“Every time you find some humor in a difficult situation, you win.” ~ Unknown
Despite the pouring rain on Saturday I really wanted a photo of the band outside because the Old Grassy Christian Church is your quintessential mountain church nestled between hills with a stream running alongside it. The only real way to make that happen was for me to go into the rain. So, I did. I slowed the shutter speed to pick up some rain trails, snapped 5 shots, then headed back inside. But the best shots were of the band looking out onto the foggy mountains; an angle that Ben saw as soon as we opened the doors. He was right.
Bluegrass picker and old friend Mike Havens is doing a CD of bluegrass gospel tunes featuring Keith Prater, Tyler Peyton, Rob Peyton, and Debi Horton. You’ve met the fabulous Debi back in 2016. In all the years I’ve know her she has never changed. I love her beyond all telling, and Mike? He’s a stand up guy that I love more every time I see him. Let me tell ya, we didn’t let yesterday’s rain dampen our spirits one bit. I had the best time with this bunch ever was in the little country church at Mize, Kentucky. For me, this photo totally sums up our time together. They won’t use it for their cover, of course, because it’s not exactly screaming Bluegrass gospel, but if they ever wanted a cover with personality, this is the one. To make my day extra special, a bald eagle flew over me as I was passed through Neal Valley not a mile from mom and dad’s house. I couldn’t believe it, so I asked aviary expert Jodi Stacy if what I saw was even possible. It’s possible indeed as they’ve made a great come back in Morgan County. A beautiful day with many of the Creator’s beautiful creatures.
I wasn’t the photographer for Corinne and Connor’s wedding, so what did I do? I took the worst possible lens along and then kicked myself for it the entire night because all I wanted to do was take pictures. But it didn’t matter what lens I had because nothing was going to be as good as the selfie the officiant snapped after the nuptials. The father of the groom posted a copy of the selfie today and it’s pretty funny. It sure set the tone for the rest of the evening, too. Lots of laughter. Lots of dancing. Lots and lots of love. Sounds like the perfect wedding to me. It was.
This crucifix hangs outside the Catholic Newman Center on campus. After Matt’s fall last night I went on to my car, but when I pulled out of the parking lot, this crucifix caught my eye. It was stunning in the spotlight set against lightly drifting snow. Plus, parishioners were inside, so the stained glass windows were aglow. Naturally, I pulled over. Heavier snow would have made a better picture, but all in all, it’s still interesting. Plus, I found it a comfort after Matt’s spill in the road.
The last stop dad and I made was the Holliday Cemetery at Ary, Kentucky. It’s so secluded by trees, and sits so far on top of the hill, that we missed it… twice. The surrounding mountaintops have been stripped of their coal, the natural landscape now drastically altered. But the cemetery’s hill remains untouched. There, in that hightop graveyard, dad’s paternal grandmother is buried. She died when he was only five days old, though she lived long enough to hold him once. The graveyard also holds cousin Eunice’s mother, Sylvania Terry Grigsby, her husband, and some of their children. Nearer the cemetery’s little church are buried two brothers that died in the Civil War. One fought for the Union, the other for the Confederacy. How perilously close our nation still walks that fine line. As we spew venom across social media (mostly), the news, or even in the local cafes and bars, those dead brothers lying side by side provide some perspective. I loved my day with dad, and paying our respects together to the ancestors high on that mountain was a fitting way to end our adventure. It’s critical to remember where you come from, and who your people are.
I arrived early at the church the day of mom’s baptism. While they finished morning services I walked around outside. It was a beautiful day to marvel at how well nature was rebounding after the F-3 tornado four years ago. Not all the buildings fair as well (below), and others have simply evolved, like the church. The porch was added after the storm, drastically changing the look of the little building. The steeple originally had a flat roof. That, too, was changed when the black shingled roof was replaced by tin after the storm. It’s still the sweet little church that survived. I know Mamaw would be proud.
There are three churches in Cade’s Cove. The first you come to on the loop is the Old Primitive Baptist church. Naturally, I stopped. Inside the church was a man near the pulpit playing an instrument I had never seen. It is called a Psaltery Harp, or simply a Psaltery. It can be plucked or bowed. It can even be hammered like a dulcimer, though it is not in the dulcimer family I was told. This is an ancient instrument that is most often plucked, though our bard, a confessed self-taught amateur, was using a bow. Click here to hear a bowed Psaltery duet.
Our bard, whose name I neglected to ask, was from Marysville, Tennessee. He said that he likes to play at the Old Primitive Baptist church simply for the acoustics. I can understand that. The church was originally built in 1827. The building standing now was built in 1912. All of the wood came from the Cove, and for some reason, the builders chose pine for the ceiling. Its sap made it a sticky wood to work with, and the hand prints of the children who held the boards in place for the men to hammer can still be seen. Nevertheless, the simple wooden box provides a warmth that many modern churches just don’t have, and I enjoyed listening to this ancient instrument in such a place. It reverberated deep into my bones.
Though our bard was kind enough to tell us a few things, mostly about the inside of the church and his Psaltery, there was little detail about the church’s history or its surrounding graveyard (which very clearly holds many of the Valley’s first pioneers). But we didn’t need a lot told. Morgan County is littered with similar churches; the kind my great-grandfather Hamilton attended well into his 90’s. I never see a small wooden box church like this that I don’t think of him walking two miles, one way, down a pot-holed dirt road to his Union Church at Dingus, Kentucky. These places used to be part worship center, part community center for small populations with sometimes vast distances between them like those of Cade’s Cove. For me, these structures reflect the simpler times in which they thrived. I find that comforting, and I appreciate that they still exist. I’m hoping our bard will be there when I go back. I’ll be sure to catch his name and ask him to play for us again.
I had every intention of going to church this morning. I was exhausted yesterday, and the rotten weather that moved through last night – bringing our first snow of the season – inspired me to skip the UK Football game (the only UK football game I’ve ever had tickets for) and stay in. I slept for twelve hours. I slept through church. I found this shot of the Gothic church door windows from the Sacred Spaces reception back in October. It will be my church today. I’m thankful to be rested.
I went on an adventure this evening. The Blue Grass Trust, the preservation society of the Bluegrass Region, had a “DeTour”, as they call it. The “DeTours” are free and open to anyone. Turns out they go to a lot of churches. Tonight, they were at St Paul’s A.M.E. on North Upper Street. You might remember St. Paul’s from a post last December.
St. Paul’s is one of the oldest African-American churches in Lexington. According to the presentation tonight, the Methodist Episcopal church started in Lexington in 1779 at Short and Deweese. The congregation of St. Paul’s convened in 1803 with a surprising 47 white and 30 black members. It was formally established in 1826. The following year, property with a stable was bought for the erection of a church. Part of that original stable is in the foundation of St. Paul.
One of the most striking historic facts about St. Paul’s was its role in the Underground Railroad. Behind the pulpit, in a sort of false wall, is hidden the narrowest of staircases leading to a small room above the sanctuary. There, tens, if not hundreds, of slaves took shelter on their journey north. They were fed by the church, and lead to safety by the church. The stairs were hardly 12″ wide; the room equally as small apparently (for safety reasons we weren’t able to see it). It was all pretty breathtaking. I love these “DeTours”. The next church on the BGT docket, you can bet I’ll be there.