Day of the Dead

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November 2, 2017, Prescott-

Hispanic families, in Mexico and elsewhere, observe this day as a way to honour their departed ancestors and strengthen the ties between this world and the hereafter.

As I looked out the window, this morning, I swear I could see Penny’s image, and that of her father, looking back at me, in a tree across the way.

Some have gone on, this past year, who had roles, large and small, in my life.

Uncle George Boivin, one of my last surviving father figures, gave me a paving stone from Boston’s old Scollay Square, which was transformed into Government Center, when I was about 12.  He was ever available, when I was in Colorado, to set me straight, in the difficult  2 1/2 years, immediately following Penny’s passing.  His mind was sharp, until the end, and those doll houses live on.

Al Tercero served our American Legion, at the post and district level, for over 30 years.  Now he is in what we call Post Everlasting.  The Honour Guard he helped establish is still the finest in Arizona.

George Marchessault, also a Past Commander and Honour Guard stalwart, stayed true to the Legion code and was ever present at our gatherings, on almost a weekly basis, until his last illness confined him to rest.

Bea Cronin, a grand-aunt’s sister-in-law, was always outside watching the Saugus High football team, from her back yard. There was an open door and welcome to the kids who knew her sons, and to us, her far extended family, when we were in the neighbourhood.

Ivaloo Mac Vicar was always in the hall, when I was passing to classes in seventh grade, admonishing us boys to WALK down the stairs, ONE step at a time.  She made it to the Century Mark, and a bit beyond, as did-

Evelyn Porter Anderson, who gave my mother a shot at success as a hairdresser and cosmetologist, in the uncertain days after World War II.  She never stopped doting on the five of us, until blindness and infirmity kept her confined to her last home.

Bernis Hanlon taught me, in fifth grade, to rely on my own wits and to start building  layers on my thin skin.  It took twenty more years for that lesson to really stick, yet less time for her next life lesson, appreciation of fine drama, to be absorbed, six years later, when she was the  High School Theater Advisor, who didn’t mind my being on the periphery of that club’s efforts.

Firuz Kazemzadeh was a high-level scholar of the Baha’i Faith, and one of our most accomplished mentors, serving in so many capacities, legal and educational.  His was always a bright and friendly face, at national and international gatherings, as well as at “our own” Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, held annually in Phoenix.

So many others have come and gone- and some day a person or two will write of my time on this Earth.  There is much to do, as yet, so let it not be too soon.

 

The Mogollon and Their Brief Haven

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October 12, 2017, Gila Cliff Dwellings, NM- 

There are few places in the world that can claim a heritage that is chronologically brief, yet historically enduring.  I had the pleasure of being in such a place, this morning.

The Mogollon people lived in this rugged area for about 25 years, starting around 1200 AD.  Then, for reasons that may have ranged from drought to encroachment of other peoples, they left these cliff dwellings behind.

Here are several photos of the four inhabited high cliff caves, and the legacy of their only known inhabitants.  Note the charred ceilings and carefully built stone apartments.  I began by crossing this foot bridge, over a tributary of the Gila River.

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The hike was 1/2 mile, up moderately steep switchbacks.  It took me about twelve minutes to get up to the dwellings.

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Once on top, I passed by a cave that was never inhabited.

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At cave 2, I was greeted by a volunteer docent, who explained that the community was organized into apartment units, with a common area for dining and religious gatherings.

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Cave 3, the largest settled area, is accessible by ladder, as it was in the Mogollon’s time.

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The curious T-shaped window afforded a broad view of the adjacent cliffs and a narrow enough egress, in times when cook fires were errant.

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Note the remaining soot on the ceiling.  It is dated from the 13th Century.

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This ladder is a Twentieth Century replacement for the log ladder, used by the Mogollon.

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This is an example of the apartmental structure, in Cave 4.

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The area below was a common gathering place, also in Cave 4.

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Here is the eastward view that greeted the Mogollon.

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Here is an apartment in cave 5, which is not accessible to the modern visitor.

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Few pictographs remain, in the dwellings themselves, but here is one.

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As with all parts of the mountain west, the Gila Wilderness has had its share of fire.  This is an area which burned in 2011. The gentleman at lower right, and his wife, are involved with the Everett, WA Botanical Garden, which I visited in 2015.

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The Mogollon seem to have borrowed some construction techniques from the Ancient Puebloans, further northeast and from the Salado people, to the west.  Their ultimate fate remains unknown, though they seem to have made their way northward, after abandoning this site.

NEXT:  Silver City

Two Corners of Enchantment

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October 24, 2017, Prescott- 

Whilst returning to this Home Base, in late July, I chose a route through the Oklahoma Panhandle, and into northeast New Mexico.  Bypassing the town of Clayton, I headed towards Folsom, a ghost town of sorts, whose approaches took me through some Badlands and the Cimarron Mountains, which eventually took me past Capulin Mountain- a National Monument where I hoped to stop for an hour or so.  Monsoon rains removed that possibility.

Here are a few views of the territory between Black Mesa, OK and Cimarron, NM.

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The area south of Black Mesa is high desert, and full of rugged, little-traveled BLM roads. The rock formations, as elsewhere in the Southwest, seem to have petrified beings hanging about.

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The pine-clad ridges took over, just northeast of Folsom.

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So, too, did the monsoon rain.

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I found Folsom not showing many signs of life, but several signs of history.

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Below, is the former Folsom Hotel.

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I briefly stopped in Cimarron, and later in Taos, which will each be places to revisit, in their own right, at a later date.

Here are two photos of each.

The St. James is Cimarron’s premier hotel.

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Taos is known for its art and for upscale accommodations.  I like the down home aspects of the place.

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My goal was to reach Prescott by the following morning, so I did not tarry in Taos, as tempting as it was.  I did briefly stop at another gem, not far from Taos:  Rio Grande Gorge.

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Fast forward to October 11.  I passed the eastern Arizona towns of Safford and Duncan, heading towards AZ Rte 78 and US 180, which would lead me to Silver City, in New Mexico’s southwest region.

The Gila Wilderness lies between, and is every bit as rugged as the areas described above.

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I found my way, that night, to Tammy’s Cafe, in tiny Cliff, NM and a local man named Justin regaled me with stories of ranch life and the opportunities it availed, for random exploration of early American ruins, many on private land. Tammy’s had good food, as well, although the wait gave Justin nearly an hour to spin his yarns.

NEXT:  A continuation of this month’s trip to New Mexico:  Gila Cliff Dwellings

Besh Ba Gowah

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October 11, 2017, Globe, AZ-

The Southwest is as abundant with remembrances of the past, as anywhere on Earth, and perhaps more than many places.  The various cultures and civilizations that came here, long before the Athapascans, the Comanches, the Utes, to say nothing of the Spanish and other Caucasians, will perhaps never be well understood.  I see, however, that in many ways, these distant ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni, Havasupai, Hualapai, Yavapai and Rio Grande Puebloans are mirrors of ourselves.  Visiting the Salado ruins at Besh Ba Gowah (Apache, for “Metal Camp”), I saw a carefully planned, apartment-based community, which relied on knowledge and cultivation of high desert plants, having drawn on the practices of the Huhugam and others who came here, well before the 11th and 12th Century heydays of the Salado people.

Here are a series of photos of the excavated and unexcavated ruins, the upper and lower gardens, of Besh Ba Gowah, lovingly restored and maintained by an appreciative City of Globe and its citizens.  I am not commenting on all of the individual photos, hoping that you may draw a sense of the vastness of this complex.

Entry to Excavated Ruins:

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The Excavated Ruins:


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Unexcavated Ruins:

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Arizona Gray Squirrel, a bit mottled by the dryness.

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Upper Ethnbotanical Garden:

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Lower Ethnobotanical Garden:

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Look closely, and spot a smiley face:

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Besh Ba Gowah, and Globe as a whole, are nicely placed between Flagstaff, Phoenix and Tucson, making this stunning area a natural place, in which to enjoy a Fall day or three.

NEXT:  The Further Glories of the Gila Wilderness

 

Arizona’s Miami

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October 11, 2017, Globe, AZ-

This old copper-mining community, near and in competition with, a town called Miami (pronounced my-AM-uh), was, in times long gone, a gathering place for foragers and for farmers.

I spent a fair amount of time in each town, today.  Starting at a small chapel in a canyon called Bloody Tanks, where a former professor of mine was born, some eighty years ago, I noted the fervour of the copper miners of Miami.  This chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, has the full protection of the townspeople, regardless of their individual faiths.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Bloody Tanks has an interesting tributary of the Gila River, which itself figures prominently in my planned stops of the next day or so.  It’s dry here, as the big river is, around these parts.

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Miami was very quiet in midweek.  It seems the majority of the town’s business, these days, is conducted along Highway 60, which runs clear across the Southwest.  Miami’s downtown, what there is of it, is largely a series of antique shops.  It would be a nice place to rejuvenate, but I prefer to see that revival run by locals- as is happening in Superior and Globe, on either side of the Cobre Valley.

A revival sparked by the Apache spirit would be a fine one.

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The “can-do” spirit of people like Manuel Mendoza also does this town proud.  There are many who have carried on, based on his example.

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After looking around downtown, I took a ride along the hill to the south of town.

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From the south, one gets a good view of Miami’s extant copper mine,

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as well as of ‘M” Mountain.

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Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament is the town’s most prominent church, highly visible from the south ridge.

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Miami’s hills will, no doubt, draw me for further exploration.  It was time, though, to head on over to Globe’s tribute to its indigenous past:  Besh Ba Gowah.

 

 

Vignettes, but No Pictures

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October 11, 2017, Silver City-

I am intending to get to bed shortly, so as to wake up in time for a 2.5 hour drive to Gila Cliff Dwellings.  So, there will be no photos of Besh Ba Gowah or the Gila Wilderness, for a day or two.

I do want to mention a few people I have met, over the past two days.  There was a little girl, about 3, who expressed concern about the bandaid on my left facial cheek.  I have it to guard a sun blister that is slowly healing.  No explanation was needed, but her concern was priceless.  Another little girl greeted me this morning, as I went to my car for an item.  She was pleased that I was on vacation, like she was.

At the Slow Food Prescott meeting, last night, I was able to invite three couples to our upcoming observance of the Bicentenary of Baha’u’llah’s Birth, on Oct. 22.  It takes a lot for me to offer invitations, and two of them were accepted graciously, with the third being rather hesitant, but taking it anyway.  More importantly, a Convergence event was announced at this meeting.  It will be held from November 10-12, which I can attend for at least two days- and with some negotiation and calendar tweeking, three days.  There will be an all-nighter, on the last night, ending at 8 AM, 11/13.  Work the next day, of course, will keep me from that part.

When I got to Superior, I had to bang on the window to get the resident manager’s attention- no doorbell, and the phone is in the office.  It took ten minutes, but I got in my reserved room.  Tonight, in Silver City, my initial room had a dead magnetic strip, and a broken faucet handle in the bathroom, so I got a different room and a discount on top of a discount.

At Tammy’s Cafe, in Buckhorn, NM, this evening, the grill was overloaded, so it took several of us close to 40 minutes to get our meals.  The staff, though, is incredibly energetic, attentive,  and gracious.  No one is idle.  The food was marvelous, worth the wait.

In the meantime, I had a lengthy conversation with a young ranch hand, named Jason, who gave me a wealth of information about Gila Cliff Dwellings, Casa Malpais (in Springerville, AZ) and various cliff dwellings on both private and county land, between Silver City and Springerville.  Tammy, the cafe owner and one of her waitresses were also full of information on the prehistoric remnants of the area.

It’s always a good day, when I feel open to connecting with new people.

 

 

Colombo

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October 9, 2017, Prescott-

Synchronicity leads to triage.  A meeting that I cannot miss, tomorrow night, has delayed my brief jaunt over to Gila Cliff Dwellings, until Wednesday morning.  This will be just fine, though it takes me away from other meetings, Wednesday and Thursday nights.  As long as I’m back, to take care of a key task on Friday, it’s all good.  Besides, driving down and over to Superior on Tuesday night, after the gathering, will be easy enough.

Now then:  Today is celebrated by those of  Italian descent, across the United States, as Columbus Day..  Others among our countrymen point out that Columbus’ track record, with regard to the Indigenous people of the Caribbean Basin and Rim, was hardly deserving of special honours.

A contemporary of Columbus, Bartolomeo de las Casas, himself a defender of indigenous peoples’ rights, says of the Admiral :  He was “more than middling tall; face long and giving an air of authority; aquiline nose, blue eyes, complexion light and tending to bright red, beard and hair red when young but very soon turned gray from his labors; he was affable and cheerful in speaking […] A forgiver of injuries, [he] wished nothing more than that those who offended against him should recognize their errors, and that the delinquents be reconciled with him.”

Columbus did concur with slaughtering cannibals, among the Caribs of Dominica, after seeing graphic evidence of their torture of both Taino and Spaniard.  He reported, but did not practice, the sexual enslavement of young Taino girls.  For this last, and other “crimes against the Spanish”, his opponents, Bobadilla and Roldan, sought Columbus’ removal. Although Roldan later reconciled with Columbus, Bobadilla persisted, and eventually saw to the Admiral’s removal and imprisonment.  Much of the present-day condemnation of Christopher Columbus comes from “evidence” cited  by Bobadilla, who was himself a severe persecutor of indigenous people, though his own rule over Santo Domingo proved ineffective and was, therefore, very brief.

Having said this, I am not sure what merit Columbus has, for the honours heaped upon him, as “discoverer of America”.  He never set foot on American soil, other than Puerto Rico, which has its own history and sovereignty, separate from that of the United States of America.  He was, by his own admission, not the first European to set foot in North America (having visited Iceland and heard the descriptions of “Vinland”, from that country’s residents).

Like many of our holidays, Columbus Day has become about us. In this case, it has become about proud Italian-Americans  marching in parades and honouring their rich heritage.  That heritage includes, among other things, the fact that our hemisphere’s two continents are named for one of Columbus’s contemporaries:  Amerigo Vespucci, a cartographer.  Columbus himself is honoured, decently enough, by places being named for him, from the capitals and largest cities of Ohio and South Carolina, to Canada’s westernmost province (albeit by way of Lewis and Clark having named the Columbia River after him).

People change at a glacial pace, so I expect Columbus Day, and the parades, will be around for some years yet.  It doesn’t much matter, here in Arizona, save for the banks and post offices being closed.  We tend to pay more mind to those important to this area’s heritage.  So, by and large, the sensibilities of Native Americans loom larger, and Columbus is more a figure of curiosity and of academic study.

The Hollow Brings Fullness

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July 25, 2017, Mooreland, OK-

I have a penchant for finding lush canyons and small forests, in places that are mostly noted for being “featureless”.  Nowhere is featureless.  The scoured and glaciated plains of Kansas are punctuated by riparian arroyos, which offer a pleasant break for the distance traveler, as well as a hangout spot for local youth.  One such is The Hollow, in Sedan, about which, more in a bit.

I decided, after breakfast with my cousin, Lisa, to forego the Oklahoma Turnpike and take US 166 across southern Kansas.    My first stop was in Baxter Springs, which celebrates its tie to the Mother Road.  Another shutterbug, a young lady, was quietly taking in the even quieter scenes of downtown Baxter, as I checked out “66”.

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I had miles to go, as yet, so I left Baxter Springs, after about twenty minutes, continuing on through bustling Coffeyville.  Sedan, though, called out to me, to take the right turn into town, where I spotted a sign for “The Hollow”.  This town is known for its “Yellow Brick Road”.  A couple of teen girls, very much owning downtown, at this mid-day, sauntered down the yellow bricks, not long after I took this shot.

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Sedan also is notable for a museum dedicated to Emmett Kelly,  a famed circus clown of the 1930’s-60’s.  Emmett was a native of Sedan, so his statue stands in The Hollow Park.

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Some elements of The Hollow are vintage Great Plains:  There is the old St. Charles school house.

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There is also the requisite gazebo, but with a pointed twist.

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I can sit in gazebos for hours, but this time, forty minutes for lunch and contemplation were enough.  I wanted to have a few minutes with the hollow itself.  An iron ring, extracted from the creek, when the junkyard, which once occupied this land, was being cleaned up, is interposed between school house and gazebo.

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The garden area of The Hollow is marked by ruins of the junk yard office, of all things. The boardwalk leads through the garden, and down to the arroyo, which has a waterfall, in times of heavy rain.  There was no waterfall today, though.

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This little spot reminded me of small crevices that I used to fancy my “caves”, when I was a little boy in Saugus.

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Here, the official trail ends, but I am willing to bet that there are plenty of kids who have made their way quite a bit further north, along the creek bed.

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My Sedan visit was capped by a salad bar and sandwich lunch, at Seasons Rotisserie, a solid little place, with a handful of regulars, three of whom had just returned to Sedan, from several years elsewhere.  Two sisters, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, were on a road trip as an homage to their late father, who grew up in a small Kansas town.  They were visiting several such towns, in Kansas and Oklahoma.  I was glad to be able to tell them about The Hollow.

This part of Kansas is favourable with hunters, as is illustrated by this acrylic painting, on Seasons’ wall.

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I later learned that there is a sizable property, Red Buffalo Ranch, that caters to outdoorsmen.   If you happen by Sedan, the ranch is, no doubt,  also worth a visit. I might check it out, one of these trips.

Arkansas City (pronounced the way it looks), saw me pass through, without so much as a by-your-leave. It was getting late, and  I was concerned about checking in with my friend, J.E., in Enid, OK.  He is hanging in there.  I also wanted to stop in at Da Vinci Coffee Shop, as the owners were such welcoming hosts, the last time I was there.  I needn’t have bothered.  The owners weren’t there, and the baristas were a bit surly and suspicious of me and my out-of-state car.  You never know who will greet you.

After several minutes talking with John, I headed further west, to Mooreland, which is just shy of the northwest Oklahoma cow town of Woodward.  Mooreland Motel and Cafe is run by a tough, but gracious, grandma, who proudly showed me pictures of her “babies” and said she was closing for the night, so she could go be with them, and I would be the last guest to check in.

I think I like Mooreland, quite a bit.

 

 

 

Wide Murals and A Long Market

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July 23, 2017, Paducah, KY-

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This old river town, now also a regional hub for the Confluence- (people in Cairo, IL refer to Paducah as “town”), has two places that drew me back, all the way from last year, when I passed this way after dark, and ended up in Marion, IL.  The first is the Ohio Riverfront.  Middle America has done well, in making the most of its waterways, both the great rivers and the Great Lakes.  Retaining walls are accompanied by walkways and adorned by murals.  Public events, ever with music, are a given- especially in summer.  This is Paducah, named by William Clark, who gave the local Comanches the name Padoukas- a corruption of the Kaw term for them: Padoka.

The Ohio is joined by the Tennessee River, not far from here.    Then, as you may recall, the Ohio itself conjoins the Missisissippi, a few miles further west, at Cairo.  Thus, one might set sail in Huntsville, Alabama and make one’s way clear to Billings, Montana, or Wichita, Kansas, with clever navigation.

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The preacher man was too busy singing, to introduce himself, but he is apparently a local fixture, as many of those in their lawn chairs said they’d be at his gospel festival, a few days into August.  He covered all the timeless classics, and got me to croak along, on a few of them.

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The triptych mural, on Paducah’s floodwall, covers different aspects of the river’s heritage.  This one, of the riverboat, looks at a period of time that fascinated me, as a child.  The gamblers and the roustabouts of the early river communities were among my favourite characters, on shows like “Daniel Boone.”

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River traffic made Paducah prosper, in the mid-Nineteenth Century, even into the beginnings of the Rail Era.  The solid buildings still maintain a bustling downtown.  Even on Sunday evening, when most everything was closed, I got a sense of the city’s vitality.

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Every Midwestern town, it seems, has a gazebo, and Paducah is no exception.  This gazebo spawned its own park, and Garden Club.

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Should I pass this way again, I would make certain to come when the long Market Hall is open.  Growing up with Boston’s Faneuil Hall, I am perfectly content spending hours in a public market.

Along Broadway Street are some ever-enticing abstract murals.

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Lastly, this evening introduced me to St. Clair Court, the site of a three-story wooden hotel and theater, across from the Market.  It was destroyed by fire, in 1895.  Adjacent to it is this brick and mortar wonder.

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So, there is a taste of one of Kentucky’s interesting river towns.  Like any region, the Ohio Valley would offer a full experience to the discerning and curious traveler.  Alas, I must head westward, though through other interesting areas, to my own exhilarating Home Base.

NEXT:  A Tale of Two Campgrounds

The Ohio Knows

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July 23, 2017, Jeffersonville, IN-

I stayed, last night, at an off-the-beaten-path inn, made all the more interesting by there having been an intense storm, which had caused a power outage.  Spanish Manor Inn lies on the eastern outskirts of a small Bluegrass Country town:  Olive Hill, itself a far exurb of Lexington.

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The motel is run by a pastor’s wife.  The  pastor himself uses one of the buildings as a wedding chapel.  They graciously received me in their home-office, and explained I was fortunate to get the last available room.  Given the intensity of the storm, I scarcely blame them for putting up a no vacancy sign, as soon as I headed back down the hill to the rooms.  There was no Internet, of course, but I surely got a restful sleep, despite the booming and crashing outside.

I texted my nephew, who lives in the Louisville area, just across the Ohio River from the city.  It has been a game of schedule tag, up to now, for me to meet his wife and children.  Today, though, they had a few hours, so off I went towards Slugger Town, going through a bit more rain on the way.  I ditched the rain, around Shelbyville, stopping only to pick up some gift items for the young family.

I had no trouble finding their suburban home, and after an impromptu tour of the house, the five of us went to a pleasant Mexican restaurant- my second confirmation this month, that there are people in Indiana who do such cuisine right.  This takes care of the contention of several people, that there is no proper salsa in the Midwest.  We had it, aplenty.  Once back in the house, I joined my nephew, niece-in-law and grand niece, in the family room, to watch Aladdin, for the first time in twenty-five years, while grand-nephew took his nap.  Once it was time for life’s errands to resume, I bid thank you and farewell to the wakeful members of our family’s Indiana branch.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Ohio knows when to be gracious to a visitor.  This often overlooked sibling to the Father of Waters has been on my radar for a visit, for many years, and there was no time like this afternoon, at the Falls of the Ohio, a sometimes tempestuous section of river, shared by Louisville, on the south bank and Jeffersonville, on the north.  The Indiana side has an Interpretive Center, closed on Sunday.  The river itself, however, offers a wealth of walking trails and rocks on which to sit and meditate, or, as several were, fish.

The Ohio is not always accommodating, to put it mildly, and there is much deposited in the woodlands, on either bank, from Devonian and Silurian fossils, in the soil, to broken branches from the roiling storms of summer and winter, alike.

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Here are some scenes of the cataracts, which both draw people to the salubrious banks and make life difficult for those plying a trade, along the Ohio.

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I chose this spot to sit and reflect on how nice the drive through Kentucky and southern Indiana had been.

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Of course, the River answered, “Thank you”.

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This is a surreal view of Louisville, hidden by a railroad bridge.  There is a sign, on I-65, that warns of a toll booth, but I saw no toll booth on either northbound or southbound, and there were no cameras, either.  Methinks the toll has been discontinued.

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Lastly, before I headed south again, en route to Paducah, a wink to Lewis and Clark was in order.  This area was integral to the planning phase of their monumental exploration, and there was a family tie:  George Rogers Clark, who secured the then-Northwest Territory for our fledgling nation, was William Clark’s brother.  Clarksvillle, Jeffersonville,  New Albany, Corydon and Vincennes are all filled with historic sites, associated with the Clark family and the pioneers of the Ohio Valley.

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My spirit guides were calling me westward, to Paducah, for a further appreciation of the Ohio River, just a few miles shy of its meeting with the mighty Mississippi, at Cairo, IL.  So, on went the Hyundai and I.