Moonshine and tomaters

(Written Wednesday, posted Thursday, due to lack of internet connection) Since I wrote a very long and emotional blog yesterday, I thought I’d spend today posting some of the pictures we’ve taken here in Elkhorn City, KY, with some light commentary. This really is a wonderful place. You wouldn’t think a coal mining town would be where you’d want to spend your vacation, but Jeff and I are both having a terrific time seeing the sights and meeting the locals.

The people we’ve met have been SOOOOO nice, and most of them know and admire his dad. I just adore the eastern Kentucky accent. I wonder what Jeff and I must sound like to them. Have you ever seen the movie Coalminer’s Daughter? The people here talk just like Loretta and Doolittle Lynn. She was from this part of the country, about two hours north of here, from Van Lear, KY in an area called Butcher Holler. We asked Dave, our neighbor here (and also a friend of Doug’s), what a holler is and he explained that it’s where two mountains come together and make sort of a dead-end valley. You know, it’s holler (hollow).

My favorite example of the accent comes from my trip to the post office. The incredibly sweet and friendly woman at the counter decided I needed some fancy stamps, since I was mailing cards. She said, “I lahk puttin’ purty staymps own cards. Here’s yew a dowg.” (Here’s you a dog.) And then she put a dog stamp on my envelope. I’m still grinning, hours later, just thinking about how cute that was.

I digress. Here are the pics. Some of these pictures tell their own story. For example, this one needs no explanation:

This is the main intersection in Elkhorn, at Route 80 (also known as Patty Loveless Drive. She apparently grew up here, before moving on to seek fortune and fame in the recording industry. She is also apparently related to Loretta Lynn.).

You can see the back of the Rusty Fork restaurant, where I have to go for my Wifi internet access to post these blogs and check email since Virgin Mobile doesn’t give us a signal here.

See? I told you! Patty Loveless Dr.

If you come down the hill, this is the view from the parking lot of the Rusty Fork, right next to Patty Loveless Dr.

And if you go inside, you’ll see one of Patty Loveless’ signed record covers, next to pictures of New Jerusalem and the Dowden Sisters. Kids, records were what we old people used to play on a turntable when we wanted to listen to music.

Across the bridge and down Main Street, you’ll find the Elkhorn City Railroad Museum. Once again, this picture explains itself. The museum is small and quaint, of course.

When we went inside, there were a bunch of old timers sitting in rocking chairs, chewing the fat, just like an episode of Andy Griffith. They recognized Jeff as “John Doug’s boy” and welcomed us like we were family.

This is just a really pretty picture of one of the RR bridges.

Around the corner from the RR museum, you’ll find this mural painted on the wall.

And up the road, on the way to Pikeville (pronounced Pahk-vuhl), which is the place you go when you need to buy more than the basic necessities of life, you’ll find Belcher, KY.

But back in Elkhorn, you can still buy good bread.

We saw thousands of birds on these wires. The camera couldn’t even cover the whole scene without being too far away to tell that they were coated with birds.

This morning we took a motorcycle ride to Breaks Interstate Park, across the state line (only about eight miles away) in Virginia. Along the way, you will see this.

We, of course, had to take a couple of pics of us, since we both look so snazzy in our leather jackets.

We enjoyed a gorgeous drive in gorgeous weather and saw some gorgeous deer, which ran away too quickly for me to get a gorgeous picture.

Look! The sign says there’s a Farmer’s Market here today!

I guess no one told the farmers.

You can rent a spectacular cabin at the Breaks, but I mostly coveted these amazingly huge rocking chairs. You can’t see how big they are in this picture, but you could probably fit two average sized adults in one of these. I’m not saying it would be comfortable, but you could do it.

We stopped at the Stateline Overlook (elevation 1760 feet). This is where Pa’s ashes were scattered (read the previous blog for that story).

It’s kind of hard to tell, from this picture, what you’re looking at from the map photo above, so I’ve added some visual aids.

The yellow line on the right is Route 80, and the one on the left is the train tracks that you will see in the next picture.

While we were there, an enormously long coal train came by. We estimated it to be over a mile long.

It had two engines pulling and two, at the end, pushing. We wondered if it took all the coal in the cars just to power the train for this mighty job.

A nice lady offered to take a picture of both of us, and since she didn’t look like she’d make off with the camera … or if she did, we could take her … we posed for a pic.

Back down the mountain in Elkhorn, here is another bit of local history.

Here is the local grocery store. You can get pretty much everything you need here, including cans of pork brains in milk gravy. Mmmmmmmmmm … them’s good eatin’!

They have some interesting elections here.

Vote for Jesus, or vote for Fuzzy Keesee? Or just vote NO!

Just for the record, that Vote NO sign has been there since last year. NO won. This is now a dry county.

We saw the Hatfield McCoy Car Wash, ironically enough, while listening to a debate on the radio about the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Can’t we all just get along? (The Hatfield/McCoy feud happened near here.)

We went back to the cemetery after our trip to the Breaks to check on our work from yesterday (ya know, make sure we didn’t leave anything there, pat ourselves on the back for all the hard work, etc.) and wandered around looking at all the gravestones. What a fascinating place! It became very obvious that one either lives forever in Elkhorn, or not long at all. Please note that the cemetery is named after William Ramey, the founder of Elkhorn who was mentioned in the first picture I posted.

In case you forgot, he was the town founder.

His parents were buried here, too. Those brown stones were the original grave markers. You can’t see in the photo, but they are carved with names.

Neither condoning, nor condemning … it is what it was … the Rameys apparently cared enough about their slaves to bury them in the family plot.

Those river rocks are the servants’ graves.

Many families used river rocks, back in those days, as you can see all the way up the hill.

Here is a clearer photo of Jeff’s dad’s stone. I didn’t post a close-up yesterday.

And here is Doug’s Uncle Log. Yes, his name was Log (pronounced Lowg).

Here are some river rocks marked with the names of Jeff’s uncle and twin aunts, who died as children. Life must have been very hard back then. You’ll note that Mary Lou died the day she was born (or was stillborn?), Betty Sue died at two, while their mother was pregnant with Jimmy. Jimmy died just a few months after his first birthday. Jeff’s dad was born in 1938, so he never knew these siblings.

This one tells a fascinating story!
Rebecca Tacket, wife of Levi Sykes.
Born August 24, 1878.
Shot March 14, 1908.
Died March 16, 1908.

The inscription reads:
Oh Becca, how it grieves our heart,
From you, so suddenly to part.
But trusting in the God that’s true,
We hope to dwell in heaven with you.

It looks like this place has a drainage problem. Here are some more interesting headstones for which we don’t know the story:

Paw’s Little Girl was not so little when she died.

This one we know a story for. Apparently Margaret Record Biggs Coleman was 16, and the mother of a small child, when she was electrocuted getting out of the bathtub. She slipped and instinctively grabbed a light fixture (probably a bare light bulb hanging on a wire from the ceiling) to break her fall, but was killed by the electricity. At least, that’s the story they tell around here.

Well, that’s about all I have time for today. Maybe I can get an internet connection here at the Pike County Library (I couldn’t yesterday, but maybe today it will work better). We’re packing it up to leave in the morning, when we head to Cleveland for a few days. Meantime, here are a last couple of pictures from our trip.

Fresh produce from the neighbor’s yard … they may not look purty, but them’s tasty vittles.

Every writer’s dream: A typewriter, a pencil sharpener, and a quart jar of moonshine.

And here’s you a dog.


8 responses to “Moonshine and tomaters

  1. An UNDERWOOD!!! I used to keep an Underwood #5 next to my computer so it could be an inspiration to the computer. What a gorgeous place with gorgeous people who have gorgeous hearts! Enjoy the trip as much as I’m enjoying the blogs, my gorgeous friends!

  2. BTW, I just learned that the word blog alerts the spellcheck… on wordpress even!!! OMG even wordpress does it. Me thinks they have an identity issue.

  3. Thanks for the update. As a history buff, I loved how all that early American stuff coalesced in that one place. It’s beautiful. Nice to know, in a way, that village life still exists when I live in a big, very ugly, city.
    Isn’t Cleveland where Drew Carey comes from?

  4. Crystal Dills

    Hi, I am from Elkhorn City. First of all, thank you for portraying how kind our people are and how beautiful our little city is. I was born, raised, and still live here and wouldn’t change it for the world! I come across your blog when I was googling pics of Elkhorn for my facebook page. Since I found this, I have posted the link to my facebook where it is being shared among all of my Elkhorn City friends. BUT this is a dry city only… not a dry county. In order for someone to buy alcohol they must either drive to the state line (the Breaks) or go to Pikeville… or find a bootlegger up in a holler (hollow) somewhere LOL. But thank you for posting and for the pictures. Now, ya’ll come back now, ya hear? 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed your blog. I live in Elkhorn City, KY; but I am from across the county in a little place called Johns Creek. This area is very rich in history. Everywhere I go away from away from here people act like I speak spanish or some other language. LOL It cracks me up, but I think that everywhere there are different accents. Oh yeah. Are you sure that Velcoity has brains in milk? That is gross. LOL.

  6. my husband is from elkhorn city, born and raised, we recently left there and moved to michigan, where im from, and i miss elkhorn city very much, when i first visted there people there thought i had a unique accent i came from the north, i miss how everybody always threw a hand up to say hello, or called me darling, or have a nice day, or can i help you, this place is one of a ”great ” kind, u will have a hard time finding such hospitality anywhere, oh and i miss the beautiful mountains, and rivers, id move back tommorrow, if it werent for my kids and grandkids being in the north, im so glad u got to visit our little town, and hope ya’all come back for another visit.

  7. Well, howdy y’all! I’m so glad to see so many Elkhorn folks showing up here. Jeff and I really do love it there. We just moved from Florida to Arizona, so it may be a while before we make it back (we used to try to pass through every summer on our way to visit family in Cleveland). If nothing else, we need to make a moonshine run! 😀

  8. First of all, I enjoyed looking at your photos and reading about them.. but I have to say that a few people may pronounce Pikeville, (Pahk-vuhl) I’ve never heard it pronounced that way. I pronounce it as it sounds, Pike-ville and that is how I hear others pronouncing it. LOL
    I grew up in the area..

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