For the past three decades, nearly four now, my wife and I have visited her parents in Hustonville, a tiny crossroads in the very center of Kentucky. Located in a beautiful valley of farmland (here's a photo), the sign at the city limits boasted 400 residents when I first met my wife in the seventies. Somewhere along the line, the population count disappeared from the sign and I’m told it was closer to 300 at last count.
I prefer to visit when the weather is better for fishing, but my wife insists we come when the garden is just right and that usually means heat and humidity. Man, did we have it this week. The third week of July brings great corn and stifling heat.
It was hard to argue with her after dinner last night. Sugar-cured country ham, squash casserole, pinto beans, cucumbers, scalded cornbread, corn on the cob drizzled with melted butter, salt and pepper, giant, ripe red tomatoes just off the vine. None of that greenhouse tomato stuff picked green and gassed with ethylene to turn them red.
Made me forget about not being able to fish for at least an hour.
I drive to Danville every day because they opened a great little coffee shop and bookstore on Main Street called The Hub where a department store by the same name prospered for years. I remember when a clerk would write up your purchase at the department store there and place the handwritten paper ticket and your payment into a little capsule and stuff it into the end of a pneumatic tube. With a quiet whoosh! the tube would zip upstairs to the office and return a minute later with your change and receipt.
There’s a pneumatic tube at the drive-in window over at Farmer’s Bank today, but somehow it isn’t the same.
A guy in The Hub asked if my in-laws didn’t have Wi-Fi. I said, “Seriously? It’s a 130-year old house. I have trouble finding an electric outlet to recharge my laptop.”
My father-in-law is 93 years young and the house was wired when he was 6. There is an extension cord from the TV room, a porch before it was enclosed, into the dining room to power a lamp. I unplug the lamp to charge my laptop.
The nightlife in Hustonville is pretty wild, but eventually you get a little bored and go out looking for something to do. As a friend recently said on FaceBook, most people who run their truck off the road apologize, but in Kentucky we say, “Hold my beer and watch this!”
A few weeks back, a train derailed near a tiny town called Geneva, which is near a tiny town named McKinney, which is near our tiny town of Hustonville. My father-in-law and I drove down to look at it this morning. A large shovel was working on the site, clearing debris from alongside the derailed cars, but it was a huge mess.
Heck, it was a train wreck.
Afterwards, he showed me an ancient, iron train trestle near Geneva that rises high over the highway and that I wouldn’t ride over in a train if you paid me. In fact, I wouldn’t want to be near it when a train passed. My father-in-law told me it creaks like crazy when a train crosses over.
Exhausted from the excitement and finding ourselves near Stanford, my father-in-law suggested we stop at Spoonamore’s Drugstore for lunch. The name of the place is actually Coleman’s, or something like that, but since it was Spoonamore’s for decades, it’s still Spoonamore’s around here.
Maybe it isn’t Coleman’s, I don’t quite remember. It doesn’t really matter. You can put a Starbucks in that storefront if you want, but it's still gonna be Spoonamore's. Regardless we had excellent country ham sandwiches. I once bought a chocolate shake at the Spoonamore's Drugs in Danville for seventy-five cents, but that was a few years back.
Spoonamore’s/Coleman’s is across the street from the Lincoln County courthouse and at noon a gaggle of lawyer’s, clerk’s and a judge came over for lunch and pushed together several small tables. My father-in-law says they do it every day.
I overheard a rather beefy lady in a pants suit sitting at the end of the table tell some of the lawyers and clerks that if meth addicts need the stuff as badly as she needs chocolate, she understands.
That is how most meth addicts describe it, you know. It's like when you just gotta have a Hershey bar.
(In the South, meth is two syllables, like may-eth. Understand is at least four.)
The road over to Danville, Highway 127, was upgraded several years back to four lanes and the new road cut off a windy piece of Old 127 that we used to pass on trips from Lexington to Hustonville when we were in college and visited my in-laws-to-be on weekends. I remembered that there used to be a Dairy Dip Drive-In, just beyond the curve on the old part of the road where you could buy frozen custard cones from a small screened window and eat it in your car parked in front. I figured it had died long ago. You can’t even see where it used to be from the new road.
This afternoon for my daily trip for espresso and Wi-Fi, I decided to take the old road, just for grins, and lo-and-behold, not only is the Drive-in open, but there were people standing out front eating cones. No more chocolate-and-vanilla, either. The sign claims 24 flavors of soft-serve. The rest of the old road looked just like it did in the seventies.
Yesterday, I had a salad at 303W, a new restaurant in a renovated pool hall on Danville’s Main Street. While I ate my salad, my cell phone rang. It was my wife.
“Can you stop at Wal-Mart and pick up some pinto beans?”
“Yup,” I answered between bites.
A few minutes later, it rang again.
“Maybe Mark can pick up the beans, never mind.”
Two bites later, you guessed it.
“Mark can’t get them, can you?”
A gulp of iced tea later, it rang again. This time it was my sister-in-law standing in her Dad’s kitchen with my wife.
“Can you pick up a six-pack of beer? And don’t laugh. . . I want pomegranate-flavored Michelob Ultra.”
“OK.” I didn’t laugh.
“And if they don’t have that, don’t get anything.”
“Cumquat-flavored Michelob. Got it. If they don’t have it, get nothing.”
“Wait a minute. . . if they don’t have that, get Michelob Ultra Amber.”
I finally finished my salad and headed for Wal-Mart. I couldn’t find the right beans, so I called home. My wife straightened me out quickly.
“Oh, and can you pick up two bricks of Philadelphia Cream Cheese?”
Then she asked my sister-in-law if I should get strawberries and whipped cream.
“Got it. Strawberries and whipped cream.”
I heard my sister-in-law say that they were pestering me and that they could get the strawberries and whipped cream tomorrow.
“I’m here,” I interjected. “Two more items is no problem.”
“No, never mind, we’ll get it all tomorrow.”
“No, wait. . . get the Cream Cheese.”
“OK,” I replied. “Two bricks of cream cheese.”
“Wait. . . just one brick.”
“Fine, “ I answered, perhaps a bit curtly.
“Is everything OK?”, my wife asked. “You sound irritated.”
Any brief irritation I may have experienced was quickly forgotten when I learned how good squash casserole is with a little cream cheese in it. Wal-Mart was out of cumquat-flavored beer, but I found it at Krogers. Maybe it was pomegranate, my mind was spinning by that point, but I had a feeling that if I asked for cumquat-flavored beer, they’d know what I meant.
I had planned to visit my little sister on this trip, but that didn’t work out. I had also planned to fish a trout stream below Wolf Creek Dam, but I couldn’t get in touch with a friend to give me directions. So mostly, I’ve had coffee and spent my time writing.
Last night, my wife apologized for dragging me along on this trip since my plans didn't work out, but honestly, I’m having a blast. If you're a writer, there are worse ways to spend a steaming summer afternoon than holed up in a bookstore coffee shop with an iced latte and a laptop. And you are never going to run out of material to write about here.
Tonight Neal, a FaceBook friend of mine, and TurtleMan are having dinner with a TV crew. Neal asked me to stop by. They’re filming the exploits of the TurtleMan of Kentucky. He clears giant snapping turtles out of Kentucky farm ponds. You may find that redneck-ish and mundane, but it isn’t. It’s redneck-ish, amazing and hilarious.
The TurtleMan rocks.
And that pomegranate-flavored beer? When it's one hundred and eleven-teen degrees outside, it's better than no beer at all.
But just slightly better.
Dirk Cotton is a retired executive of a Fortune 500 Internet company who loves to spend time with his family, fly fish, shoot sporting clays, attend college baseball games, sail, follow the Wildcats, and write. Everything else he does is just for fun. A computer programmer-cum-marketing executive-cum-financial planner who now wants to be a writer, he apparently can't decide what he wants to be when he grows up. He and his family moved to The Southern Part of Heaven in 2005 and couldn't be happier with that decision.
ABOUT DIRK COTTON
more about dirk cotton
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
no discussion for this column yet.