Greetings to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing.
Hot bologna eggs and gravy may not sound like much of a meal unless ya happen to be a hillbilly eating breakfast on the 4th day of the seventh month in the restaurant of the Radisson Hotel in Paintsville KY. I am, and so it turned out to be the breakfast of champions, that hot bologna, eggs, and gravy.
Johnny and Jaimie, along with me and the She, had come to the mountains to feel a different kind of sunshine, to see a different kind of green, to walk a different kind of mile. And so we did.
As we walked from under the front awing of the Radisson Hotel, the sky was the bluest of blue. It seemed the closest white cloud was at least a thousand miles away. Or maybe they didn’t even allow white clouds in the State of Kentucky on a 4th of July Weekend.
Just two steps into the sunshine and you knew, you just knew, southern sunshine feels different on your skin. Now five hundred miles south of the EastWing may not seem like a great deal in the grand scheme of things. But that very small different angle of the sun makes a whole lot of difference when it comes to feeling the sunshine on your skin.
So off we went to Butcher Holler, the home place of Loretta Lynn. Have you not heard of Loretta Lynn, you’ve either lived in a cave or never heard of the State of Kentucky. Loretta Lynn is the single most recognized music performer from the State of Kentucky. And just up the road from Van Lear KY is Butcher Holler.
On the east side of the State of Kentucky is a highway that runs from Ashland to Pikeville and beyond. Highway 23 is a high speed road running along the backbone of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. This Kentucky road is officially named the “Country Music Highway” is light of all the music stars who came from the region served by this beautiful mountain highway. It was the towns along the way, Paintsville, Prestonsburg, Pikeville, and other sites where we visiting this weekend. Along the Country Music Highway are signs direction traffic to the turn off site to Butcher Holler. And so we turned.
Van Lear KY is a little larger than the smallest town you know, but not much so. We were able to transverse the Friday Morning Van Lear KY traffic without mishap. With Johnnie as the driver, displaying his city driving skills, honed on Chicago streets, we were in the capable hands of a chauffeur.
Per the direction of the sign, we turned left, and within a very short distance the roadway shrunk to about 3/4 it’s normal width, but we had a chauffeur. After a few miles off the Country Music Highway, we came upon an old three story building right out of tobacco road. The Webb Grocery Store.
Three men setting on the steps of the Webb Grocery Store greeted us in a most friendly manner. If they didn’t know how to whittle, they should learn, ‘cause the Webb Grocery Store steps looked like a fine place to whittle if ya ask me. They knew why were there. Much the same way they always know why every vehicle arriving in the parking lot of the Webb Grocery Store is there. The local folks walk to the store. Out of state people drive to, on the way up the holler.
Inside the Webb Grocery Store is 1945 all over the place. Most of what you see in the Webb Grocery Store is not for sale. At least according to the She. Several things caught the eye of the She. None were for sale. One particular item, a toy cash register from the late 40’s or 50’s. Not for sale. The She really wanted that cash register. Said she played with the same one as a little girl. Played store, made change.
Leaving the Webb Grocery Store we were confronted with a one lane bridge that should have been labeled a 3/4 lane bridge. Things would get tight from there. We reached a fork in the road. A large rock, with a hand pained sign and arrow pointing again to the left said “Butcher Holler”
Now don’t get any pretty pictures in your mind of a nicely painted rock sign. A poorly painted rock sign, yes. Unskilled at rock lettering was evident upon first glance of the Butcher Holler Rock. Unskilled as rock spelling was also evident. The Bucher Holler Rock could not qualify for Appalachian Art in anybody’s gallery. A quarter mile from the Butcher Holler Rock we came to the really bad part of the roadway.
Two weeks before we arrived there had been a flood in Butcher Holler. A part of the road had washed away. It was the “fall off side” of the road. Now for those folks that don’t understand how hillbillies describe roads, the fall off side of the road is the side that if you fall off that side, you go over the hill. And most of the time you would fall all the way to the water. Sometimes the distance to the water is great, sometimes not so much so. Either way, it’s never a good idea to fall off the side of the road.
Clearance was less than two foot for the car on the fall off side of road. Just another three hundred yards or so, and we were where Loretta Lynn was born, in a house on a hill in Butcher Holler.
Herman Webb gives the tour of the little house on the hill in Butcher Holler. For $5.00 you get to walk thru four rooms of a little mountain house, much the same as I lived in for the first 10 years when I too lived in the Kentucky Mountains. Herman is Loretta Lynn’s baby brother, and he also owns the Webb Grocery Store.
The neat thing about the house on the hill in Butcher Holler is nothing within is fake, it’s all just as it was a long time ago. Loretta Lynn is 82 years old. The contents of the little house reflects the Appalachian Poverty of that time. That same Appalachian Poverty is just apparent on out trek to Butcher Holler.
After Johnny drove past the fall off side of the bad road he gave a sigh of relief and said he was glad that spot was past us. And now with the She being the last family member to see Butcher Holler, we’ll not be back to this part of the mountains again. I agreed.
When we got back to the Country Music Highway, Johnny reprogrammed the GPS of Weeksbury KY.
Just a note before some purist gets on my case for spelling hollow as holler. I took my spelling from the rock.
Stay safe in Afghanistan.
From The EastWing, Hot Bologna Eggs and Gravy, Blue Sky, Sunsine,Bad Roads, Grocery Store and Butcher Holler
I Wish You Well,