Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bridge Over Greasy Creek

Curved Bridge
Bridges allow people and vehicles to cross rivers, creeks, gullies, etc. and have existed since early man didn't want to get his feet wet.
   Greasy Creek flows into Lake Cumberland and is one of the many stream that contributes to this huge artificial water resource created as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Greasy is located outside of Jamestown, the county seat of Russell County, KY central home to Nash Black's fictional Ono County.
   There have been four bridges over Greasy Creek, all in near the same general location. Foundations of the first bridge are still visible on the banks, but the second bridge is the unique structure.
   Down a short lane, abandoned to general usage is a curved bridge. The only other structure like it, in Kentucky, that I know of is still in use. It was built to span a creek by the Kiwanis Club on the road from Corbin, KY to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, home to the only moonbow in the United States. Both structures are sturdy concrete spans similar in style and construction. My guess is they may have been designed by the same engineer.
   If you get out of your car and climb down beside the bridge you will see that its foundations, super structure, and pilings are still sound despite being subjected to occasional floods when lake levels push water up into Greasy Creek. I've seen the water so high it covered the bed of the bridge. Bank fishermen love to cast a line from the old bridge when the water is high and clear.
  When you turn away from the curved bridge you are facing the bridge that leads to Jamestown from the 127 By-pass. Looking up you will see where lower grade concrete was used in its construction. The pillars that support the bridge are crumbling away exposing the steel cabling. The damage extends down from the bed for an estimated 10 to 12 feet. High water marks are below the damage, but barely visible in the above photograph. The decomposition is the result of  weathering of the inferior materials. This bridge is in use everyday by cars and large trucks as the highway is old 127 to and from Jamestown.
   A sleek new span crosses Greasy Creek on the Bypass and is a lovely site reflected in the waters below the span of the modern superhighway. It takes a four-wheel drive to get to, but it is a fun way to spend a sunny afternoon if you like bridges, history, and change.
   Greasy Creek was named from ancestors who used the waters to clean the hides of bears and other fur-bearing animals they hunted in the woods of early Kentucky. They were the original polluters who left the carcasses of their kills to rot in the creek, taking only a few cuts for eating and the hides. Another common name given to streams where hunters left their prey was Stinking Creek. It doesn't take imagination to know the source of that name.
   Russell County may not have a covered bridge, but it does have a curved bridge which deserves consideration of preserving though it seems to be doing very well on its own.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


 Oh, those summer days and nights before air conditioning or when the unit goes on the blink, which you can count on when you need it the most. Out comes the old electric fans, both standing and window type to substitute for heat pumps. We sit directly in front of them to catch a flow of cool air.
   How many of you have an old hand fan stuck around somewhere in case of need? I keep one on the table beside my chair for when an unexpected hot flash hits even during the winter.
   Hot weather means fans. They have existed for centuries - the frescoes of the ancient Egyptians show slaves waving palm fronds to cool their masters. Homes had ceiling fans that operated on pulleys to send a small breeze down to the floor. Women carried folding fans by a strap on their wrists to provide themselves with a little refreshment and during the late seventeenth century it was fashionable for men to carry fans.
   Southern ladies "glow," they don't sweat. I don't know how often I heard that comment, especially when there were drops of water dripping off my nose. I've never been considered a 'lady.' Perspire is a polite term to describe my summer condition, especially when I'm standing outside with the sun beaming down on my head - my hair gets soaked and then it works down until my clothes are drippy wet.
   "Before air conditioning" all public place had hand fans for their patrons use: churches, funeral homes, libraries, courthouses, and other buildings. At church they were placed within easy reach with the hymnals. Fans provided for public use were an excellent means of advertising and were well utilized by local firms. Today those advertising fans still in good shape are rare collectors items.
   The Internet and Pinterest are excellent sources for a collector of rare antique fans. Mine as the photo illustrates are the utilitarian variety, but I do have several fragile old ones that I've inherited.
   Schools were murder, especially on the west side of the building on the top floor. The library (a later edition) was the only place besides the principal's office that was air conditioned. I had more class traffic when school began and near the end when most of the term papers were written and the teachers could cool off for a while. Many of you can remember when school didn't start until after Labor Day then hopefully the weather had cool a bit.
   A friend had a marvelous photo on her Facebook page when their air conditioner went out. A woman's eyes over the edge of her fan was a fantastic way to flirt and not get really serious about making contact with an individual. Fans also hid a smile when one was not practical for the occasion.
   Poets have written 'odes' on many memorable subjects, but I can't recall ever seeing one on the essential fan for summer evenings on the porch.   

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Watermelon Pickles

Watermelon Pickles
High summer and nothing invokes memories like a cold slice of watermelon.
   Remember sitting on the steps spitting seeds out into the yard or braving forks to get the heart first. You were not allowed in the house while eating the sticky mess that crunched in your mouth. Girls were warned that if they swallowed a watermelon seed they would get pregnant though I'm not sure we knew what the word meant at so early age.
  Then came food designers whose talented knives and scoops produced lovely baskets filled with melon balls. Okay, they took hours to create and looked pretty on a table, but somehow they didn't taste as good as a slice or quarter sprinkled with salt that you sunk your teeth into and smeared all over your face while the juice ran down your chin.
   Today I wouldn't be surprised to see "blue" melons in the grocery as so many changes have evolved in the production of a favorite fruit since it was long with green strips or round with a dark green skin. Today's kids don't experience the joy of having the first one of the season from the garden and that's a shame.
   A southern treat are watermelon rind pickles served with pork chops or fried chicken in the dead of winter. Their spicy taste brings back memories of hot summer afternoons. My dad loved them and my mother could think of numerous reasons not to make them. I discovered when I made them why she avoided the project. The rind is hard to peel and it takes skill not to slice your hand.
   This is my grandmother Black's recipe and has been in our family for over 100 years. Gran grew up in Mississippi and moved to Dawson Springs, KY as a young bride with small children in 1909.

Watermelon Rind Pickles
1/2 large watermelon
1/2 cup of salt
4 cups cold water
5 cups sugar
3 cups vinegar
2 thin lemon slices
2 then lime slices
5 pieces stick cinnamon
1 tablespoon whole cloves
1 tablespoon whole all-spice
   Collect rinds. Peel off the skin and discard. Cut rind into cubes. Combine with salt and four cups cold water. Cover bowl and soak overnight.
Drain melon rind & cover with fresh water in a large stainless steel kettle or enamel ware with no chips. Heat to boiling.
Simmer until tender (15 minutes), drain and set aside.
Combine sugar, vinegar, lemon, & lime in same kettle. Tie spices in a piece of cheese cloth. Add to the kettle.
Heat to boiling over medium heat (20 minutes) or until thickened and syrupy.
Add rind, a cup at a time. Slowly simmer until rind is clear and glossy (20 minutes).
Remove spice bag. Ladle into hot sterilized jars, cover with syrup, and seal. I use a hot water bath for 20 minutes or until the lids pop. Makes 7 to 8 1/2 pints. 

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Declaration of Independence

 Our national birthday is Monday, July 4, 2016. We are 240 years old. Celebrate with all the exuberance of exploding Roman candles. The Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776.
   John Hancock, president of the congress signed his name in big bold letters so King George III of England could read it without his glasses so the story goes. Only two signers eventually became president of the United States. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Interestingly, they both died on July 4, 1826 the year the fledgling country they virtually created celebrated its 50th birthday.
   John Adams was the major force behind the writing of the constitution and it basically follows the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which Adams wrote. The Massachusetts' constitution is the oldest living constitution in existence.
   The Declaration of Independence was created almost wholly by Thomas Jefferson. A strange and interesting fact is that on the same day (July 4, 1776) in Scotland a book was published: The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.
   Mr. Smith's book has the phrase, "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the ownership of property . . ." This same phrase is in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence with a small change, yet the two men never met or corresponded in life.
   When I visited Monticello, in the basement was a case containing an original working copy of the declaration with cross-outs, insertions, and marginal notes. Jefferson had first written "the ownership of property" crossed it out and inserted "the pursuit of happiness." Today the Declaration is held to be a major world document of freedom and herald the birth of a new nation. The Wealth of Nations is recognized as the bible of capitalism, the foundation of the economic system of that new nation.
   Jefferson was a redhead with a temper to match, who could blow a fuse in an instant  and in the next breath extinguish the personal explosion. A careful reading of The Declaration of Independence brilliantly illustrates this facet of his famous personality.
   The first two paragraphs pour forth with smooth eloquent tone, style, and phraseology. His sentences become shorter and more precise ranging to blunt in the middle dispensing with the formal word "he" as if this passionate fiery young man is shaking his fist in the face of the king. Then he reverts back to the "he" for cooler, calmer statements and ends the document with two paragraphs in the same formal style as the beginning.
   Read it for yourself. Would you risk all you possess to sign it? A librarian friend of mine typed out a copy and took it to a park in Philadelphia where the original was signed. After asking over 300 people he managed to obtain 21 signatures, which didn't equal the 36 who did.
  Celebrate - celebrate. Wave the red, white, and blue, light the firecrackers, picnic with friends and family, watch the parades, and remember the men who granted you the privilege of celebrating the anniversary of the birth of a nation - 240 years of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Keep it safe for the next generation.

   "I gave you a Republic. It is up to you to keep it." Benjamin Franklin was in France laying the foundation for what was to come and didn't sign the Declaration.