be seen in the upper left, with a purse, starting to walk away. It is one of the windows of McKendree Methodist Church, Nashville, TN.]

One of the windows of McKendree Methodist Church: The Last Supper, after an original by an obscure German or American painter known only as Hoffman.

Wandered down to Broadway and a bit past, a very nasty strip of tourist traps, bars, eateries, shops selling boots, cowboy hats, and clothing, most of it very ugly and cheap. Withal, 90F and muggy — I headed back to the hotel to recoup for maybe an hour, then headed back out a bit more randomly, and wound up walking to something like 15th Street maybe a couple of miles from downtown: endless semi-decayed industrial space, rail tracks, the interstate, fast-food joints, car repair shops, etc. This doesn't sound fair to Nashville, but in fact it seems to be: the actual downtown area is quite small, maybe six or seven blocks to a side, then it's surrounded by this wide belt of débris, which in spots actually seems to fade into the countryside. I'd originally thought I'd walk to the great sight to be seen in the area, Jackson's home the Hermitage, only about 11 miles I think from downtown and thus well within my range, but the combination of the ferocious heat, the depressing cityscape, and very heavy construction everywhere (highways all torn up, detours, cranes, huge buildings going up thruout the area) put the kibosh on that idea.

I did spend nearly two hours in and around the State Capitol, a beautiful building — the old library and the House Chamber I particularly liked — and suitably full of history: Pres. Polk is buried on the E lawn, under a very modest monument, far dwarfed by Jackson's equestrian statue nearby, and even by Pres. Andrew Johnson's statue, although the latter sits in a little circle none too well weeded; understandably, since he got to the presidency in part by commanding the Federal forces occupying Nashville for two years. The nearby monument to Alvin York is larger, if not visible from the Capitol itself.

[image ALT: A cubical roofed monument about 3 meters tall: supported on four pillars, it encloses a tombstone. It is the tomb of President James Polk on the E lawn of the State Capitol, Nashville, TN.]
Polk's tomb.

My final bit of exploring for the day was the Downtown Church (formerly the Presbyterian Church) that I'd headed straight over to from the Arcade in fact based on Casey K's recommendation to look at the inside — but hadn't dared bug the church office; Ms. Baggett had said it was OK to do so, so I did, toward the end of my afternoon: an odd space, and felt to be so when it was built — all done in an Egyptian style; must be most curious to gaze up during a Presbyterian sermon and see the disk and snakes of Ra a little bit everywhere.

[image ALT: Part of an interior wall of a building, extending upwards maybe two stories, formed of three engaged lotus-capitaled columns, with behind them more columns painted in trompe-l'oeil, in the Egyptian style. It is a partial view of the interior of the Downtown Presbyterian Church, Nashville, TN.]
The Downtown Presbyterian Church: a sample of the interior.

Susan finally back around 6:30 from her conference, unexpectedly bearing enough Mexican food to feed about eight people, and followed like the Queen of Sheba by two bellhops with a baggage cart and a refrigerator; turns out her conference didn't feed her and she'd volunteered to get some of her fellow conferees some vittles, but due to a series of adventures didn't get back before the end of lunch, so was left holding the bag — literally. We ate bits of Mexican, me none too hungry because I'd finally caved in around 5 and had an imprudent snack; we went for a walk southeastwards from our hotel, to a bridge over the river, wide enough, empty enough, that we didn't cross it but came pretty much right back sat in the hotel bar a bit, chatting with the amiable bartender then with two twin brothers in their forties, both in law school, engaging go-getters which is more than this old geezer felt like by this time of the evening — I actually got to bed sometime before 10 I think and fell asleep instantly.


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Page updated: 16 Jul 06