The Appalachian foothills poke up from the plateaus in knobs and ridges and folds and fingers; every time we drive through this beautiful country we Kentucky country home enjoy the ever-changing scenery. This year in late fall, the bare trees let us see the houses and cabins that would otherwise be hidden by the foliage, and the snowy fields and icy brooks keep reminding us of those 19th century etchings of country landscapes.
We're always talking about the sightseeing, and noting the various homes and businesses of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. These communities were settled first in the 18th century by Scots-Irish and German immigrants who pushed westward looking for available land with fish and game and timber; the eastern seaboard was by then well-filled with established farms and plantations.
We seemed to pass back and forth between more and less prosperous One lane bridge regions -- from the depressed mined-out hill country of Southern Ohio, just across the river to successful Kentucky blue-grass and tobacco farms, then down an allegedly Scenic Byway lined with totally gutted mobile homes and piles of trash never hauled to the dump, then to cattle farms, followed by a flurry of Amish buggies with black hatted men and hooded women who waved cheerily. Later, as we neared the Missisippi, the farms were crowded with grain storage units for corn and beans, and the bits of fluff by the side of the road gave away the presence of cotton fields.
The tobacco region was worth a few giggles, for the farmers stubbornly stick to their profitable cash crop -- shipped overseas to cigarette makers -- despite the big billboards announcing that state employees Monument to Jeff Davis hired under the terms of the big tobacco litigation settlement would be happy to talk to any farmer considering ceasing and desisting from the cultivation of the evil weed.
Meanwhile the region was spotted with tobacco drying barns and dozens of discount smoke shops, such as The Puff and Chew. Of course there are no non-smoking restaurants! At one liquor store we spotted a collection of cigarette packs, each one opened, each one missing a couple of cigarettes. The clerk explained that these are samples: discount cigarettes are made all over the world and sold here so these cigarettes represent products from Siberia, China, and South America. He is offering customers the opportunity to see whether they like them, before they invest in a carton.
Sometimes all the houses were heavily decorated with Christmas lights and yard sculptures; other times none were decorated on the outside. Perhaps it depends on whether people believe that they're Robert A. Everett living in the country or in town (which we think is as much a state of mind as geography).
Even travelers get caught in the Christmas rush -- traffic near malls and shopping centers got kind of sticky, restaurants were overflowing with weary shoppers. We left one restaurant with a long waiting line for lunch, and when we got to the next restaurant the people behind us said, *you left, too -- this is a better place, anyway.* We were startled to realize we had been noticed and remembered! But this is small town country middle America, where drivers wave, people raking leaves in their front yards wave, people getting their mail wave, and in the restaurants with home cooking everybody is meeting and greeting friends and neighbors.
We have to report on the sign on an innovative small-town business: Poinciana Laundry and Tanning! We imagine the owner couldn't make enough money with just a laundry or just a tanning salon, so he or she tried a combination. It would give you something to do while waiting for the dryer, we guess.
In Christian County, Kentucky, not far from Hopkinsville, we Mississippi River ferry barge were startled to see an obelisk that looked just like the Washington Monument. But we were wrong. It was a Kentucky state park commemorating the birthplace of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. In Union City, Tennessee, the Courthouse lawn is home to the statue of Robert A. "Fats" Everett, a public servant and Congressman during the 1950s.
We had to make numerous sharp left and right turns to get over the levee and down to the ferry landing at Hickman, Kentucky. This was not a ferry boat, but rather a ferry barge, neatly constructed with loading ramps fore and aft. Ten dollars and a lot of pictures later, we were West of the Mississippi again (prices slightly higher). It's well worth the cost to avoid driving on a crowded freeway bridge. Unknown Arkansas crop
We followed the levee to New Madrid, Missouri, and then ducked south into Arkansas. Along the way we saw a good sized field with a crop, about six to eight feet high, that looked like some kind of bush (picture enclosed). Can anyone identify what was growing?
After ascertaining that the only restaurant in Jonesboro open on Xmas was the Chinese buffet, we decided to nosh on cheese spread and nuts in the room -- those are often the best (and most fattening) part of the traditional lavish Christmas dinner anyhow. Our holiday is much less energetic than when we had a house full of children and grandchildren, but no less enjoyable. We hope you all had a lovely holiday and look forward to a healthy and prosperous New Year.