Sunday, August 7, 2011

695. Fancy Farm, 2011. One of two unrelated entries.

I've been going to Fancy Farm off-an-on since I was about 18 - mostly on. Most everyone is attracted to the tiny little town in far-western Kentucky because of the political histrionics displayed by the candidates who are, for the most part, less histrionically inclined in most other situations. The Tea Party-Republican candidate for Secretary of State may be an exception to that generalisation - he seems to be histrionically inclined at all times.

Besides the politics there is, of course, the food. I've written about this in years past. One should not engage in the fun and frolic of Fancy Farm if one is watching their weight or waistline. Beginning on Thursday, perhaps earlier, and continuing through to at least Saturday evening, there is no excuse to be hungry as there are events galore where food is to be had in plenty, sometimes for a few pieces of silver, and often for no silver at all. Clearly this year's food-extravanga was the Alison Lundergan Grimes party on Executive Drive late on Friday night after the Marshall County Bean Dinner.

The other reason to go, the most important, is the chance to see, chat, hug, eat, and otherwise engage and be entertained by friends, and even political opponents from across the Commonwealth, sometimes friends you only see once a year.

All of these reasons sufficed for me to make it down to this year's picnic. But, I have to admit, as many of you know, I also go simply for the drive. My Facebook friends are aware from my posts over on that medium that I've not enjoyed this summer as well as I should have, due to a number of complications which have mostly had me mentally fatigued. Those have continued into this first week of August, so the ride itself, which, according to Google, should be 236 miles each way, is one of my compelling reasons to make the journey. By the way, it has never taken me only 236 miles to get there, and it has certainly never taken me only 236 miles to return, as I have that rule about never going-and-coming the same way. Other than the 88 miles between here and Caneyville along I-65 and the WK Parkway, I adhered to that rule.

So the trip began, as stated, along 65 South and the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway, the standard route to anywhere in the western part of Kentucky, the exception being Western Kentucky University, which is either misnamed or mislocated, as it is clearly not in western Kentucky, but more in southern Kentucky. Poignantly, as I passed Exit #107 at Leitchfiled, I thought of my friend Rob. His girlfriend's grandparents had a place at the lake on Nolin, a place the three of us often sojourned to, or, in some cases, a place I went to gather him up when she was staying for the week, but he had to return to Louisville for work or school. KY259 south was the beginning of the path one took, and still may take, to find Conoloway and the Just family getaway located there.

I continued westward on the WK, though not the entire length, as I usually depart for the "old road" a few miles before the 137 mile parkway comes to an end at Interstate 24. A side note, the WK is almost the exact same length from Elizabethtown to Eddyville, or start to finish, as I-65 is from the Tennessee line to the Indiana line. My departure from the parkway was at Princeton. I was tempted to leave the road a few miles earlier at the Dawson Springs exit, #24, so as to venture through the ancestral hometown of Kentucky's governor, Steve Beshear. But, I didn't. I drove into and through Princeotn, meaning to continue south on KY293, past the Caldwell Chapel and through the town of Saratoga, as I wanted to at least see, if not drive up into, the Mineral Mounds State Park, a place I've never visited.

Somehow, I missed the turn or, perhaps, made an incorrect turn, and instead found myself on US62, westbound, a road I've travelled many times. It was just as well, as I also wanted to say hello to a friend who lives in Eddyville, and this road, as well as the other one I didn't take, eventually led just past his house on Lake Barkley Drive, which is actually in Kuttawa, or even Old Kuttawa, a few miles west of Eddyville. We visited long enough for him to have a beer and me a glass of Sweet Tea. He was undecided on whether he would make it "all the way over to Fancy Farm" as he put it. Thus, I departed.

My overnight accomodations were at the Days Inn-Calvert City, a place I've overnighted before fairly successfully. I arrived amidst a heavy downpour of rain. Getting there from Old Kuttawa requires crossing the Cumberland and the Tennessee from the Pennyrile area of Kentucky into the Purchase area of Kentucky, each name representing a geographical area with non-geographic names. Sometime we'll go into that - I've explained "The Purchase" in a previous entry. Crossing the Cumberland and crossing the Tennessee inspired the entry I intend to write following this one, the second of two unrelated entries, as noted in the title.

I will note that crossing the Tennessee isn't nearly as inspirational on the new bridge as it was on the old bridge, where you were actually atop the Kentucky Dam with the wide and wonderful waters of Kentucky Lake clearly in view immediately to the left, or southern side of the highway/dam. The new road and bridge is just north of there and to be honest, I could not even tell you if the bridge is beautiful or not as I was looking over at the backside of the dam, where you could plainly see the water level of the lake versus the water level of the river, well below the dam. Interesting, but not inspiring.

The first stop of the night was the Marshall County Bean Dinner, an annual fundraiser for the Marshall County Democratic Party, where they confer awards on their friends and reward the rest of us with an interesting dinner of bean soup (which was excellent), cornbread (sweet and not-sweet), watermelon, banana-pepper salad, and iced tea (again, sweet and not-sweet), along with a barrage of speakers warming up for tomorrow's big day, all presided over by the tall and handsome Will Coursey, who represents the area in the General Assembly in Frankfort. There is also a silent auction quietly going on over on the tables along the wall. I entered several bids but each was outbid. At the dinner I sat with my friend Kathy Jo Stubblefield, a retired school teacher from Calloway County, one county south of where we were. It was good to catch up with Kathy Jo.

Later that night, it is tradition to attend parties in the Executive Cabins, located a bit west of the lodge where the dinner is held. It was my intention to visit at least two parties in these cabins - not cabins at all as each has three or four bedrooms. I only made it to one. But before I got there, I did my traditional foot-dipping. I have a tradition of sticking at least my feet, if not more of my body, into the great bodies of water which I cross in my travels. From Executive Drive, I wandered down to the marina, shed my shoes and socks, and wandered on a boat dock about twelve feet out into the waters of if not the Tennessee River, at least the Kentucky Lake, formed by the damming of the river.

From this ceremonial event, I began my night at the Alison Lundergan Grimes cabin and party, a place I really never got away from for the rest of the night. Most of these parties have finger foods, some barbecue, maybe hamburgers and hotdogs, and most anything you may wish to drink, from diet Dr. Pepper to little mason jars of white lightning brought from unnamed friends and unnamed places, and beer.

But, Alison Grimes has as her father Jerry Lundergan, a well-known Lexington caterer and politcian, and a dear friend of mine. And Jerry doesn't do anything by halves and this cabin lawn party was no expecption. Food was a buffet of breakfast food - bacon, sausages, biscuits and gravy, fruit, strip steaks, scrambled eggs, hashed brown potatoes, and salsa. All you can eat. I ate a lot. Music was provded by a young foursome of kids singing rock-a-billy songs at the start - an interesting cover of Blue Moon of Kentucky - and later morphed into some jazz and fusion, and even later was just a jam session of sorts. The crowd kept growing and growing and I estimated it about 150 when a large tour bus arrived from ACFSME, swelling the numbers. Later in the night I counted, at one point, 250 - easily the largest of these afterparties anywhere in the area and at anytime in my memory. If Alison spoke, I don't remember, this despite the fact that I was only drinking Sierra Mists. I finally made my way over to her and lamented that I was tired and it was time for me to leave. And so I did.

There are usually two stops on Saturday morning, both involving food and both in Mayfield, the county seat of Graves County, with Fancy Farm located a few miles to the west. The earlier one is the annual Graves County Democratic Party Breakfast, another fundraiser, held at the Mayfield High School on the east side of the city. Somehow, I managed to missed it as I had slept in with the rain falling and a late night the night before. I enjoyed the extra hour or so of doing nothing.

I did eventually arise and took a circuitous route toward Mayfield, stopping first in the Marshall County seat of Benton, where the clock-steepled court house sits atop a high hill at the corner of 11th and Main Streets. Directly across the court square on the back side of the court house is the Marshall County Republican Party headquarters. While the local government is decidedly Democratic, under the long-time control of Coumty Judge/Executive Mike Miller, the county's federal votes nearly always go to the Republican Party. I'm hopeful that the new and young blood I've seen at Party events will reverse that trend, which at this point isn't a trend, simply a fact.

I left Benton along KY58 to the south which just west of the Brewers community joins up with the old route of KY80, Kentucky's southern parkway. There is a new KY80 in town and this old section, from Brewers west to Mayfield is now, simply, KY58. The old KY80 to the east at Aurora, is now KY402. My destination in Mayfield was the Fayette County Democratic Party Breakfast, a free event, held at a banquet hall on the northeast side of the city. I began the event with a State Party By-Laws discussion with George Mills, a Lexington atrorney and one of the co-hosts of the event. There for the food was a polite table of shrimp, sausage filled mushroom caps, bacon-wrapped potatoes, fruit, and a variety of drinks, including an orange juice with a little punch to it, something I wasn't expecting but didn't mind. I was joined by my friend Elizabeth Sawyer, of Louisville, and recently appointed as the new Executive Director of Emerge Kentucky. We sat and listened to speeches by First Lady Jane Beshear, former Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson, the current Secretary of State Elaine Walker, and all the Democratic nominees for the statewide offices, again, all prepping for the speeches later in the day, all probably repeating the speeches they had given an hour earlier at the Graves County Breakfast, and may give yet again at the Chamber of Commerce Brunch, before trekking the thirteen miles westward on KY80 to the village of Fancy Farm, the parish of Saint Jerome, and the reason for the entire trip.

Ok, I didn't go west on KY80, because I knew when I left, I'd be driving eastward back towards Mayfield. I left Mayfield a few miles to the north, then west on KY121, a long diagonally-running highway which crosses the Purchase from Wickliffe in the west in Ballard County, and ending at Fort Heiman in the east on the Calloway County line with Henry County, Tennessee - although much of it between Mayfield and Murray has been replaced by the new KY80. More on that later,

KY121 heads northwest and is crossed by KY339, the road from Lone Oak in McCracken County to near Cooksville in Graves County. About halfway along that route is our destination city, or village, Fancy Farm. The event, for the uninformed, as actually a political speaking encapsulated by a typical summer Catholic festival, in this case, the Saint Jerome Catholic Picnic. So, along with the speechifying are games of chance (pulltabs), bingo, and lots of food - and really good food, most especially mutton and pork sandwiches which can be lathered with the ubiquitous contents of Fancy Farm's own bar-be-cue sauce which are everywhere to be found. The best deal of the day, although for the first time in many years one I did not take part in, is the all-you-can-eat dinner in the Knights of Columbus hall located in the rear of the church grounds. You can read about this in previous years' entries.

The speaking began with a prayer from Owensboro Bishop Bill Medley, afterwhich political histrionics ruled the day. I won't go into them here. I usually begin my departure shortly after the speeches begin. Along my way out, I spotted my friend Greg Anderson of Murray and we chatted briefly promising to keep in touch, a promise I hope we both keep. My favorite line of the afrernoon wasn't all that rude or smartaleck, although many were, especially from the Dark Side of the Aisle. It came from the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Richie Farmer, who needs no other introduction. Of his Democratic opponent, former Louisville mayor Jrry Abramson, he said "Jerry has been mayor of Louisville for 316 years." Well, it wasn't that long, but it was a long time, from 1986 to 2011, saving four short years under Dave Armstrong, who was Louisville's best mayor in decades.

Most of the rest of the speaking was barbs and theatrics, although I was quietly shocked by the Republican Secretary of State's suggestions that homeless American citizens should be denied the right to vote. No American citizen who isn't otherwise barred from voting should be openly denied the right to vote. For a candidate for Secretary of State, the office in charge of elections, to call for a denial of the right to vote to otherwise eligible American citizens is unfathomable, perhaps even treasonous. We have penalties for treason. Denial of the right to vote should not be a penalty for homelessness. I have stronly supported my friend Alison Lundergan Grimes since she began her campaign for Secretary of State. If anyone hasn't yet found a reason to support her, I would suggest that the stance of denying American citizens the right to vote due to homeslessness is a good reason not to support her opponent. His speech made me livid and I really didn't hear much after that. So, I left.

One more note before I leave the picnic grounds. I had noticed several - many - people, young and old, walking around with little puppies. While that's something I expect on Bardstown Road, it seemed oddly out of place there. Eventually, I stopped a teenager, a sophomore at Graves County High School so his t-shirt read, and asked about the puppies. He informed me that the local Humane Society had made available for adoption about 100 puppies which would otherwise be euthanized in the near future. He also informed me that all the puppies, including the one in his protective arms, were adopted. While I am not a "dog person" and have not followed as closely as perhaps I should have the discord surrounding the Louisville Metro Animal Service, I found this work in Graves County to be the best news of the day.

One more note - for the first itme in memory it wasn't unbearably hot and there was a vry brisk, if warm, wind, something never before experienced. So, the weather was unusualy cooperative.

As planned, I left Fancy Farm along KY80 east back to Mayfield. For the past several years, the Commonwealth has been constructing a new fourlane KY80 between Mayfield, Murray, and the old one at Kenlake State Park. It is now finished and I wanted to drive it for no other reason than I hadn't heretofore. The new highway from Mayfield to Murray largely follows the route of KY121. From Murray eastward, it follows just north of KY94, which it generally replaces. It rejoins its former self at Aurora with the intersection of US68, where eastward, my direction, one crosses the Eggner Ferry Bridge over the Tennessee River and Kentucky Lake into Trigg County and the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area. The highway through the eight miles of vacant land in this former TVA reserve has also been rebuilt and greatly widened. Just before leaving the area, I stopped at Elbow Bay, a bay of Lake Barkley on the Cumberland River, and repeated the tradition of foot-dipping in the great waters. This task completed, I ventured across the Henry R. Lawrence Memorial Bridge, through Canton, past Lake Barkley State Park, and into downtown Cadiz.

Downtown Cadiz sits atop a long hill at the top of which are two opposing court houses, old and new. The old one appears to be me to be an old bank. While I do not remember this for certain, I believe the new building was buit on the site of a much older court house. Maybe, maybe not. I stayed on the mutti-plexed US68/KY80 through the business community of Montgomery at the intersection with I-24, and then into Christian County, where the town of Gracey sits off to the south along the old highway route. Were it not for Hopkinsville sitting right in the middle of it, Us68/KY80 in Christian County is essentially a long straight four-lane highway, leaving Christian and entering Todd at the village of Fairview, again off to the south along the old route, and at the state historic site of an obelisk honoring the birthplace of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate State of America, those elements in rebellion to the United States from 1861 to 1865, although it seems in some corners, the Old South has yet to give up the ghost. My dear friend Preston Bates once called me as he was visitng this site. As a measure of friendship, I pulled up into the park and returned his call. I had taken his; he didn't mine.

Us68/KY80 continues its rarely curving passage through Todd County, past the town of Elkton, again off to the south, which serves as the county seat. The road is known through here as the Jefferson Davis Highway. Down into Miller Vally past Daysville, we cross out of Todd and into Logan. THe road turns decidedly northeasterly as you head into the county seat of Russellville. At Russellville, I left US68/KY80 and took in its place the northeasterly route of KY79. To be honest, I do not ever remembering travelling this road before between Russellville and Morgantown, so this was to be a small adventure. It is a fairly good two lane road up and down the hills and valleys of northern Logan County, past Hancock Lake, and through Chandler's Chapel, through Costelow and as you come up a hill past two bald knobs - curious looking and worth doing some research upon - into Butler County. At the top of the hill is the rural crossroads hamlet of, appropriately, Davis Crossroads, with rolling hills to the east and a valley to the west. Again, this was all virgin territory for me, so I was taking extensive mental notes. The still up-and-down pattern continued almost to the route's junction with US231, just south of 231's intersection with the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway, itself just south of the county seat at Morgantown.

I've always thought the court house at Morgantown looked like an Ivy League college campus building built in the early part of the 20th century. It is brick, not very tall, and long - ranch-like in design, with an expansive yard all around. It may be because the building is not so imposing that the grounds seems to be so expansive. Its college-like atmosphere was calming for me, as I seem to be more content when I am on a college campus, whether real or otherwise, as is the case here. The main road out of town turns westward and down a hill before veering northward across the Green River and into the mostly residential area known as Aberdeen. No, I did no foot-dipping at Aberdeen, Kentucky, although I have at Aberdeen, Ohio, but into a different waterway. But, I digress.

At Aberdeen, I stayed with KY79 toward Caneyville as opposed to US231 toward Beaver Dam and Ohio County, the county of my new young Democratic friend Tim Morris, a a native of Horse Branch, which sits along the Paducah and Louisville Railway at its junction with another railway off to the north. KY79 continues the up-and-down pattern through the communities of Flenor, Welcome, and Welch's Creek, all hardly noticeable, and crossing into far southwestern Grayson County just shy of Dog Creek. A couple more miles steadily up a very slight hill brings you to KY79's intersection with the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway. As I said at the beginning, this last 88 miles are simply the reversal of the first 88 and I won't bore you, as I'm sure I have so far, with any more narrative.

The short version would be "it was a nice long drive with plenty to eat, but now I'm back home." Thanks Be To God.

1 comment:

Curtis Morrison said...

That is refreshing to hear about those kids from Graves County High School.
Can't wait until the next time you screen my call, Jeff. I'm so going to note it in my blog. :-)

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.