Sunday, May 30, 2004

Back Home.

I got back from my trip to Kentucky late Saturday night. I had quite a lot of fun, though there were a few moments of sobriety mixed in.

I had forgotten how beautiful Eastern Kentucky really is. Driving down, I had all sorts of strange flashes of memory from when I was little. It’s hard to explain if you’ve never been around mountain highways, and I wish I would have taken a picture now, but the methods they use to cut roads in the mountains, leave this almost stair-like formation on the rock walls. When I was little, I used to think that giants lived on top the mountains, and they’d use the steps to go up and down. And when you’d see the signs warning “beware of falling rocks,” I’d think it meant that the giants would sit up top of the mountain, throwing down rocks to try to hit the cars. I thought it was like Atari for giants.

We spent most of Friday in Breaks Interstate Park. That’s where the true beauty of the Appalachians really stands out. My brother surprised me by taking a picture of me while I was trying to take a picture off one of the West Virginia overlooks. Note my dumbfounded expression, upon seeing him aiming the camera at me:

And this is, maybe anyway, the picture I was actually taking:

When we got done in the Breaks, we headed back for Pikeville and our hotel. My parents were arriving at the hotel, quite fortuitously, just as we were pulling back in. We went to buy food, and came back to the hotel for an early night in. There’s not a lot to do in Pikeville, after all. So I watched most of the Christopher Walken movie Dead Zone on A&E. Someday I need to watch the first half of that movie; the ending was awesome.

Anyway, the next morning we took off for the family reunion in Greasy Creek. Though, first, we stopped off at the Harley Davidson store in Pikeville. My brother and sister-in-law actually talked me into buying a Harley shirt, just because it said Pikeville. Harley shirts are pretty damn corporate for my taste, generally speaking, but they were so excited that I couldn’t resist. I wish the shirt said Greasy Creek instead of Pikeville. My friends are going to make fun of me for having a new shirt, especially since it’s a Harley shirt, and I’m looking forward to wearing it now.

It was awesome though, riding through the mountains in the backseat of Mustang Convertible with the top down. When we got there, I met all sorts of relatives I’d never even known existed. Some of them had attributes in common with my branch of the family tree, but some of them seemed totally foreign to me. The highlight of the thing was, right after my mother told me that nobody was meaner than her family, two real hillbilly looking distant cousins of mine got into a fight in the parking lot. They were broken up fast, nobody got hurt, so it was pretty funny. This is a picture of the fire station sign, in which the family reunion was held:

After the reunion, we headed up to the old family graveyard. In Kentucky, Remembrance Day is a big deal. I think traditionally, it had the two-fold purpose of first of all, honoring the dead, but second, ensuring that the old graveyard was properly taken care of. Like many families in Kentucky, my family’s graveyard is up on a hill behind “the” house. The house belonged to my great-grandmother Sadie, after whom I was sort of named. Sadie had thirteen children – and had adopted at least one more, and she was in a lot of ways the matriarch of my clan. My earliest memories of Kentucky all revolve around her house, and I think that’s true for most of us who grew up in Ohio.

If I had to guess why the graveyard was located where it was, I would guess it’s because you can’t grow anything on a hill, and in hard times, all usable space was required for farming and gardening. But there are some serious drawbacks to it, not the least of which is, if you put your graves on the side of a mountain, rock slides and erosion are eventually going to uproot them. But in any case, all of my family, barring my grandfather, are buried there. And someday, my mother will be buried there, and I will probably be buried there too.