May 3, 2015

Linda Swift’s Old Kentucky Home

I am a native Kentuckian, now dividing time between homes here and Florida. Although best known for the Kentucky Derby, there are many other things of interest that I want to mention. Kentucky has an outstanding system of parkways that connect all major points of interest that include state parks with beautiful lodge accommodations. I have visited almost all as a lifetime member of the Kentucky State Poetry Society which holds annual weekend meetings in alternate parks.  My family and I have also spent week-long holidays in many of them. 

From east to west there is great diversity in geography, natural resources, agriculture, and architecture. In the Appalachian mountains of the eastern part of  the state coal mining is king. Berea College, which has only no-tuition students who work for their education, operates Boone Tavern, a hotel and restaurant (home of the unique "spoon bread") and has a gift shop selling students' beautiful hand-crafted items. Several state parks are located in this area including Cumberland Falls State Park which boasts a moonbow, visible on clear nights.

The state capitol, in central Kentucky at Frankfort, is well worth touring. Nearby in Ft. Knox  the US Treasury gold vault is located. A short distance away in Louisville is the internationally known Churchill Downs, home of Derby Day on the first Saturday in May. Many of the famous horse farms are open for visitors. The official nickname "Bluegrass State" refers to the gently rolling hills covered with poa in this region.

Traveling west, Old Talbot Tavern in Bardstown (known as the Bourbon Capitol of the World) is a unique stop for lunch. My Old Kentucky Home State Park offers tours of the antebellum mansion where Stephen Foster wrote the beloved song. In an outdoor theater here the Stephen Foster Story (a musical) has been performed for almost sixty years. For barbeque fans, a well-known stop is the Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn in Owensboro.

Strip mining is still being done in this part of the state which is the site of man-made lakes and numerous dams and hydro-electric power plants created and maintained by Tennessee Valley Authority. The New Madrid earthquake in 1811-12 created another body of water called Reelfoot Lake. Western Kentucky is a popular vacation spot for fishermen and boaters. Tobacco was the major crop in the state until recent years. Limestone caves abound here, the largest being Mammoth Cave, called one of the seven wonders of the world. Barkley
Lodge is the most elaborate of several lodges located in state parks in the area.

My city of Paducah was the home of Alben Barkley, vice president (the Veep)in the Roosevelt and Truman years. His memorabilia is displayed in Whitehaven, the only antebellum mansion converted to a state welcome center. After the Ohio River's disastrous flood of 1937, a floodwall was erected  which is now covered with murals depicting the city's history. Steamboats from two major cruise lines make regular stops here in season and passengers tour the restored downtown. I created a Books for Boats program with local authors to meet each boat last summer.

Space will not permit me to mention more of the state's attractions or people. But I want to leave you with these ironic facts. Kentucky was neutral in the Civil War, but claimed 100,000 Union and 40,000 Confederate troops. And Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis were both native sons, born one year and 100 miles apart. So you all come to see us. You'll be welcome any time.

Linda Swift divides her time between Florida and her native state of Kentucky. In her other life she was a teacher, counselor, and psychometrist in public schools in three states. She is an award winning author of published poetry, articles, short stories, and a TV play. Her first books were published by Kensington. She currently has twelve ebooks (also in print) and nine novellas with three publishers available from Amazon and other distributors. Her Civil War saga, This Time Forever, has been compared to Gone With The Wind and the TV mini-series North and South. Linda considers the adaptation of this book into the film, Clarissa's War, the highlight of her writing career. 

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  1. An excellent visit to Kentucky, Linda! Being a history buff, what impressed me most were the facts about Lincoln and Davis.

    Sal Buttaci

  2. Years ago I visited Lexington. My wife and I found the Appalachian folk art museum in Morehead where we bought a piece that still hangs over our bed.

  3. Salvatore, I agree with you that the facts about Lincoln and Davis are almost surreal. To think, the leaders of both sides in the Civil War were Kentucky sons who mirrored each other so completely. I don't know whether to be happy or sad about this unique bit of history.

  4. Ken, there are some very unique pieces of art as well as crafts in the eastern part of the state, and variations of mountain or folk music also abounds. Do visit us again and experience more.

  5. Interesting post, Linda. My brother-in-law taught at Berea. Some of my direct ancestors came from Kentucky, one of which was Daniel Boone's brother-in-law and hunting partner.

  6. Hi Linda,

    I really enjoyed your post…it brought back lost of memories of trips down South. I remember sitting at the outdoor theater watching the Stephen Foster Story and can still hear the songs echoing in my ears!

    Thanks so much for sharing this insights into your beautiful state. Best wishes with your writing!

  7. Every time I think about the states in your part of the country, my attention is drawn to Kentucky, and I don't know why. You make it sound interesting. Maybe one day I will get to see the sites. Your pictures are nice.

  8. I visited your state once and noticed the big green trees and meadows. Coming from the desert of Arizona, it was really welcomed and appreciated
    Jwisley8(at)me (dot) com

  9. I really want to spend some time in Kentucky.

  10. JD, I wonder if you have been to Berea. It is certainly one of a kind in education. I was fortunate to attend a week-long educational program there one summer and I have close friends met through the KY Poetry Society who are from the area and were educated at Berea.

  11. Debbbie Krump. I also have the same wonderful memories of watching the Stephen Foster Story in the outdoor theater. That area of Kentucky is such a beautiful place, but each part of the state has its own beauty. I'd like to see the performance again but don't suppose I ever will.

  12. Mary, Kentucky is a beautiful state and I didn't really appreciate it as much until I traveled and lived in many other places. And its people are for the most part gracious, friendly souls that I am proud to call my fellow-natives. Do keep up in mind for a vacation soon. The state parks throughout the state are wonderful places to stay. You can choose rustic cabins or elegant lodges in every one of them.

  13. Joye, I understand that contrast! I was always awed by all the green when we came back from Nevada. There is something about the desert that I love as well. The quiet, the serenity, the vastness of the landscape. There is beauty is both.

  14. Debby, I do hope you will be able to visit Kentucky. I didn't begin to do the state justice in this short blog. You really have to see it firsthand and experience the difference in the scenery from east to west. From mountains to rolling hills to flat land with lakes. So do plan to visit. You will be happy you did!


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