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Friday 25 November 2005

Today was all about Geraldine touring me around Letcher County: Fish Pond Lake, Whitesburg, Seco, Neon, Haymond and home.

By good fortune I woke up earlier than I have been here, at about 7:30, so had plenty of time for ablutions, bacon and eggs, walking Luna — brisk weather but an even more beauti­ful day than yesterday — and then when I was pretty much ready (in case we should be leaving immediately) I called Geraldine at 9:15. Her day off so, despite her demurring, I still think I may have woken her up — anyway, she rang the bell at 10:35 or so, carrying a cup of coffee. I sat her down in front of the computers here and showed her by way of example a bit of my Umbrian pages, which'll be the model for whatever I wind up doing on Jenkins; that didn't take long, and off we went to Whitesburg.

Our first stop in fact was Fish Pond Lake, which is an attractive little nature area, and, as Geraldine carefully pointed out, would be much more so if vandals and drunks didn't come in and bust up things (and also, in one case, terrorize nearby residents by apparently threatening to kidnap their 5‑year‑old daughter). The only real sign I saw of this vandalism was a wrecked tennis court, no longer usable; and some beer cans in the water of the lake at one spot: otherwise it looked perfectly kept up. I didn't see any beavers, however: I'd been told somewhere along the line that the beavers at Fish Pond Lake were so tame they'd let you watch them build their dams.

[image ALT: A small lake or large pond in late fall; in the background, a low hill wooded with mostly deciduous and therefore leafless trees. It is a partial view of Fish Pond Lake at Payne Gap, Kentucky.]

One end of Fish Pond Lake, at the entrance to the park.
For details on the lake and its park, see The History of Jenkins, Kentucky, section H.

And from there to Whitesburg via Payne Gap — not more than two miles from the house; said to be a Confederate cemetery there, yet Geraldine, who was born and raised in Payne Gap — waved a hand at a hollow to our left at one point (and actually born in hospital at Whitesburg) — didn't know anything about, so maybe I've got something tangled up here.​a

Whitesburg is actually smaller than Jenkins, at least if you include Burdine and Dunham — population 1500, or as a large billboard at the entrance to the town puts it, 1498 nice people and 2 grouches. It's smaller, but has the county courthouse, and the jail where Geraldine worked for a while; and a more definite downtown area than Jenkins has: small orderly streets with a few old brick buildings (including the Courthouse Cafe kitty-corner from the courthouse closed, unfortunately, because today is Thanksgiving weekend) and a pair of nice churches; but not really very much: finding the Courthouse Cafe closed, after a 2‑block walk on the main street to the bridge, weather kinda nippy, we left to find lunch, at a sort of highway stop, but local-type food, or at least not any national chain I recognized. Still, the food was disappointing: the fried green tomatoes on the menu were clearly something industrially produced somewhere, prebattered and frozen, and very, very little tomato — they must have used a microtome to get the slices that thin. A "bean dinner" was a bowl of beans, and a collection of little sides (potato slices, peppers, tomato, raw onion) that seemed somewhat more authentic, but was dull —

[image ALT: A two‑story building. It is a partial view of the highway cut at Pound Gap, Kentucky.]
A building at 120‑122 Main Street in Whitesburg.

From there Geraldine, taking her tourist guide job seriously, drove back to Jenkins by a different route, slightly less direct, via Seco and Neon: the latter nothing much, but Seco (the name is from South Eastern COal Company) turned out unexpectedly attractive, and interesting too since there's a winery, which we stopped at and where I sampled some wines (not at all what I expected to do, or even wanted to), and one of them, a Cabernet, was very good: I bought a bottle for Susan and one for James (I hope I can get it to Chicago without breaking it). The owner, Jack Looney — no relation at all to Don Looney Margaret's husband although it turns out that Don once was the inspector on a contract where Jack was the success­ful bidder, causing them both endless problems at the time — a go‑getter, pleasant, and knowledgeable about wine as one might expect, although he credits his business to his daughter. Seco Company Store and Winery (also B & B and dinner for groups by reservation) can sell wine only in Kentucky, thanks to the lunacy of the state's liquor laws, but I was assured that I won't be arrested at the airport; they have a website supposedly, but no sign of a web address on their flyers, and the web address I was given and carefully remembered, turns out to be one of those squatter-spam pages. Never mind, I'll put up something: I was much taken by Seco (three pretty little churches in town, I went for a quick walk and photo shoot while Geraldine stayed back at the car in front of the winery and had a cigarette).

[image ALT: The outside of a small wooden stable, partly painted, in the late fall. One of the two paddock windows is open; a horse is looking out.]

A Kentucky horse, at Seco.
(But see mostly my slightly more formal site on the town; and the next page of this diary.)

And so, by about 3:30, we were back at Susan's in plenty of time for me to walk Luna etc. Spent much of the evening transcribing a book — more properly, a collection of essays — by Frank Frost Abbott on the view of the world held by the common man in ancient Rome; got about halfway thru it, racing but figuring I'd have the time to do all of it before I leave Tuesday — before I bethought myself to see whether it was online: and it is, at Gutenberg I think, even rather nicely typeset (for them) if in a single huge page. I'll probably put it up myself as well anyway, since here and there I may have annotations or even an illustration or two. Abbott writes well and I was surprised to like it, since usually I don't much that kind of stuff. And so — after a call back home to find that James had poisoned Brian with oyster stuffing over Thanksgiving dinner, Brian puking up a storm, horrific chills and a temperature of 102° — James ate far more of the stuffing and felt fine — to bed.

Later Notes:

a Yes, untangled on the last day of my stay (q.v.).

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