January 1, 2011, and our last day in Millersburg, Kentucky, for the holiday weekend…
From where I sit I can see–just outside the sliding glass doors–the line of scrub trees separating the expanse of the old house’s back yard from the cow pasture that swells gently up to the south and is crowned with tombstones, grand ones with names–mostly Miller but also others such as Earlywine and Toadvine–that conjure interesting characters in my mind.
Squatting near the corner of the yard is a small makeshift shed, its orange plexi-glass windows from the inside showing the world to be much warmer than it is this rainy first day of the new year. But I am looking out from inside the house and wondering who gazed at this landscape before I did and what she thought about while surveying the winter-yellowed pasture.
Curious about the history of the small town of Millersburg where my husband lives when he is not in Chicago with me, I did a quick search online and found a page from The Bourbon News, June 13, 1842. It provided a brief, but telling, glimpse into a time and culture nearly as foreign as the current southern culture is to this Midwesterner.
Thieves stole seventeen chickens from the coop of Geo. White, just before they arrived home from New York.
Dick Taylor of Midway, passed down to Millersburg Saturday. He said that his uncle Oscar Taylor sold over 2,000 feet of rope in a day or two, for the purpose of dragging the worms off the wheat and barley.
A colored woman sang and shouted herself to death at Louisville. (A much more honorable way to go, in my mind, than the following…)
Miss Laura Kennerd, of Lewis county, committed suicide by drowning, last Friday, on account of being disappointed in love.
Although society–and what makes the news–has changed, I wonder if the view from this window has changed much in the past 100 years.
The old pump outside the door where we’d like to have a patio instead makes me think not. The wrap around front porch still invites the family to quiet summer evenings sipping iced tea. Inside the house, we have torn out plaster walls meant to stand forever, telling from the effort it takes to remove them. The grand pocket doors slide reluctantly, and the coal fireplace in the main bedroom we are remodeling will be a nice place to burn candles one day.
Houses like ours have a “spirit” about them. Maybe something about the people who have lived here remains, their patterns of life tread into the dark wood floors, their laughter caught in the eaves, and their sorrows settled with the dirt and stone of the foundation.
The same is true of small towns like Millersburg whose new residents may wonder how on earth they came to be here but whose founders have become part of the field I now look out upon.