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Monday 5 June

A bit past noon at Susan's new digs in Jenkins, catching up (already!) —

Saturday morning, I woke up once, must have been around 7 or so, wrote diary, then turned around and went back to bed, finally waking up again at 10:30 — the idea, at least my idea, was to see a bit of Lexington, then Frankfort, where to boot, Susan had only done with Tory what I did last time, a zip-thru of the downtown but not even Daniel Boone's grave; and maybe — an idea I got a few days ago after seeing a History Channel program on distilleries — visit a distillery.

We settled on the Woodford Reserve, which is in the Versailles area only about 12 miles W of Lexington: they had tours at 10 and 11, at 1, 2 and 3 P.M.; we never got there. Instead we saw downtown Versailles, where there was a very small farmers' market in progress in front of the Methodist Church on Main Street; Susan big on these things, I went off on either side of Main Street about two blocks either way, to look at old buildings. Nothing terribly old — mid- to late‑19c — and nothing terribly exciting, with the largest and most prominent buildings all in fact being modern if carefully done to keep the atmosphere: the Courthouse for example was in fact built in 1970 after a 1965 fire destroyed the 19c building, which was already the third one on the site!

On my last pass thru the farmers' market — I remember maybe eight stands, it all fit in the little parking lot in front of the church — to tell Susan where I was, I fell into it myself, spotting a Kentucky vintner, Wildside Vines; young man named Neil Vassilakis (pron. Vaslakes, right from the gitgo at Ellis Island, his grandfather eager to fit in asking how to pronounce his own name in America, and the family's been pronouncing it that way ever since) and his wife Rachel: an assortment of wines red and white, and a raspberry wine (actually from raspberries) alas not released yet but a few weeks from now. I tasted their 2004 Cabernet, rather good if somewhat light, I'd probably drink it with dinde aux marrons; and a 2004 Duet, from two American grapes, a slight foxy flavor but good rather than not, a bit thin, interesting pepperiness to it, I'd serve it with veal or maybe stuffed pork chops; after all that, I bought a bottle taste untasted though they offered, of 8.7% 2004 Wild Cider.

Finally out of Versailles, but not to any distillery; rather a place called the Jack Jouett House a few miles away: a banner on the courthouse said there was an open-house there for its reopening, historic house, and a logo proclaiming "Forty Miles That Saved America", Revolutionary War period; this proved irresistible. Jack Jouett apparently got wind of a British plot to kidnap Jefferson and several other Virginia patriots, and did a Paul Revere to go warn 'em —

Irresistible, but hardly easy to find. We got lost several times, though no harm done: very beautiful countryside and a perfect day, upper 70s low 80s, mostly sunny. Along the way I finally noticed the great variety of fences, and was having poor Susan stop in all kinds of nondescript places so I could photograph a fence. . . . Of course there must be reasons for these multiplicitous designs, each probably having a functional reason; six months from now I'll be better informed, and it might make an interesting little group of webpages. One rather noticeable thing was that the better-kept properties, where they front on the roads, acquire a second fence right behind the first, from one to five or so feet apart: my eventual guess, confirmed later by a man we met yesterday morning over breakfast at the hotel, was that it was to prevent horses from jumping out of the property; one fence they might be able to negotiate but certainly not two right close to each other.

[image ALT: A beautifully tended expanse of grass about the size of half a football field, most of it enclosed in a wooden rail-and‑post fence. It is a sample of one of the many types of fence to be seen in Kentucky.]

Horse Country between Lexington and Versailles, Kentucky:
one of the commoner types of fences.

The Jack Jouett house is a small turn-of‑the‑19c building in the middle of several hundred acres awarded the man after the war for his useful ride (which wasn't here but in Virginia); they had tents and volunteers and reënactors and dulcimer playing and a man demonstrating the processing of flax, and booths with representatives of various groups involved in the re-opening, including a Mrs. Shaw I think it was with a soft upper-class Mississippi accent, and a fellow I met in the little mid‑19c family cemetery out front who back in 1975 or so had supervised prison labor that had rebuilt the dry stone wall surrounding it. At any rate it turned out to be an unexpectedly interesting and historic place, if not quite worth the time we spent there, something like 3h maybe, but then it was an opportunity to talk with all kinds of people; Susan is incredibly gregarious —

[image ALT: The long side of a stone house about 10 meters in length, with a pitched shingle roof and a stone chimney; a man in the rough dress of an 18c American frontiersman is standing next to it talking to a small group of tourists. He is a reënactor demonstrating the retting of flax in front of the kitchen of the Jack Jouett House in Versailles, Kentucky.]
A reënactor demonstrates the retting of flax in front of the kitchen of the Jack Jouett House.

Well by this time it was past the hour of the last distillery tour at Woodford, which was fine — can't do everything — and we were off to Frankfort, which after all was what started this whole part of my Kentucky trip, I wanted to see a bit more of Frankfort. It's much closer to Lexington and Versailles than I'd thought: we wandered the streets looking at pleasant old houses, including the habitation purportedly of the inventor of Bibb lettuce (I'll have to look that up and check);a a pit-stop for a sort of half-meal at a restaurant called Serafini's: I had a few fried oysters and split a large apple and goat cheese lettuce salad with Susan, no booze, coffee, or dessert.

From there to Lexington via Frankfort Cemetery where I could show Susan Daniel Boone's grave; this being near-solstice, we had a clearer brighter view of the city and the river from up there, really a very beautiful spot.

A bit of milling, in my case also a shower (weather was nice but inevitably a bit gummy), and somehow it was again past 10 or maybe even 11 and the hotel restaurant (said to be very good) was of course closed; we wound up eating at a place called the Atomic Café — small booths, American food, little jukeboxes at the tables like when I was a kid — where, not so hungry of course because of our previous half-meal, I passed up an opportunity to have what they called lamb fries: mutton testicles, fried. Unfortunate, but not in the mood for any more heavy fried stuff; had salmon and a salad instead, it was alright; and to bed.

Yesterday morning I woke up at 10:30, and we frittered away most of the morning packing, checking out, etc.; with good idea on Susan's part to have the hotel brunch, substantial enough that I wasn't hungry for the rest of the day, although incredibly at half my size she was —

Checked out, not really having seen much of Lexington, but on the way out we made two interesting stops, both Henry Clay: his tomb and monument in Lexington Cemetery — Kentucky seems to specialize in attractive old cemeteries — and Ashland, his house on the outskirts of town: where there are guided tours but where one can roam around the outside of the property without guide nor admission; we did, and it was interesting, with an icehouse and a privy and a very well-done garden.

[image ALT: A pair of low stone structures, almost all the aboveground part of which is in each case its shingled roof. They are ice houses at Ashland, Henry Clay's house in Lexington, Kentucky.]
The icehouses at Ashland, Henry Clay's house on the outskirts of Lexington, KY.

From there southward to Boonesborough Fort and State Park — Susan believing, not altogether wrongly, that I have something of a Daniel Boone fetish — where we parked about five minutes, squinted at the built-from‑scratch reconstruction of a Revolutionary War fort, demurred at the 2 × $6 admission charge, and left again, for the great adventure of the day I told Susan was my "must-see": Cannel City — population must be all of one or two hundred souls, but connected with the history of Jenkins or actually of McRoberts, where Cannel City Row is named after Cannel City because that's where many of its first inhabitants were originally from; it seems there were mines in the latter place and as the mines went dry, the miners moved on to the Jenkins area where they could find more work.b

[image ALT: A wooden stockade fort, starkly symmetrical to its central gate, flying the flags of the United States and of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It is a modern reconstruction of a pioneer-period fort at Boonesborough State Park in Madison County, Kentucky.]

Fort Boonesborough — a modern reconstruction. Good details on the construction of the original fort, as well as some of the historical background, are given in "The Colony of Transylvania", North Carolina Booklet III.9, pp33‑35.

Well, of course we got a bit lost; twice, actually: once we found ourselves in Mt. Sterling where we shouldn'ta been (too far north), and the second time somehow overshooting an exit — which I swear I never saw though looking for it well ahead of time. But Winchester, which is where we should have turned instead of continuing north to Mt. Sterling, was a pretty place — some very nice late‑19c buildings on main street — well worth the stop and us wandering around for maybe twenty minutes. Withal, the countryside shifting, almost immediately out of Lexington SE, to more rolling and forested, and gone all the classic Horse Country scenery with the steepled stables and all the fascinating fences: but still attractive, pleasant, green, all of it beautiful country.

[image ALT: Against a backdrop of the lower story of a painted brick building and iron railings, a life-size statue of an American bald eagle sits on a birdbath set in a circular brick pool surrounded by low shrubs. It is the fountain behind the Clark County Chourthouse in Winchester, Kentucky.]

The choice of this American bald eagle primly sitting on her fountain behind the Clark County Courthouse is hardly fair to Winchester: a proper site on the city, showing some of its old buildings in a more serious vein, is on its way.

Anyhow, an hour and a half or so later, we got off the Combs Parkway somewhere before Salyersville, and it was confirmed to us alright — four guys fishing at a pond, dusk, that yes, we'd overshot the mark: tiny road backtracking westward, parallel the Parkway, turn right not left where it dead-ends, go thru Adele (pron. A Deal) and you'll be there; no, not left else you'll wind up in Helechewa (pron. Hell-lee-chǝ-wa). And sure enough, we got to Cannel City by failing light, not much more than a clearing with a huge 1938 public works building (what?) part of which now an elementary school, and the tiniest post office I'd ever seen; four hundred yards later, already in Caney, where there was a beautiful abandoned church with an unusual steeple with decorative wood shingle work: indoors, two pianos, and brambles starting to bust their way into the windows with their trim of colored glass squares; a real shame.

And very quickly it was night: back home to Jenkins via Prestonsburg and Pikeville — pit stop where Susan made me eat something, settled on a chicken salad sammich, then quickly, if somewhat scarily thru the worst fog I ever remember seeing, into Jenkins by the Mudtown entrance, and to her new digs about a block and a half from her former: boxes all over the place, she just moved in two days ago just before coming to get me at Lexington bus station; but her friend Mike Mullins, who works at Dollar General in town, had done yeoman's work and I found a nice bedroom all set up for me, where when Susan had left there hadn't been so much as a bed frame. Slept like a log.


Later Notes for the Web:

a According to this page on the City of Frankfort's official site (and many other sources): true.

b How I could have written this, I don't know. That the miners who moved to Letcher County from Cannel City may have run out of work may well be true, but it's my own surmise.


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Page updated: 20 Dec 13