Feb 16, 2011
From Wikipedia, about Elkhorn City, Kentucky, hometown of country singer, Patty Loveless: "On October 16, 1882, the post office was renamed Praise for 'Camp Praise-the-Lord', a tent colony that was established by evangelist George O. Barnes for a revival there in August 1881."
I find that fascinating, and for some time, I've been considering a periodic Tidbit post like this, apropos of nothing. It could be one way to offset any excess of attention to poetry. But is it interesting to anyone else?
I've driven around several times in those mountains traversed by Interstate 81, so I must have been close to Elkhorn City.
In Wytheville, Virginia, I just crossed I-81 on I-77 while driving to and from Florida. I find it easy to romanticize the Blue Ridge in spring, summer, and fall,, including bluegrass music and rural living. Winter is another matter. In southbound snow flurries and, a month later, a northbound threat of icing, I just wanted the damned mountains to end.
It was a comment by some female country singer, possibly Loretta Lynn, that first made me re-think my idealization of that area. She, or her song, said the days were shortened a lot in the hollers--you're that deep down; it's that skinny in there. If there's any sun, it's on a mountaintop, and who can live there? Maybe the owner of a coal mine, with his a private, heated road upward?
One time in south-central Kentucky, a little west of I-75, I asked a gas station guy about a two-lane route I'd planned to take into the mountains and on to the coal country of Hazard and Harlan in eastern Kentucky, Loretta Lynn country.
"Is that road just too full of curves? I don't want to spend a whole day going 50 miles."
"Oh," he said of my road marked narrow and grey on the map, "I wouldn't go that way. If you break down, you don't who's gonna stop. Or why."
It was the kind of advice I was used to hearing about pockets of danger in urban blight. So, as I processed the unexpected info over days and weeks, I decided to call it justice: there are vicious people everywhere and the inevitable fear of the Other. And how about the way we all groove on fear, the dirty little secret that makes local TV news stations happy.
Yes, yes, I already knew all that, but the gas station guy gave it new life, made it palpable. In one of the areas I'd nominated to myself for the title of Paradise, or at least a Praise tent camp of my own making, not everybody was Doc Watson or Earl Scruggs. A native of the place had said so. For all I know, Doc and Earl are mean too, and that guy would be the first to tell me so.
But I'll go back. In southwest Virginia, even in winter, there are sloped pastures among the mountains, and they're dotted with cattle, including a lot of Black Angus. A few years ago on that stretch, I hit a pothole and lost a hubcap. I need to go fetch it, and that could take a awhile.