Monday, May 30, 2011

Echo in the Mountains

What's better than a Memorial Day weekend bluegrass festival? One that is free and in a cool, mountain valley! It was offered by Frozen Head State Park and sponsored by local businesses.

There was a small but respectable crowd, mostly families. People came and went throughout the afternoon. And all attention was focused on the music. Well, almost all.

There were cloggers.

There were fans who just kicked back and relaxed.

But mostly there was music and mountains. Band quality was outstanding; everyone played at a high, professional level. My favorite of the day, mostly because of their choice of material, was a band called Rough Edges.

But I have to include a picture of Cumberland Gap Connection, because the fellow playing stick bass is from Salyersville, KY.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Shaker, Part 2

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

1811 Old Stone Shop

Cooper's Shop

West Family shops

West Family corn crib

Farm Deacon's Shop

Thursday, May 26, 2011


On May 26, 1967, we began a journey together.

The pace has become more leisurely, but the destination remains the same.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

House for Sale

Our is a closely-knit community. We've all come from somewhere else and we're here by choice. There are many other places we could be; there's no compelling reason for us to be here. But we each came, found something here we were looking for, and stayed. Some bought homes. Most bought vacant land and built homes. Some live here full time; others live here part time and dream of living here full time. So it is painful when we see a house offered up for sale.

It's not that we feel rejected by a house being offered for sale. No, it's because we mourn the death of a dream. We all came here nurturing a dream. For my wife and me, the dream was for community, a relaxed pace, perhaps even a return to simpler times; a place where we could grow old in peace. For the most part, that's what we've found and continue to enjoy. I'm sure the dreams of our neighbors are as many and as varied as they. And most seem to have found their dream, which makes it even more painful when a house is offered for sale.
But Rugby is not for everyone. There are fewer than 40 full-time residents, and when the part-time residents become full-time residents, and when all available vacant land is occupied, Rugby will still be a village, not a town. We are completely surrounded by protected lands so that future growth has limits that are visible even now. We happen to like that, and worked to successfully block a proposed high-density residential development in an area that is now protected woodland on the south side of the village. But it is 17 miles to a supermarket or hardware store; 70 to a shopping mall. Why, even the nearest liquor store is 50 miles away! Rugby is not for everyone!

But ..........

We have community, which no city can boast.

We have tolerance, which few places can boast.

We have quiet, which we treasure and protect.

We have activities, which we create ourselves.

We have clean air and water and natural beauty.

We have a national park at our boundary.

We have a museum/restoration that brings interesting visitors, operates a cafe, and offers programming throughout the year.

So, if "no Muggles allowed" actually makes sense to you, if you've ever had a subscription to Mother Earth News, or if Monty Python skits seem like reality to you, come get to know us. There is a house for sale. There is also vacant land available for building. But just so you know, if you want to live in Rugby, you have to bring your own money.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mondays at Jenny's

It began with an after-dinner walk. Our friend Jenny was sitting on her front porch with another neighbor, and they invited us to join them. Jenny's house is an original 1880s home that faces the main (and only) road through the village. As we sat visiting, other neighbors drifted in. Soon all the seats were taken and people spilled onto the edge of the porch. Someone mentioned "Tuesdays with Morrie" and it sort of went from there. That was two years ago, and Mondays at Jenny's has become a village tradition.

The people who show up for Mondays at Jenny's are full-time residents, for the most part. The weekend people are usually gone. We're not discriminating; it's just that the pace of life picks up on weekends and there's usually something else going on. There are no invitations and all are welcome. And it has proven to be popular. In the photo above there are 13 people, not counting the photographer. That's more than one third of the total full-time-resident population. Most recently there were 11, four of whom don't appear in the photo above.

The point is, this is community. This is community that is built around location, shared interests and an intimacy that only a tiny village can impart. We never knew it in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, or even Oak Ridge. But it is part and parcel of what makes Rugby special. It is an 1880s village, and it retains an ambiance that has been lost elsewhere. It is a community.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We're not in Pamplona any more!

Much of the world became aware of the practice of running the bulls in Ernest Hemingway's novel The Sun Also Rises. Although the practice takes place in multiple cities and countries, the most famous is the San Fermin festival in Pamplona, Spain, where people line the streets to watch as young men run ahead of the bulls to show their bravery.

Here in Rugby, there are no young men eager to demonstrate their bravery. We are more mature, but still have our traditions. Sometimes they even attract a spectator or two. One such is the bi-annual walking (I said we were more mature) of the tent. Each spring my neighbor John sets up a large tent on the lawn of Christ Church-Episcopal for use during Historic Rugby, Inc.'s Festival of British and Appalachian Culture. Since the tent isn't easily set up and taken down, John rounds up some men and walks the tent the nearly half mile to his house to use at his annual Independence Day picnic.
Today, we had six men who carried one of the four corners in relays.
The tent is now home, where it will remain until making the return trip to the church yard in time for this year's Michaelmas festival, which is scheduled for Saturday, October 1. After that it will be taken down and stored for the winter.
On second thought, maybe this is more like the annual migrations of the Monarch butterfly than the running of the bulls.

(Photograph of running the bulls by Baltasar Garcia, used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blackberry Winter

We're having another of our "little winters" that visit east Tennessee every spring. Blackberry winter comes in May when the blackberries are in bloom, and is always especially painful because we've already had temperatures in the 80s and have turned on the air conditioning. It hurts to have to turn on the heat. But the weather gives us no choice.
With outdoor temperatures in the 40s (F) and humidity near 80%, we even enjoyed a fire in the fireplace today. But come July, all will have been forgiven and forgotten, as we enjoy cobblers and have fresh blackberries on our morning cereal. And grand babies get to discover the thrill of eating fresh blackberries they pick themselves.

Monday, May 16, 2011

William Anderson Hatfield

"They were brothers' boys," my grandmother said, describing the kinship of her father, Lloyd Hatfield, and William Anderson "Devil Anse" Hatfield. I would have said "first cousins," but I wasn't from that place and time. Lloyd didn't take part in the war with the McCoys, but he did live in Mingo County and his family was only too aware of the potential for violence. When my grandmother ventured away from home as a child, it was always in the company of armed adults. And she slept with a loaded pistol under her pillow every night, until nearly deaf and blind from age it became too great a risk for other family members. My uncle Charlie put it away for safe keeping.
Much has been written about the Hatfield-McCoy feud, and some of it is surely true. The rest has to be viewed as myth, fiction, or outright lies. And unless clearly documented in court records and similarly reliable sources, it is often very difficult today to tell which is which. For example, there are multiple explanations for the nickname "Devil Anse." My personal favorite cites a Civil War battle in which Captain Anderson Hatfield led his men up a hill in the face of bullets raining down on them so thick that "no one but the Devil himself could have made it up that hill unscathed." The story has a ring of romantic fiction to it, but maybe if we keep telling it long enough it will turn out to be true.

Another favorite story was published in the Concord College (W.VA.) alumni newsletter in 1994 by Kyle McCormick, who was then Director of the West Virginia Department of Archives and History. He wrote that in 1904 or 1905 a group of armed men rode up to the home of the president of Concord College, in Athens, where the leader introduced himself as Anderson Hatfield. It seems that a young member of the Hatfield family was a student there at the time. The young man was night blind and depended on a lantern held out in front to make his way around campus at night. The other students called him "Moon Eye" and would throw rocks to try to break his lantern and leave him helpless. Moon Eye built a shield around the lantern to protect it from rocks, so one night a student shot it out with a .22 rifle. The armed men arrived a few days later. Devil Anse went door to door throughout the town explaining that someone had been shooting at Moon Eye and asking probing questions. It appears the shooter was never identified and the riders left late the same night. But no one ever shot at Moon Eye again!

The Hatfield-McCoy feud has become the archetype for the post-Civil War family clashes that broke out along the border states between the Union and the Confederacy. And while there are documented instances of extreme violence, it was by no means the most intense or biggest of them. For example, more people were killed in the Martin-Tolliver war in Rowan County, KY, where it has been reported that the danger was so great the town of Morehead lost nearly half its population as people fled the violence.
Devil Anse and his family are buried at Island Creek in Logan County, having moved out of Mingo County to put the feud behind them. Their cemetery is on West Virginia route 44, north of US 52. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, but when we were there in 2007 there were signs of vandalism and the site was poorly cared for. It's a pity.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Guest House

The Manhattan Project, the effort to build the world's first atomic bomb, was one of World War II's best kept secrets. Even the hotel where visiting scientists and military leaders stayed when visiting the super secret Clinton Engineer Works had a simple, folksy name: the Guest House. Located in what was to become Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the Guest House hosted a Who's Who of nuclear pioneers; Enrico Fermi, J. Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie R. Groves, and others.
After the war it was renamed the Alexander Inn, and served as a hotel until closing in the mid-1990s. I stayed there many times in the late 1960s, while a Purdue University graduate student conducting research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It wasn't the best of accomodations then, but the price suited a poor graduate student's budget. And while Oak Ridge and Anderson County were still "dry," the Alexander Inn hosted a "private club," where for one dollar you could join and have access to a full bar. It was very popular for a time.

The Guest House was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993 as part of the Oak Ridge Historic District. After closing, however, it was allowed to deteriorate, until now it is in major disrepair.
A non-profit organization is seeking to buy and restore the property, but they need help from us all. They will be kicking off fund raising on May 22 with an on-site event featuring popular local band, Boys Night Out. Tickets are only $12.50 each, and may be purchased on-line at the Oak Ridge Revitalization Effort web site by clicking on the highlighted text, or by visiting The Ferrell Shop in Oak Ridge's Jackson Square.
The Guest House sits in front of the Manhattan Project-built Chapel on the Hill, and just one block west of historic Jackson Square, the major business district during WWII. Army-built "alphabet houses" line the streets further up the ridge. Thus, a restored Guest House would serve as an anchor to a major historic area, and serve to preserve and interpret an important part of our national history.
The City of Oak Ridge offers many attractions and activities for visitors. For a full, up to date listing, visit the web page of the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau by clicking on the highlighted text.
The Friendship Bell

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Festival of British and Appalachian Culture

It's time for Historic Rugby's annual Festival of British and Appalachian Culture. Saturday and Sunday May 14 & 15 there will be dancers, music, craft and food vendors, and craft demonstrators in the village, as well as the usual attractions of shops, dining, tours, and lodging.
New this year will be a bluegrass music competition on Saturday.
On Sunday, David Coe & The Irish-Appalachian band, Tony Thomas & Judy Carter's "Old Time Music," and Liz McGeachy & Tim Marema with songs "From England to Appalachia" will be the entertainers.
For more information, see the Historic Rugby, Inc., web page by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Springtime on the Mountain

This past Saturday we again visited Monterey, Tennessee, for their Springtime on the Mountain Festival. At the beginning of the twentieth century Monterey was a mountain-resort town that boasted seven hotels catering to summer visitors escaping the heat of the lowlands.
Today its economy is based on agribusiness and retail. It is home to the Standing Stone, an 8-ft. tall rock that once marked the boundary between the Cherokee and Shawnee. Its Native American heritage is celebrated with another festival, Standing Stone Day, which this year is scheduled for October 8. Click here for additional information.
The Tennessee Central Railroad runs an excursion train out from Nashville for each of the town's festivals. Click here for more information on the Tennessee Central Railway Museum and its excursion schedule.

And if there is a quilter in the family, no trip to Monterey is complete without a visit to Purple Mountain Quilt Shop.
  Liz Osuch and staff offer a friendly atmosphere, great prices, and outstanding service. Even grumpy spouses are treated well.