This needs wider recognition

If you know anything about American country and folk music, you know the name John Prine.

He’s famous for, among other things, penning the lyrics to his early song “Paradise,” which I always sing when traveling to the western part of the beautiful state of Kentucky and across the Green River —

And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away

You may not have heard this song, entitled “In Spite of Ourselves,” which he sings below with Iris DeMent. I hadn’t. As you’ll hear in Prine’s remarks, the song appears in the end-credits in the 2001 movie in which he co-starred with Billy Bob Thornton, Daddy & Them.

Fun fact about Mr. Prine: Along with Ed Wood, of “worst director in Hollywood” fame, he and I share the same birthday, October 10. Mark your calendars, now — and celebrate for a month of Sundays.

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Rock on

I’ve recently returned from a trip to North Carolina, and my experiment with posting from my phone wasn’t a particularly resounding success. The pictures looked fine on a three-inch screen, but blown up in all its PC glory, the blog came off a bit puny.

So now I’m subjecting you to the afternoon I spent with my two boys in Chimney Rock, NC, which is moderately famous for having been the location for many of the scenes in Last of the Mohicans. (The main attraction of this film, though, as every red-blooded American woman knows, is Daniel Day-Lewis. Sooo much sexier than Abraham Lincoln, and I’m speaking as someone who almost majored in history.)

Anyhoo, juicy Hawkeye notwithstanding, the scenery of Western North Carolina is beautiful, and equipped with camera and offspring, we ventured out to view some of it.

Here is the aforementioned Chimney Rock, around which a state park has been constructed.

It’s large, don’t get me wrong, and somewhat more impressive than this picture presents.

Of much more interest to the members of our little party, though, was the Broad River, which runs alongside the road leading to Chimney Rock Park and behind the row of shops and tiny tourist cottages that line it. (Not to be confused, by the way, with the French Broad River, which sounds as though it were named for a character in Moulin Rouge!)

The trees may be bare but the weather was warm, and much time was spent hanging out on the rocks and skipping stones.

Also posing for photo ops. He was, he informed me, sitting as he would for a school picture, but with a real backdrop.

Older brother decided to go with a Mohicans stance.

It might have been only early spring, but there was quite a bit of evidence of new life along the river. Here we found some lamb’s ear growing wild. Though I didn’t include anything in the photo to provide scale, you’ll have to trust me that this was about the size of a cabbage.

Nearby was a bush struggling with some new growth.

Speaking of growth, growing boys need to touch, jump, run, and otherwise terrify their mothers around rushing water.

I know this doesn’t look all that scary from your safe vantage point there in front of your computer screen, but trust me, he’s running.

After some quality time on the river, we crossed this actual rock bridge (not a particularly unusual sight if  you’ve been to Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, but still, this was a nice example) and made our way to Cutseyville.

Here is one of the sights you may behold in Chimney Rock, instruments of torture!

I lie; they are pieces of antique rock-climbing equipment. Nobody expects the Spanish Rock-Climbing Equipment!

We stopped by Chimney Rock Gemstone Mine, a nice little store featuring rocks of all sorts, some wrought into jewelry, others laying about for the simple admiring. Now, Trassie, when he’s not scaring me to death by leaping across uneven terrain, can be found playing Minecraft, an interesting single- or multi-user game that’s been described as “Legos for adults.” As the name suggests, the Minecraft world requires a lot of mining, in addition to building, so naturally Trassie is interested in rocks and gems.

He is the proud new owner of a hunk of emerald calcite, which he paid for with his Own Money. (Amusingly, at least to me, that link goes to a site called Kids Love Rocks.)

Not to be outdone, Christopher also made an Own Money purchase, but I didn’t have a presence of mind to document his acquisition of a deadly weapon, er, pocket knife. Is is, however, an “assisted open” knife, which as best I can tell is a polite term for “legal switchblade.” He’s been mockingly threatening to cut me ever since, and every time he says it, I hear Rocky saying “cut me, Mick.”

Documentation of this trip wouldn’t be complete without some evidence of my presence, so here for your admiration is a shot of me loafing on a rock, clad of course in my most comfortable boots.

As it turns out, they aren’t a particularly good choice for sure-footedness on slippery river rocks but who cares? I LOOKED GOOD.

And no trip with two sons would be complete without snickering at something. In our case, it was one of the stores in the village, which proudly presents, in cartoon form, a happy Chimney Rock. As I began snapping away for this photo, Trassie started to ask why I was taking a picture of the store, but the words died on his lips and he collapsed into a fit of snickering worthy of someone who can’t say “balls” or “nuts” without extended periods of mirth. Yes, we all three stood in the street laughing like 15-year-old boys, and only one of us had an excuse.

Yes, I am the mother of boys.

We never did make it to the boot store; a closed Harley shop promised it had another store somewhere along the (one) road through town, but I never saw it. Which means of course it doesn’t exist, for can you believe there was a shoe store within a few hundred yards that I couldn’t smell out? Of course not. So no new boots or boot yearning for me. Although I did notice, upon our return to Lexington, an billboard advertising a boot store with a gorgeous pair of Luccheses about a mile high.

But I digress.

I took more silly pictures of the boys.

And a little more scenery.

We got some cokes at the Ye Olde Store and we felt we had DONE Chimney Rock.

Let me tell you: We had a ball.

Mountain view

The mountains are beautiful any time of year. Each season has unique charms. Right now, in early spring, you have to look but evidence of new life can be found.

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This post represents the first time I’ve ever attempted to use my phone to make a blog post. therefore you probably shouldn’t expect anything profound.

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Not that profundity is any kind of hallmark around here anyway.

I’ve taken some pictures over the past couple days so I thought I’d try my hand posting them. I’d guessed that might be any easy enough chore.

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As it turns out, it’s a little less intuitive than I thought, even using a mobile app. Photos have up be uploaded as you post and can’t be inserted later, that I can tell. I might have to break down and hunt up some directions.

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Violets of course are a sure sign of spring, but I was also captivated by these dried weeds, which have managed to stand guard here through a rough and snowy winter.

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One the prettiest sights I’ve seen on our visit here, though, are the incredible blue skies.

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There’s a cute touristy village a couple miles down the road and we might mosey over that way later on this afternoon. The sights there include a cold rushing mountain stream … and a boot store.

I think you know which one we’ll be visiting first.

Blink and you’ll miss it

One of my earliest memories is from the time when my family moved to Carrollton, Ky. —  a small town by any standard, even those of Kentucky, a largely rural state.

I was only 3 years old but I was already attuned to the conversations of adults in my little world. And much of that conversation had to do with leaving the Big City and establishing life in a place where no one locked their doors, neighbors sat on their front porches in the evenings and held conversations across the yard, and sidewalks were an engrossing subject.

Well at least I thought they were pretty important, at the age of 3, because people seemed to remark upon them pretty often.

Sidewalks became a fact of my life as a grew up in Carrollton; they were our roads, our connection to friends, our four-square games modified to two-square, our hopscotch lanes, and drawing palettes.

We lived on the sidewalks and alleys, on the walks to individual houses and on driveways to every home. It was the late 1960s and early ’70s, and we lived outdoors from April through November. It’s where we learned to ride our bikes, shooting from dad to dad — one to launch you, another to catch you, until you mastered breaking — and it’s where we burned the soles of our feet as we went barefoot through our childhoods.

In all my time living this outdoor life upon the sidewalks, though, I never once observed the mechanism that permitted them to be rolled up. For we lived, don’t you know, in a town so small they roll the sidewalks up at night.

According to my father, the place was also populated by little men with torches. If you kept a keen eye, you would see them racing up the streetlights, illuminating each one every night as dusk fell.

And you wonder where I get my imagination.

Yes, Carrollton was small. “If you blink, you’ll miss it,” was another old saw now applied to my little hometown — although even I knew this wasn’t precisely true. There were plenty of places within the county, and surrounding ones too, that were far more easily missed if you tarried too long on the upswing of a blink. Milton, for one, another Ohio River town notable, with its bridge, as a launching point for Madison, Ind. And then Sanders, a place not given to a great many distinguishing characteristics apart from the “beefalo” cattle/buffalo cross a farmer raised there when I was in high school. Yes, we drove out there to look.

Indeed, I spend my childhood looking — looking for the Canadian Garfunkels, small sweet tame little animals my dad said roamed wild in Canada. I kept my nose pressed to the glass as we drove through this exotic foreign country one summer when I was around 9. If I spotted one, Dad said, he’s stop and I could have it for a pet.

This is a capybara, though.
What I more or less envisioned.

(Years later, my parents took another vacation trip to Canada, this time sans kids, who now were more content at summer camp. My gift they brought back for me from this expedition was a tiny funky little toy animal, sewn from sealskin … a Canadian Garfunkel. I cherish it still.)

I looked for trucks being weighed at the perpetually closed Weigh Station along I-71 between Louisville and Carrollton. When finally it was open, one night when we were returning home late from visiting family in Louisville, my parents awakened me to see, knowing how much it would mean to me to finally witness the mysterious Weigh Station in action.

I looked, too, for how the prices on the gasoline stations’ signs were changed, for they certainly were changed, by the 1970s, with some regularity. It gives me a small thrill to this day, to see these signs changed through use of a long pole with the numbers stuck on the end. I lament the advent of electronic signs broadcasting the price per gallon from truck stops along the Interstates — too easy. No mystery involved.

The mysteries of childhood become the world of the mundane for the adult. Yet roll-up sidewalks and gnomes who light streetlights still populate my dreams. I may have grown up in a place so small that if you blink, you’ll miss it. But it’s the richness of life between these blinks that still fires my imagination — whether or not I ever spot a roadside Garfunkel or beefalo on the roam.