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Saturday 10 June

Thursday I walked from Whitesburg back to Jenkins, the longest walk I've been on in a coupla years at least, at (very probably, not easy to measure) 21½ miles = 34 km. Not a trace of a calf cramp thruout, and only the slightest bit of a sciatic-like pain down the usual left thigh. Feet a little sore, and the now usual stiffness for a couple of hours afterwards, that then like rigor mortis eventually softens back down.

The idea, now that I've exhausted the smaller walks that can be done as a circuit and back home at the end of the day, is to have Susan drive me out somewhere, and I walk back: since I can't rely on cellphones to do the reverse, and I might be stranded somewhere. As it turned out, that's definitely the right decision. Susan dropped me off in downtown Whitesburg at like three minutes to noon; and my first order of business, since I'm armed only with the poorest of maps for walking (car scales) and wanted to avoid entirely the highway from Whitesburg to Jenkins, a big dull road with nothing on it, was to scout around the town see if anyone could tell me how to do the whole walk on little roads — otherwise it'd be the highway for about 4 miles to the first possible turn-off at Mayking. County Courthouse, various offices, no suitable maps of the county available not even, as I was quite willing, for sale: they do have a map of Letcher County for sale for $20, but it's a huge wall map, which was of course at the other extreme — too big, rather than small, to be useful: picky Booby. There was also general agreement that my best shot was as feared highway to Mayking, then the little roads. One final stop, at a store that sells arts and crafts (but also a very good selection of books on Kentucky, the local area, and related subjects, the most tempting of which was a $50 Encyclopedia of Kentucky put out by one of the universities). Same thing there; as I got ready to leave Susan came in, lured by books, natch. Jabber, browse, buy trinket, give to Susan to bring back for me, leave around 12:35, highway it was.

Big green highway, very wide comfortable shoulders; Ermine (pron. Er-mine), largish cemetery, lots of flagpoles, and soon after Memorial Day so almost every grave decorated with plastic or artificial flowers which I guess will fade and wear over the year 'til next Memorial Day. Otherwise, to the turnoff at Mayking, or at least at the Mayking Fire Department: towns in these parts often diffuse, and I'm trying to get into the habit of taking the post office as the center of town.

The center of Mayking not for a while yet, a pleasant place by now nicely off the highway; needing to be absolutely sure I was starting out on the right road of course, went and bearded whoever I could find in their place of business to ask my way: in this case, a barber shop, the Copper Comb, indoors a little nook meant to be private (but they don't count on inquisitive Boobies), man my age cutting the hair of a soldier-aged boy, straight out of Norman Rockwell somehow; thanks folks and on my way. In town right across from the Comb, a beauti­ful old house, on its first steps to falling to ruin, hope it doesn't; nearby, the one-room post office.

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Old house in Mayking.

Pleasant shady twisty road, essentially level (certainly by Umbrian standards), and temperature around 73, another perfect day for a walk: cooler than the other day, but then a longer walk.

Past the sunken hamlet of Sergent (pron. Ser-gǝnt), about five large houses and a plank bridge over the stream some fifty feet drop, steep road: ignored it — i.e., couldn't see a church — and on to Thornton. The latter not so much a town now in my memory as a cemetery, and a very nice one, too, still in use but maybe the most burials around 1910 or so; I saw at least three graves of Confederate soldiers, in each case carefully supplied with a new tombstone, standard issue like those in use today, in at least one case right next to the original stone left in place and no longer too readable.​a Why are so many Roman tombstones still sharply readable today after far longer? Partly softer stone now being used, yet the carving in the late 19c seems to have been every bit as good as, or better than, Roman carving: a little mystery here.

[image ALT: A graveyard, with about twenty modern granite headstones visible fairly widely spaced still in a well-tended lawn at the edge of a forest, three graves include tall flagpoles flying the American flag. It is a partial view of Thornton Cemetery, in Thornton, Kentucky.]

Part of the newer section of Thornton Cemetery, about a week after Memorial Day.

The next town is Millstone, clearly a mining town; announced a bit of a mile before by the ruins of a tipple and an abandoned railroad. The town itself basically a clump of camp houses, a couple of them still more or less the way they were built, a church, and an old company store now falling to ruin but an attractive building on the lines, not unexpectedly, of the store at Seco 5 miles down the road. I talked with a woman named Pat at the Post Office, who said yes it used to be the town's store until just about six-seven years ago, the owner moved to Tennessee and won't sell; a pity: three-four more years, if not already, there won't be anything left to sell. In front of the store, there actually is what looks very much like a millstone, although small: the town used to be called Craftsville; why and when its present name of Millstone, who knows.

[image ALT: A wooden building with a low ground floor and a much taller story above it, with four tall rectangular windows. The ground floor is shaded by a wooden porch with a sloping roof, supported by five very thin posts. The building leans slightly to the viewer's left; to the right a one-story shed has been added, also with a sloping roof. The building sits on an asphalted clearing against a backdrop of deciduous trees; to the left, a one-lane paved road heads off into the background. It is the old company store at Millstone, Kentucky.]

The company store in Millstone.

Kona was the next in the string of little places along this back road, and of course the first item was why the weird name — Hawaiian hardly likely — but, despite the very small place (a few straggling houses, a few more slightly off-road) this was my best historical information of the walk because I wandered into the store and restaurant in town; I was thirsty, also, as usual, wanted to be absolutely sure I was on the right road: several little roads that might have gone on to Seco instead of the one I was on, for all I knew. And when I walked in, the first thing out of the owner's mouth was would I like a big glass of ice water; this from a person who makes her living in part by selling soda and gatorade and stuff. Me: yes, thank you, although cool rather than cold, not much ice, and I might as well eat something and ask a few questions too. And I did — hot dog with homemade chili from scratch — and a large gatorade too, anyway; and Mrs. (Karen) McAuley was interested in the history of her town, and had photos of its founder W. H. Potter, her husband's great-grandfather, a land agent for Consol, and a seven-or‑so-page typescript full of information (source, though, she couldn't say), which I scanned quickly and then photographed — wonder­ful, these digital cameras — and her husband Jim came in pretty much as I was leaving, and more kind sharing of historical information with benighted Northern stranger; he'd worked 30 years in the mines up around Dorton if I remember right, and a photo of him on his last day in the mine posted by the front door: I didn't dare ask permission to photograph it, but it was a very good photo — Anyway, apparently Kona was a substitute name for the "Mater" originally intended by Potter in honor of his mother, but which the Post Office wouldn't allow him: so the word, he believed (and for all I know of course actually is), is Norwegian for "mother" —​b

And on to Seco, two short miles, Sandra Looney whom I'd never met, then she called her husband Jack — hi Mr. Looney I'm back, and did you see what I write about you, your wine, and Seco on my website? Sparked interest, search engine, sure nuff, Booby pages pop up, bookmark and read later: I told him I'd likely be back Monday — he opens at 11 — with friend Susan, to introduce her to good wines. (This while heavenly smells from back room, preparing dinner for the evening's group, something herbal and spicy which would probably go very well with Highland wine —) And in fact I do hope to drag Susan to Seco then to the McAuley's to eat home-style cooking there,​c but you better get there before about 1, else it'll all be gone, nothing left but burgers and stuff — Anyway, out of Seco via flat little lane that cuts around an uphill-downhill patch (and past the fourth of the town's churches, the one I just had a feeling I missed in November, the Freewill Baptist: there's one in every town, I'd been a bit surprised none in Seco.)

After Seco, much less interesting: Neon Junction in about a mile, then dullish straightish miles thru Haymond (official postal name: Cromona, with an o, but it's the same town) and a more or less non-existent Potters Fork, rejoining the Dunham road into Jenkins. I called Susan to pick me up since this mileage was just duplication, but though I could hear her crystal-clear, she couldn't hear me at all: my nerves so bad I just hung up and turned it off and walked back to the house, arriving around 8:35. Tired and very stiff, but not a trace of a cramp. Got to bed at 11, too late.

Later Notes:

a The graves of Confederate soldiers are carefully supplied with new tombstones as needed by the continuing benevolent work of volunteers: for much more about this, see Jun. 25 and my note, photo and link there.

b Kona is in fact Norwegian not for "mother", but for "wife".

The typescript mentioned in the diary made its way onsite: A Brief History of Kona (1949) is interesting, and includes details on the various names by which this little place has been known over the last hundred years.

c See Jun. 15; for my first visit, see Nov. 25, 2005; and for my more formal pages on the town, see the navigation bar below.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20