Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yesterday's Travels to Paradise (KY)

Ed and I went to Paradise yesterday, but not before going to Owensboro for his Aunt Ila's memorial service. Ila was married to Ed's father's brother, Hugh. Back in the day, the two Galloway brothers ran Galloway's Market in downtown Owensboro.

I don't know that side of Ed's family very well, seems like I mostly see them when someone dies. I've recently connected up with three of his first cousins via facebook, so I'm hoping our friendships grow beyond funeral visits and status posts.

The service was at First Presbyterian Church with a lunch afterwards in the fellowship hall. Ed saw some long-time friends and cousins that he hadn't seen for a very long time, evidenced by the fact that they didn't recognize each other (I guess they -- and Ed -- had changed since he was a teenager and known to all as Eddie Lee.)

Before heading back to Shelby County, we rode out into the country, out past Windy Hollow, toward Glenview, Guffie, and Calhoun. We stopped at the old Fitts farm, which was much changed since I first saw it nearly 30 years ago. It was the home place of Ed's maternal grandparents, but today there are no tobacco barns, no old family farmhouse, no root cellar, no front-yard Maple shade trees -- nothing but 66-acres of rolling fields, dotted with some ancient-looking oil pumps. Ben Burns (Ed's great nephew) was out on a gigantic John Deere tractor getting the fields ready for planting.

I couldn't help but scan the ground as we walked around, just in case I caught a glimpse of the little gold ring that Ed's mother lost down the porch floorboards when she was a young girl. For over 75 years she searched for it, as did Aunt Gladys, as do my girls. I suppose for as long as that land is in the family, relatives will continue to look for a bit of shiny gold peeking out of the earth.

Oil rigs still pumping out black gold on the Fitts Farm.

Our journey continued. Just down the road was the old Galloway farm, which is still in farmland, but showed no evidence of the house where Ed's dad was born, weighing in at all of two pounds. We stopped at a couple of country graveyards, trying to find the grave stone of a revolutionary war soldier and ancestor of Ed's on his faternal grandmother's side, a Coloniel Lyttle. No luck.

Don't believe what you hear about words carved in stone: They do disappear with years.

Tichenor's Store at Guffie has seen better days.
From there, we made our way over a bridge of the Green River and toward Central City (which is where my maternal grandmother was born and raised). We had a general plan that we wanted to see the Peabody Wildlife Management area, approximately 60,000 acres in Ohio and Muhlenberg counties that are reclaimed strip mine lands. So we headed to where Paradise lay, but, like the John Prine song says, we found that Mister Peabody's coal train had hauled it away.

On the way to Paradise....
Despite almost non-existent signage, we managed to find our way to a portion of the Peabody Wildlife Area near the TVA plant. Most of the mined land has been reclaimed to grassland, small ponds, swamps and sloughs. The town of Paradise now looks more like a bird-watcher or angler's paradise. A Kentucky Wildlife ranger pointed out some good fishing spots on the map and told us we could camp anywhere that didn't block a gravel road or boat ramp -- an outing best saved for another day.

With the afternoon slipping away, we made our way back to the Western Kentucky Parkway, I-65, I-265, I-64, Simpsonville and then finally to Farm Dover. Nice day; nice to be back home. Paradise, in fact.


Reclaimed grassland and pond in the Peabody Wildlife Management Area with TVA stacks in the background.
photo by Robert Gundy via flickr®

Paradise, by John Prine

When I was a child my family would travel
Down to Western Kentucky where my parents were born
And there's a backwards old town that's often remembered
So many times that my memories are worn.

And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking
Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away

Well, sometimes we'd travel right down the Green River
To the abandoned old prison down by Adrie Hill
Where the air smelled like snakes and we'd shoot with our pistols
But empty pop bottles was all we would kill.

Then the coal company came with the world's largest shovel
And they tortured the timber and stripped all the land
Well, they dug for their coal till the land was forsaken
Then they wrote it all down as the progress of man.

When I die let my ashes float down the Green River
Let my soul roll on up to the Rochester dam
I'll be halfway to Heaven with Paradise waitin'
Just five miles away from wherever I am.


  1. I love that John Prine song! I am glad you had a good trip!

    1. Thanks Laura. The first time I heard this song was down in mulenburg county at an Everly Brothers concert.

  2. Great post Aunt Deb...Really enjoyed it

  3. I hope Stephen Todd takes me there one day! Nice post!!!