SORRY FOR THE DELAY, ON VACATION, LD
Greeting to all and welcome new friends to the EastWing.
Four miles and 15 minutes after we left that little house on the hill in Butcher Holler, Johnny pulled to the side of the road and re-programmed the GPS System to lead us to Weeksbury KY. The system reported out thirty four miles and 69 minutes, causing Johnny to question the accuracy of the estimated time of travel which calculated out to be just a tick over 29 mph.
Having the iPad 2 with its own GPS App meant instant backup. And so I too programmed for Weeksbury KY on the iPad. 34 miles, 69 minutes. Still 29 mph on the iPad. With both distance and time confirmed we once again stepped back onto the Country Music Highway, south bound and down. One of the things about living in the flat lands of northern Indiana, when we travel on open roads we tend to move closer to 65 mph rather than 29 mph. We were to soon get a new appreciation for straight roads.
Our destination kept us on the big road for only a short time. Soon it was curve left and curve right and curve left and curve right,,, and now you know how all roads run in the mountains. The only other options were, from time to time, going up curve right and going up curve left then repeat the process when going downhill.
It seemed more like two hours to go the 34 miles as the GPS announced the arrival of Weeksbury. By the machine tracking yes, in the eyes of BobbyRay, not so much so. Not a single landmark was identifiable to me.
No railroad track ran beside the creek. The theater was gone. The grocery store was gone. The train depot was missing. The doctor office building was gone. Not a single thing did I recognize at the place the GPS said was Weeksbury KY. The school high up on the hill was not high up on the hill. Cement steps leading to nowhere were embedded into the mountainside. Cement steps leading to nowhere.
Silk Stocking Row was even gone. Silk Stocking Row had been a cluster of homes built after WWII by some of the locals who had worked in the industrial states to the north of Kentucky during the war effort. Then came back home and built several of the best and most modern homes in Weeksbury. At one time I lived on Silk Stocking Row. And now it’s gone.
An interesting fact about Kentucky and the draft of WWII. Kentucky did not draft a single person for the military during that time of war. The quota for Kentucky was always filled by volunteers. I still remember hearing my Uncle Robert tell the story of when he and his brother Burl, another uncle, “walked to the war”. At a time without cell phones, TV, internet, newspapers, and for many of the mountain people, even radio, news traveled at the speed of the local mail carrier. Mail moved by horse or mule and not always on a daily basis.
The attack on Perl Harbor occurred on a Sunday Morning. The news reached Uncle Robert the following Tuesday by the mail carrier. Two days later, on Thursday, the same mail carrier told of how the United Stated needed brave young men to fight for the country. The next day, Friday after the attack on Perl Harbor, my two uncles decided to go to the war. Being 12 miles from town and only horse power for transportation, they decided to just walk to town. While passing neighbors along the way, and relating the news to those not yet hearing of such, the numbers walking to the war grew. By the time my uncles got to town, they were accompanied by 30 other young men interested in fighting for the country. And so it was that the brave young men of the mountains went to war.
As the industrial war effort increased, the need for additional workers became more acute. Much the same as the young mountain men, the young mountain women went north into such places as Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and, Indiana. When the letters returned home, towns likes Akron, Detroit, Chicago, South Bend, and LaPorte became household words in the mountains.
Far away places were now home to a new workforce of mountain women, who came to help win the war.
When the war ended most came home. Some remained, to this very day marked by a granite cross, over there not too far from where they fought and died on the sandy beaches of France. The mountain girls came home and some came back to Weeksbury and built Sick Stocking Row. And now it’s too gone away.
All the memory of my childhood in Weeksbury changed before my eyes. Replaced by the most dismal poverty one could ever imagine. The very heart and soul of Appalachian Poverty beat right here at Weeksbury KY on that 4th day of the seventh month in 2014. You’ve heard the old saying “Ya can never go home again”. Well you can, but you may wish you didn’t go . Some things in life are best left on the back roads of you memory. There forever in the sunshine of summer playing with Tommy Tucker, on the back roads…… I still don’t know if it was a tear of sadness, or happiness that I’d escaped life in Weeksbury.
As Johnny turned around and drove away, I never looked back. There was nothing else to see. It was too late, I’d seen it all. My thoughts turned to the rest of the day. We had places to go and things to do. So we needed to get back to the Country Music Highway as soon as possible. Not liking the GPS routing, while being navigator for Johnny, I pulled out the paper map. Within seconds found what appeared to be a really close way to connect back to US 23. And so we turned toward the Country Music Highway.
Within two miles the memory of this road came rushing back. I hated it then, and I was hating it now. We had started the steep climb up Abner Mountain. Now this is not the tallest mountain in Kentucky. It ranks right up there as the steepest climb. A summit of some 1,800 ft. does not put it into any mountain record books. But if you have a height thing like I do, 1,800 ft is much like walking where the eagles fly.
Curving up and curving up and curving up and then down the other side. I’d crossed this mountain many times as a child. We had to cross Abner Mountain every time we went to South Fork. I loved going to South Fork, hated crossing the mountain. The real down side of that July 4th day, I had to cross Abner Mountain and was not on my way to South Fork.
I did once again survive the crossing of Abner Mountain. The beautiful She, not nearly so much so. Maybe it was the curves and climbing up and over. Or maybe it was being up where the eagles fly. In any event, a short stop along the way, a little fresh mountain air and we’re off again. I offered to change seats with the She so she could sit in front. The She said no. When the She says no and I’m 1,800 ft in the sky, I don’t push the matter.
Not a minute too soon, we reach the Country Music Highway, and we’re off to play somewhere anew in the beautiful mountains of southeastern Kentucky. It’s Pikeville here we come. It’s just up the road. We didn’t even stop in Pikeville, just drove all over the little town and turned the GPS for Jenny Wiley State Park. We did decide the next time we come to the hills to play, we’ll stay in downtown Pikeville.
Lunch at the Jenny Wiley State Park is such a special treat. Beautiful lodge. A spectacular view from the top of the mountain. A beautiful luncheon buffet. Setting outside on the balcony while watching the parade of boats on a high mountain lake some 500 feet below makes for a fun time.
After lunch it’s on the road again. “Bull Creek Traders” is a flea market between Jenny Wiley State Park and Prestonsburg. Of course we stopped. It being the holiday, about half of the booths were empty. One of the vendors assured us that “tomorrow” this place will be packed. After a complete walk thru, we decided to come back the next day.
On the way back to the hotel we passed several other smaller flea markets. Passed them all by as we were saving ourselves for the Bull Creek Traders adventure come Saturday Morning. After a rather full day of ridge running in the beautiful green mountains, Me and the She took a nap before dinner later that evening back to Prestonsburg.
Reno’s Steak House sits just below what I call the “Walmart of the Mountain” at Prestonsburg. A half mile or so from Reno’s we encountered people pulling to the side of the highway. Setting up lawn chairs and charcoal grills along the way led me to believe these folks were planning on staying a while.
From our dining table inside Reno’s we could see cars continuing to pull to the side of the road and set up chairs, tables, grills, open coolers and start the party. I asked our server why such was happening. She said “Why they’re getting a good seat for the fireworks. You’ll be able to see ‘em from right outside.” About 9:30 we walked outside to a pretty much standing room only parking lot.
Seems those gathered could not wait for the official start of the Prestonsburg Fireworks. They brought their own, with some being homemade. Those you could tell, not too much in color but heavy on sound. Not wanting to stand for the Prestonsburg Fireworks, Johnny and I removed an iron bench from Reno’s front porch and placed it in the parking lot. Me and the She sat in the middle of ringside as the local folks celebrated the 4th of July mountain style.
45 minutes of nonstop fireworks. I was impressed, real impressed. In Indiana fireworks are shot from the same level as the crowd. In Prestonsburg fireworks are shot from the top of the mountain. That brings a whole new dimension to the show. No wonder the folks pulled off the highway, set up the party, cooked their supper, drank their beer and waited. It was worth the wait.
It was right at 11 o’clock in the PM when we arrived back at the hotel in Paintsville. We agreed on time for breakfast in the morning and were on our way to sleep as I thought “WOW! And we’ve got two more days to go!
Stay safe in Afghanistan
From The EastWing, Weeksbury, Pikeville, Jenny Wiley, Bull Creek Traders, Reno’s & Fireworks In The Mountains
I Wish You Well