Monday, October 22, 2012

Kentucky, Day Two

We pointed ourselves east towards Northern Kentucky by way of Elizabethtown, Bardstown, and Harrodsburg. This was a trail we made 26 years ago with two little boys when one wanted to see Ft. Knox and General Patton’s hat and car in the museum there. We decided to go back and see what we had missed the first time.

At Elizabethtown we visited the Brown-Pusey House which was built in early 1800's. By 1840 is was used as a boarding house by a woman known locally as Aunt Beck. George Armstrong Custer and his wife Libby lived here for two years while Custer procured horses for the army.
The real beauty of this house is the dining room corner cabinet build by Lincoln's father, Thomas Lincoln in early 1800's. It is a beauty. Note the inlaid star made of various types of wood to create shaded angles.

On to Bardstown where we wanted to see the Stephen Foster site where he wrote My Old Kentucky Home. Our first visit there was a disaster when we arrived late in the afternoon, tired parents with boys covered in mustard and potato-chipped tee shirts. Just as they raced ahead up the brick path, the palatial home’s doors opened and a wedding party in finery exited. The boys thought great, a party! We got separated from them, tried to hiss them back to us, and finally got off the grounds. DH said we should have crashed and gotten some snacks out of the deal!

So here we were a quarter of century later and now the grounds were near a lovely golf course, had a conference center, a gift shop, and an admittance fee. We were warned no pictures and keep your fingers off everything! But it was worth it…beautiful home of the 1840 era. Andrew Jackson among others spent time here in the home belonging to relatives of Stephen Foster.

We got up the next morning to leave Bardstown when we noticed we were near the Heavenly Hill brewery. Kentucky is known for  bourbon. They have a Bourbon Trail of many breweries you can visit for tours and samples. Now we wouldn’t know good Bourbon from bad, but we decided we should do at least one tour. We learned a lot: like this particular brewery pays 4 million dollars a month in taxes; that each building holds 20,000 barrels of booze; that oak barrels can only be used once by law; that the inside of white oak barrels (white oak only, no red oak as it leaves bitter taste) are charred and the burnt wood gives bourbon its smoky taste.

After they took us through the way the bourbon is made (must be 51% corn to be called bourbon), they took us to a tasting room and gave us as samples and a chocolate candy. It was interesting to smell, to see color, etc., but I just have to wonder who ever found out the taste of bourbon in the first place and called it good? It makes you shudder and burn…ah, I don’t understand it completely.
Then it was on to Harrodsburg and Fort Harrod. We had been to Pleasant Hill where the Shakers lived and passed on a return there. We had been to Fort Harrod too, but DH had no memory of it at all. So we went again. (Nice thing about being older is that on some days, everything is new!) The fort had some changes and improvements.  It is reconstruction on the foundations of a fort that was the first permanent European settlement west of the Alleghenies in about 1775.

There were living history demos now, and out behind the fort walls was a display of Native housing of the times. DH and I eased out and he looked at a fence made of twigs while I pursued the smell of smoke and a human sounding bird call.   I saw a wickiup and then a lean-to before I saw a “creature’s” eyes looking straight at me. I gasped when he eased himself up and walked towards me! For just a split second, I was lost in the story of Shawnee captives, of Miamis and Delawares  expressing anger with white people, of any good novel of pioneer or colonial times. He stayed in character and never broke a smile even though my knees were shaking. He was huge!

He was not portraying  full blooded native. He was showing a found living quarter, that is a dwelling made from cedar and cane and branches found on the ground. It was a temporary housing used on hunts or maybe by fur trappers. He explained how the cone house made of canvas to show would have been made out of layers of bark and more lasting…and the wickiup would be covered by branches for a longer lasting house. 

I had to know about the scalp lock! The natives would have pulled the hair out a little at a time and could not cry or make sounds showing weakness. He had his wife do his scalp lock the traditional manner and said he could not stand it unless they did it a little at time. I was mesmerized looking at this man and can’t imagine meeting him in the woods for real in 1820 or so!


Rebecca said...

I love this part of KY. Years ago, hubby and I stayed in a B&B located in an old jail in Bardstown. Can't remember all the history of it, but DO remember the cell, etc.

I also spent a week not too far from Bardstown at Gethsemane Monastery. I'll never forget the beauty of that silent retreat setting...

Ames said...

Gosh we missed Fort Harrod. Was so excited to see Shaker Village. Maybe next time we go up to visit family we'll take in Fort Harrod.