Day 471: Pippa Passes

Pippa Passes, Kentucky, got its name in an interesting way. Alice Lloyd was a Boston journalist who was disabled by a stroke and spinal meningitis and was advised by her doctor to move to a warmer climate. She went with her mother to live in a windowless cabin in Kentucky. Since she and her mother were educated, a man offered to build them a cabin with windows and let them live on his land if they would educate his children and those of his neighbors. They accepted his offer and started a free school. Alice spent evenings writing letters asking for donations to pay for textbooks and school supplies.

One of the organizations she approached for funding for the school was the Browning Society. Along with their donation, they suggested that the post office be called “Pippa Passes” from the title of Robert Browning’s poem/drama published in 1841.

Alice Lloyd founded other mountain schools and later Alice Lloyd College, a four-year liberal arts institution in Pippa Passes. Laetitia and her group toured the college and afterward went on to Hazard, Kentucky, a small city of about 5,000 named for U.S. Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. The television show The Dukes of Hazzard was based on this Kentucky community, but the spelling of Hazard was changed to “Hazzard” and the locale was reset to Georgia. The last stop of the day was a farm on which two young women raised miniature donkeys that they offered for sale as pets for children.

After arranging to meet later for dinner, Laetitia dropped her guests at their hotel and went to a local bar for happy hour. She ordered a bourbon and water and struck up a conversation with the bartender. He knew about the miniature donkey farm, and thought both the women who owned the farm and the little donkeys were cute. He said he liked to drive by that farm to look at the livestock.

While he was serving other customers, Laetitia had another thought. When she had met her group this morning and announced that the first stop on the day’s tour was Pippa Passes, everyone assumed that the tour had something to do with the Royal Wedding. She assured the group that the day’s tour had nothing to do with Pippa Middleton’s passage down the aisle in Westminster Abbey carrying the train of sister Kate’s bridal gown, offering the world a view of her form-fitting-gown-ensheathed backside and creating a brouhaha. With those thoughts, Laetitia smiled and wrote the limerick of the day.

A young man from the town Pippa Passes
Found attractive young ladies’ cute asses
And would ogle their charms
On pastures and farms
As they dined on Kentucky’s sweet grasses.

Day 470: Sandy Hook

Laetitia and her group began their day by visiting a stable near Cave Run Lake, Kentucky, and doing a trail ride. Later they visited the restored fire tower on Tater Knob. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934, the tower extended 35 feet above the highest point in the area, giving a panoramic view of the surrounding forestland within a radius of 30 miles. During the season when the probability of forest fires was high, one or two rangers staffed the tower cab, which was furnished with a small wood stove, two cots, a cabinet, a storage box, a small table, and a stool. In the center of the cab was an alidade used to take a bearing on smoke sightings. After taking a bearing, the ranger would call other towers, and they would fix the location of the developing fire by triangulation. Aircraft surveillance replaced the tower system in the 1970s.

Laetitia’s job required that she always be on the lookout for words or phrases that make good limericks, and Tater Knob was a possible candidate. “Tater” is a surname and a slang word for potato. Both tater and knob also have slang meanings that are often used in rude ways. Tater may be a slang word for female breast, and knob may mean penis or nipple. Laetitia thought about the words for a bit as the group moved on to Sandy Hook, their destination for the evening, but nothing came to mind.

Sandy Hook is a town of about 700 residents in eastern Kentucky, not to be confused with the town and National Park of the same name in New Jersey. Its name comes from its location on a bend on the Little Sandy River. It was the hometown of country singer/songwriter Keith Whitely, who, during his brief career of five years, had 19 singles on the country music charts and five in the number one spot. He struggled with alcoholism and died of acute ethanol poisoning at age 35. He is buried in Spring Hill Cemetery near Nashville, Tennessee, but there is a statue of him with his guitar in the Sandy Hook Cemetery, and they renamed a local street, “Keith Whitely Boulevard.” At happy hour Laetitia heard some gossip about an aspiring local photographer that spawned the limerick of the day.

When a man from the town Sandy Hook
Saw two girls bathing nude in a brook
With a sense of abandon
He pulled out his Canon
And he relished the pictures he took.

Day 469: Stab Gab

It isn’t far from Berea to Stab, Kentucky, where Laetitia’s group was going later in the day, but Laetitia decided to detour first to Natural Bridge State Resort Park. As one might expect, the park’s centerpiece is its natural bridge. The arch is sandstone, 65 feet high with a span of 78 feet. After visiting the park, the group went to nearby Red River Gorge for a hike.

Stab, Kentucky, is a small cluster of houses along Stab Road. The origin of its name is obscure—possibly the surname of an early town resident. The surname occurs occasionally on genealogical reference sites. One with imagination might envision a descendant of one of the Roman senators who joined Brutus in dispatching Julius Caesar or a passenger on Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but there is no evidence of that. Stab’s only tourist attraction is Short Creek. It’s a karst fenster (fenster means window in German), a subterranean stream that emerges from a cave, briefly flows on the surface and then disappears underground again.

There were no accommodations in Stab, so Laetitia’s group went on to Somerset to spend the evening. At happy hour, Laetitia couldn’t think of anything that had happened during the day that inspired a limerick, so she made one up based on the town name and how it might make its residents seem intimidating to outsiders.

Young Saul, who’d a penchant to gab
About ladies who had too much flab
Always did hold his tongue
About girls old and young
Whom he met from the village of Stab.

Day 468: Onomatopoeia

Laetitia and her group began the day in Kentucky at Pleasant Hill, the restoration of a nineteenth-century Shaker religious community. The formal name of the sect was the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, but they were called “Shakers” because of their enthusiastic worship style, which included singing, dancing, shaking, shouting, speaking in tongues, and prophesying. They were celibate and communitarian and did not discriminate on the basis of gender, social class, or education. They were recognized for the neatness and productivity of their farms, their frugality, and their creativity.

The Pleasant Hill Shaker Community ceased activity in 1910, and the buildings and grounds drifted into decay until the 1960s, when a group of Lexington citizens organized a restoration effort. Today the site includes 34 of the original nineteenth-century buildings on 2,800 acres of farmland. Especially interesting are the simple but elegant duplex houses with a side for the women and one for the men. Laetitia and her group toured the buildings and grounds and had lunch in the Trustee’s House. After lunch, the group went on to Berea.

Berea, Kentucky, is a small city with 13,500 residents about 40 miles south of Lexington. It’s probably best known for Berea College, a small liberal arts school, where students earn their education through a work-study program. John Gregg Fee, an abolitionist, founded the college in 1855. It was the first non-segregated, coeducational college south of the Mason-Dixon line. Laetitia and her group were spending the evening at Boone Tavern, a hotel and restaurant run by the college that provides paid employment and experience to students who wish to enter the hospitality business.

At the next table when the group had dinner at the restaurant were a group of young local women. One of them, Ria, had been away for a year and was just back in town. Her first job out of college was teaching high school English in a small, straight-laced community in the state. She had been fired at the end of her first year because the school board thought her method of teaching the concept of onomatopoeia, a word that imitates the sound that it describes, was “conduct unbecoming a teacher.” Perhaps she had been a bit exuberant in her performance.

When a fervid schoolteacher named Ria
Who was teaching onomatopoeia
Hee-hawed like an ass
In front of her class
She was fired and went home to Berea.