Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Y'all Come!

Rugby, Tennessee, is a nineteenth-century utopian village that has not only survived but has experienced a rebirth of activity and growth. Today it consists of a vibrant museum/restoration and a community of retirement and vacation homes. As July approaches, we are well into the major tourist season with numerous special activities, workshops, and events. Details can be found on Historic Rugby's web page by clicking here.
Start your visit at the Rugby Visitor Centre with an award-winning film that describes Rugby's history. Tours depart from here, as well.

Kingstone Lisle was built as a retirement home for Rugby's founder, the best-selling Victorian author Thomas Hughes (Tom Brown's School Days).  Behind it sits Percy Cottage, built by Hughes's good friend Sir Henry Kimber, and named for Kimber's son.

The 1882 Hughes Public Library contains more than 7,000 volumes dating from Rugby's earliest days. The collection is currently being cataloged and soon will be available to scholars on line.

The 1907 Schoolhouse replaced an earlier building that was destroyed by fire. It now houses museum space. The tour concludes with the 1887 Christ Church-Episcopal, which has been described previously. Here is a link to that posting.

After your tour, enjoy a meal at the Harrow Road Cafe. Choose from British and Cumberland Plateau favorites.

The Commissary Museum store features local arts and crafts, as well as import items.

Open during events, the Rugby Printing Works features nineteenth century presses, such as this antique treadle press. And don't forget to visit the Shoppes of Rugby. Y'all come!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading gravestones

Do you find the text on old gravestones hard to read, and even harder to photograph? Help is as close as a can of shaving lather. But it can get a little messy, so you may want to take along an assistant.

Simply place some lather on the face of the gravestone and work it into the engravings. After the lather is well into the carvings, wipe off the excess with towels.

The lather is slightly basic in pH and won't harm the stone or its carvings. And the next rain will wash it off. Don't forget to wipe the excess off the assistant before you let him back in the car.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Essence of Fiona

She’s beautiful, full of soft, long fur with a bottle-brush tail. She’s also even-tempered, affectionate, and sleeps at my feet all night long. She’s the arbiter of disputes between the other two cats, a fearless predator of bugs, and guardian of the screened-in porch. And although we brush her just about every day, when we changed the air conditioner filter this week there was enough cat hair on it to knit another cat.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Clouds at dusk

I went out after dinner last night to photograph a nest of barn swallows, but I was soon cloud watching instead. We were caught in a train of showers that were spaced about an hour apart, so there were lots of clouds to catch the setting sun.

And off to the east, a Saltire.

Do you suppose there were jet aircraft back in 832 CE?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mark Twain Park

Nearby Jamestown is proud of their native son Sam Clemens, who is better known by his pen name Mark Twain. There is a hotel named for him.
And a street.
And a downtown park that preserves and protects the spring where Sam's family got water when they lived nearby.
The city recently dedicated a statue to Mark Twain, carved from a tree inside the park using a chainsaw.
But Mark Twain never lived in Jamestown. The historical marker at the park tells the story.
See, his family moved to Missouri before he was born. But it does look like he was conceived there!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grist mills

Before there was electricity, before there were internal combustion engines, there was water. The power of falling water was harnessed more than 2,000 years ago to grind grains for making bread, and has continued being used for that purpose even today. We have three very different examples nearby, all situated in parks.

The Rice Mill is a classic of small mill design. A mill race diverts water from a nearby stream to the overshot wheel. It was built in 1798 and was operated by four generations of the Rice family. When the Tennessee Valley Authority built the Norris Dam in the mid-1930s, the mill was moved from land that was to be flooded to the Lenoir Museum and is now operated by Norris Dam State Park. It still grinds corn meal during the summer. It's located near Norris, Tennessee.

The Mill Springs mill is the third to occupy the site, dating back to 1817. The current large mill was built in 1877. It, too, has an overshot wheel fed by a mill race. The original 28-foot cedar wheel was replaced by a 40-foot, 10-inch steel wheel in 1908. An auxiliary engine was added in the 1920s so the mill could continue to operate during low water flow. It is now part of Mill Springs Park, a Civil-War Battlefield Park. It's located near Monticello, Kentucky, overlooking Lake Cumberland.

The Sgt. Alvin C. York Mill at Pall Mall, Tennessee, was owned and operated by the United State's most decorated soldier of World War I. It is a turbine or "tub" mill, in which water is taken from a mill pond through piping to a turbine directly below the mill wheel.

The mill no longer operates and the turbine has been removed for display beside the mill. The mill was built about 1880; Sgt. York bought it in 1943. It is now a part of the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park that encompasses his home, farm, and store.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Shaker Part 3: After-dinner stroll

One of the pleasures of staying at Pleasant Hill Shaker Village is being there after the day visitors have left. Sometimes it feels like you have the whole village to yourself. This is a bit of what an after-dinner stroll through the village is like, just as the sun is setting. Notice there are no people in the photographs. Click on the photographs for a better view of details.

We'll start at the East Family area. The Shaker communities, although celibate, were organized into families consisting of both men and women. There were five families at Pleasant Hill: East, West, Centre, North, and West Lot. Population at the end of the civil war was more than 300, so each family was quite large, requiring large dwellings. Men and women occupied separate rooms on opposite sides of the halls, although I believe all floors were "co-ed." There was a division of labor between men and women, but women's work was valued as highly as that of the men. In addition to their own farm acreage, each family had shops that produced material goods. Behind the East Family dwelling can be seen the laundry on the left and the sisters' shop on the right, where spinning, weaving, and sewing were done. The dwelling is now used for overnight lodging while the shop buildings are museum buildings housing displays and demonstrations. Most have lodging on the second floor.

Two of the brothers' shops can be seen here, the broom shop in the foreground with the cooper's shop behind it.  The East Family dwelling is to the right, with the laundry behind it.

The Center Family dwelling, at left, was where the people who had been Shakers longest and presumably were the most devout lived. (Does that have hints of George Orwell's Animal Farm?) It is just across the road from the meeting house where all families worshiped together. Beyond the meeting house is the ministry shop (yellow frame building) and beyond that the Trustees' Office, where all dealings with the world's people took place. The Trustees' Office now contains the front desk and restaurant on the main floor, with overnight lodging on the upper floors. The other buildings in this group are now museum buildings.

The West Family dwelling is similar to the East Family dwelling in size and layout. The old stone shop is in the foreground and the other shops are behind. This family complex now serves as a group meeting facility. One must drive to the North Family site, where only one building remains. It is used for overnight lodging. The West Lot Family site is a mile west of the village proper. As you can see from the sky, it would have been dark before we could have walked there and back. It is a pleasant walk, however.

If you would like to experience an after-dinner stroll at Pleasant Hill, here's where to find more information. While you're there, become a Friend of Shaker Village. You'll be helping to preserve a very special historic site. We've been members for years.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


We were visited by feral hogs last night, the first time we've had them since we moved here. They've been around all along and have visited neighbors, but we had been spared until now.

They are looking for grubs in the soil and plow lawns in the process. For us, they chose our best stand of grass. It's a spot where we had struggled to get grass and had finally this past spring invested in a very expensive mixture of seed, fertilizer, and soil to get grass established. It was beautiful.

The feral hogs are descendents of domestic pigs that either have escaped or been turned loose. Many years ago, before blight wiped out the chestnut trees,  farmers would mark their hogs and turn them loose in the woods to forage. Some of our hogs may even be descendants of those pigs. Also, hunting clubs imported European Boar, some of which also made their way into the wild. Those boar are thought to have bred with domestic sows. Whatever their genealogies, our feral hogs are destructive, dangerous, and generally unwelcome.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Mid-summer haze

Yes, I know summer doesn't officially arrive for another week, but we have had temperatures running 10-15 degrees (F) above normal and a stationary high pressure system pumping moisture up from the Gulf of Mexico. Close your eyes and think mid-August.

It is good weather for putting up hay, and the farmers don't have to race storm clouds to get the bales under shelter.

But I do feel sorry for other folks who have to work outdoors. It could be a long summer.

Be cheered by the beauty of the roadsides.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Use it up,
wear it out,
make it do,
or do without.

There are lots of reasons for recycling. When it comes to buildings, historical significance and economics come to the forefront. I saw several examples during a recent visit to my once hometown. A one-time movie theater is now a coffee shop/bakery/bookstore that combines the best of all three missions while preserving the projection booth and screen. I can imagine weekend screenings of art films drawing customers in. Will they offer wine?

The former Post Office is now a municipal office building. They allowed us in to view the mural by Frank W. Long. I, like probably most Americans, had always thought these examples of public art had been sponsored by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), a depression-era, put-people-to-work program. It was instead sponsored by a different Federal program, the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts. Frank Long, a native of Berea, KY, painted nineteen of these public works of art. This example, titled "The Rural Free Delivery," was painted in 1939. While I applaud the recycling of this building, I do think it's a shame one has to know to ask to see the mural. A small reconfiguration of the lobby could once again make it "public art."

The old Rowan County Courthouse, built in 1899, was replaced by a new one in 1981. After considerable study and public support, the old courthouse was designated an arts center. It now houses a theater, an art gallery, and studios where artists can work and teach. When it was still a courthouse it was the site of one of our family legends. My grandfather was Sheriff of Rowan County in the 1930s, and served as bailiff of the criminal court. In a case involving theft of a horse, the defense counsel apparently demanded that the "stolen" horse be produced. The judge directed my grandfather to bring the horse to court. While I really don't know his motive, I think I understand why he did what he did. He located the horse, and rather than delivering it to the courthouse steps, chose to ride it up the steps, into the courthouse, up a flight of stairs to the second-floor courtroom, and into the court. The defendant was convicted, but they had to blindfold the horse to lead it back down the stairs and out of the building. I like to think I would have done the same thing.

One of the many copies of E.M. Viquesney's "Spirit of the American Doughboy" stands in front of the old courthouse. The statue was erected in 1929 atop a monument to WWI soldiers that had been placed there in 1919. But even it has been recycled. Once a monument to those who served in the first World War, it now stands as the focal point of a memorial to all soldiers from Rowan County who have lost their lives in that and subsequent conflicts. The most recent victim honored, Edward T. Earhart, was killed during the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

Use it up,
wear it out,
make it do,
or do without.

Monday, June 6, 2011


Not only are we heading into summer, but temperatures are running well above average. The thermometer flirts with 90 F (32 C) every afternoon. The cats love to go on the screened-in, back porch, where they sleep until things begin to cool. We call it "dead cat time."

Mollie Maguire

Stevie, the Wonder Cat