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The Whitehurst Diaries: Old Grey Homestead
A study of Adair County's wonderful homestead relics and how they elicit warm imaganings. And a closer look at one on Big Creek, Gradyville, KY: I look at these old places as we drive slowly past and try to imagine smoke from a supper fire feathering out of the shattered chimneys, windows gleaming and decked with crisp curtains. I wonder about the families who lived there, their names and their stories. - SHARON WHITEHURST
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By Sharon Whitehurst
The back roads of Kentucky abound in abandoned homes and farms. It seems that when a house in no longer considered livable, or a building useful, it is simply allowed to weather picturesquely, slowly disintegrate, and eventually cave in and topple into the surrounding weeds and brush
I have been intrigued with this old barn, visible from the high point of our corn ground [the north field] and suspected that lurking behind it would be the remains of a house and outbuildings.
My walk on Friday took me along our neighbor's [(Dale Hayes] back fence and for the first time I could see the old house located just behind and beyond the barn.
Big Creek takes a bend just here and the ledge gives way to open ground. Beyond our neighbors' thoroughly modern home a gravel road appears to cross the creek and wind out to the old homestead.
This building would, I believe, have been used as the farmhouse. Setting foot in any of these relics would likely be an unsafe prospect: rotting boards, crumbled walls, termite-riddled floors which could give way underfoot, to say nothing of the possibility of rats, bats, snakes and creepy-crawlies who might be the only residents.
In some cases, we're told, families 'died out'--no one left with an interest in carrying on a hard-scrabble farm or living in a house which needed a small fortune in updates and repairs.
As we've driven around our county and those adjacent, we've often seen where a newer house has been erected on a property, frequently in front of or beside an older dwelling.
Perhaps for a time the original building was repurposed for storage or even as a tenant house.
Jim suspects that in some cases where a property has been passed down in a family, no one wants to make the decision to pull down or bulldoze the place where dear grandparents lived.
And so the houses and barns sag and crumble, leaning precariously, doors and windows gaping, chimneys tumbled, sections of roofing twisted off to lie rusting in a jungle of weeds.
This is a climate where weeds and vines left unchecked can smother a building in a few short years.
The heavy growth shades the walls creating an ideal climate for mildew and rot. Vine-y tendrils pierce the tender wood of old clapboards, swelling and spreading, nails are wrenched out of place.
Such underpinnings as the buildings once boasted have shifted or fallen away.
I look at these old places as we drive slowly past and try to imagine smoke from a supper fire feathering out of the shattered chimneys, windows gleaming and decked with crisp curtains. I wonder about the families who lived there, their names and their stories.
I can picture dooryards scythed or mowed, paths edged with flowers in summer, a wash flapping on the clothesline.
It is, I suppose, a romantic or nostalgic view that doesn't meld well with the reality of financial struggle and the abandonment or displacement of a family's dreams. - Sharon Whitehurst
This story was posted on 2013-01-13 04:45:52
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