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Friday 18 November 2005

Jenkins, KY — a place I'd never heard about 'til a few weeks ago, and would never have thought I'd be visiting in my whole life — and settling in for a 12‑day stay; around 9 A.M., sitting in Susan's living room with a very demanding small thin black kitten perched on me, on my writing arm or in my lap, purring; Luna dog happily crunching away at something near my feet. Still working thru my blasted cold, just come back from first solo walk with Luna, maybe half a mile up a hill and back; feel sniffly and a bit feverish. House way overheated, thermostat was at 76, just turned it down to 62 or so a few minutes ago.

Yesterday my plane out of Chicago was at 1055, Midway; I left the house, with computer, camera bag, roll-on, around 0750 plenty of time, CTA to Loop straight change to the Orange Line, Midway at the end of the line: nothing to it, right? Well, this being the CTA, not on your life. At Wilson Avenue, delay, five minutes then ten then twenty, with periodic worsening announcements, climaxing in a tale of a train somewhere ahead of us that had to be decoupled and sent back to Howard, and débris on the tracks cleared, then we'd move, etc. I got off the train immediately at the last announcement, and the cab from Wilson Avenue, tip included, cost me $42 but I got there on time.

1h05m flight, Southwest Airlines, thoroughly unevent­ful and ontime, and I was in Louisville at 1300h local time, and after a bit of cellphone tag Tory, Susan's daughter, and I found each other and hit the road to Jenkins. Tory is 19, intelligent and a very good driver; pickup truck painted bright blue with polka dots various bright colors —

She offered, since we had plenty of time to get to Jenkins, to poke around Louisville with me a bit, I declined, eager actually to get "home"; but the road took us thru Frankfort, which I remembered was where Daniel Boone is buried, and Frankfort a much smaller place so not so zoomtravellish to stop there for a bit: and very glad we did.

They buried Dan Boone in the classic hero's tomb: on top of the hill right at the edge facing the entire city and the river down below, a spectacular hero's view of his town: the best and most beauti­ful few square feet of land in the county, and well deserved.

His tomb is rather plain: a square pillar about two to three feet on a side and maybe 15 feet tall topped with a simple frieze of acanthus; on each side a marble bas-relief, showing stylized episodes of his life: in at least one of them he wears his famous cap.​a No inscription that I remember. It could not be a finer monument.

[image ALT: A truck parked in an old wooded cemetery. It is a somewhat curious view of the cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky; a square pillar on the left is Daniel Boone's monument.]

Tory's truck and (tallish pillar on the left) Daniel Boone's grave.
See also my more formal and informative page on the monument, with additional photos.

A bit of wandering around the patch of the cemetery nearest Boone's grave — all kinds of people buried here that if I knew my history well I'd probably have wanted to rove for hours and photograph; an impressive monument to soldiers of many wars; a beauti­ful cemetery, and two or three weeks ago when the trees should still have had their fall leaves it must have been even more beauti­ful: one or two bright yellow fall trees still glowing on the side of the hill.

Into Frankfort — Tory hungry — where after some doing we finally did find a place to eat. Frankfort, at least the downtown historical area, also very attractive: lots of small mostly brick buildings, two- and three‑story, and restoration under way on many of them; several handsome churches, a beauti­ful modern steel bridge, the looming Capitol from just about everywhere, but also the old state Capitol right across from where we found lunch; Frankfort, in an ideal world, is a place I'd spend a rather busy week, lots and lots of stuff to see.

Lunch in a used-book store, cozy environment, one of these places with lots of coffees and teas and a few tiny tables scattered among wallsful of books. I had a good chicken salad sammich, a very good baklava, and an indifferent cappuccino. As might be expected, they had a largish section on Kentucky history etc.: would have liked to buy a coupla things maybe, but as usual my tastes far exceeding my pocketbook. Woman at the main desk, Kathy Kimbel, helpful and full of information — apparently a bran-new historical museum in town, etc. — and a pity I hadn't both more time and more money; we hit the road.​b

[image ALT: A large domed building in an otherwise residential wooded setting; it dwarfs the houses. It is a view of the State Capitol in Frankfort, Kentucky.]
On our way out of Frankfort: the State Capitol.

Susan's idea had been for us maybe to make a pit stop at Perryville battlefield — Perryville seems to have been the most important Civil War battle fought in Kentucky — but though we adjusted our route (it wasn't more than 10 miles out of our way) the sun was already setting when we were within range, so we just kept on tooling down an assortment of highways, quickly dark night though we were led for much of the way by a nearly full moon, orange-red above the mostly barren trees, thru hillier and hillier terrain, finally arriving in Jenkins just after 9 P.M.

Jenkins by American standards is small, by Umbrian rather larger, at least in extent, though in population the place is small no matter where, apparently at about 2000 people. It sits in a hollow completely surrounded by high hills, that rise sharply from the valley: a lot of wooded hill and no horizon, basically. It stretches some ways along a little lake, wood frame houses, and two houses away from the roads and they're already up the side of the hill; a little downtown area has a coupla pharmacies (Boggs Pharmacy is Susan's landlord), a nondescript low modern bank sharing a building I think with the library​1 and the monument, a supermarket (actually somewhat away from the rest), a Dollar Store, and the hospital. Tory drove us into town from the West past their house on the right — a stand of pampas grass at a bend in the road — past the little lake on the left, to the hospital to meet her Mom, wrapping up her evening shift in the emergency room.

There followed about forty-five minutes of milling and chatting with eight nurses or their friends (Miranda, Melanie, Donna who has an interest in ancient history apparently, Tina, Tanya, Rhonda, Geraldine, Eva) and the odd guy out, Rodney, a security guard. A very quick nocturnal spin by Tory thru the nearby downtown area so I'd know where the supermarket and the library were, then to the house where I met Luna-Dog, and was very much relieved that in fact she took to me after about 20 seconds: I'd been told she might have been abused as a puppy and was not keen on men, so I'd been apprehensive — in fact I noticed nothing, and we walked her a ways around the neighborhood, everything fine.

[image ALT: A small birthday cake, about 10 inches across, with five candles.]

Back home, logistics, more milling, but a sort of birthday party for me, since I must have mentioned I'd be in Jenkins on my birthday: Susan had got me a little cake with candles, and four bags of gifts, including what looks like an interesting book, and several fuzzy items of clothing, exactly the kind of stuff I wear around the house except better; generosity is one thing, but being success­ful at it is another, she hit bull's-eyes thru and thru.

They were to be leaving at 3:30 this morning! to drive 90 miles to Johnson City for their 5:45 flight, the first of a string of planes to get them to Prescott, AZ by the end of the day — I was falling asleep on my feet, and within ten minutes, very likely sixty seconds after turning off the light at 1:09 A.M., I was KO.

This morning I was awoken by my cellphone at 7:45, Brian; a jolt since today is his court date and since I'd been unable to reach James last nite, so I was worried on two accounts — but it was nothing, everybody OK.

I walked the dog, wearing a set of my new fuzzies; quite cold, frost, small icicles on a pipe in someone's yard: Luna took me up the hill to a dead-end on Little Oak Street. I felt pretty lousy, feverish and sore-throat, by the time I got back, but medicated myself with tea, hot shower, breakfast of two eggs over easy, and felt well enough to go exploring at around 11:30.

[image ALT: A somewhat triangular lake. It is a view of Elkhorn Lake in Jenkins, Kentucky.]
Jenkins, Kentucky: Elkhorn Lake.

Walked into Jenkins along the lake: not drop-dead beauti­ful, but a pretty, pleasant walk, and it had warmed up. Thought I'd buy one or two house supplies; and stop at the library and museum: never did get to a store, but spent maybe forty minutes at the museum, run by Goldie Sparks, who said she was 78 (she moved here 46 years ago) but certainly didn't look it. Lots of coal, and coal helmets, and mining tools, and haunting old photographs of crews of guys at their mines. Pretty interesting, and I'm thinking of getting a copy of one of the photographs: they call a woman who'll make one of any of the ones they have on display, for $10 — Goldie's husband Charley, now long gone, worked on transmission lines; old photos show him to have been the town hunk —

[image ALT: A somewhat triangular lake. It is a view of Elkhorn Lake in Jenkins, Kentucky.]

In the foreground, the old station — Jenkins is no longer served by rail — occupied by a bank and behind it the David A. Zegeer Coal and Railroad Museum. The brown building barely visible in the background on the far right is the Public Library.

The library is the next door over, so I spent something like an hour and a half reading up on Jenkins: one drawer of a file cabinet, a lot of newspaper articles and stuff; got about a third of the way thru it, xeroxed a pile of stuff, learned a lot about Jenkins. Margaret, the librarian on duty (not the head librarian, whose name she gave me)​c had an odd mixed accent, mostly Kentucky but here and there British, and sure enough, was born English and married an American soldier 40 years ago —

A 1973 publication put out by the Jenkins Jaycees (now gone, there are no more JC's here) was chock full of info and old photos; it turns out recent reprints exist, and Margaret — among other helpfulnesses — told me where I could buy my own, for only $10; so I left for Ernestine's Tan-orama (a tanning salon and gift shop: very peculiarly, there's a second competing combined tanning salon and gift shop in town!) — got my book, copy for Susan as well — and walked home.​d

I've just spent an hour and a half reading about 60% of The History of Jenkins (a misnomer, it's a sort of sourcebook more than a connected history, but it's extraordinarily informative, giving a very good picture of life here in the early days); Luna and two of the three cats curled up with me on the bed. Resisted temptation to fall asleep, besides it was soon 5 o'clock, time to walk Luna. Did that — this time along the lake — about half an hour; then browsed a bit of Susan's books — piles of them here and there — then dinner: pasta with tomatoes and garlic, a few radishes by way of salad, then birthday cake and a glass of milk. Finally wrote up all this, and it's now past 7:30; will make myself stay up to about 9 so I can check back with James and Brian, also to give Susan time to get back to me as well. Feel much better than this morning, basically back to normal except for the occasional sniffle.

Note in the Diary:

1 a few hours later: that's wrong; the library is in its own building. Just the bank and the museum in the old railroad station.

Note for the Web: my quick description of the town, though technically accurate as to the other points, is misleading in several ways. There is a second bank, even more nondescript than the one next to the museum. There is not just one "Dollar Store", but two: one large, in a free-standing building, the Family Dollar store; the other maybe half the size, Dollar General, in a row of small brick buildings. Both are chain stores and I'm told that both chains are ultimately owned by the same company.

The downtown area of Jenkins also includes several churches, an American Legion post (see Nov. 22), a large Masonic hall, a small city hall, a gas station, a Hardee's fast-food outlet, and the large Jenkins Community Hospital, which has since closed.

Later Notes:

a and yours truly fell into that one like everybody else. The coonskin cap was not Dan'l Boone's, but Davy Crockett's — yet those predisposed to kindness may excuse me on the grounds that the monument itself really does show Boone wearing such a cap.

b Poor Richard's Bookstore.

c Margaret Looney is actually the Circulation Clerk and Children's Librarian; the Librarian, Peggy Bentley, I met on my last full day in town (see Nov. 29).

d The History of Jenkins, Kentucky, (almost) all of which is now onsite.

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Page updated: 7 Dec 20