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Encore Classic: Gordon Crump - 'How I discovered Columbia . . . '
A Masterpiece a Must Re-Read for Lindsey Wilson Events: 'Someday I must go back to Lindsey Hill.' A must read for Lindsey Wilson Students, Alumni, Friends. About Columbia and Lindsey Wilson in the late 1940's, 29 April 1970. It's an essay considered by frequent contributor JIM to be the "best article ever on ColumbiaMagazine.com." It is re-posted this morning at his request, and for visitors to Columbia today for Lindsey Wilson's 103rd Commencement. Out of over 70,000 articles posted on the site, Jim's statement is saying a lot. -ED WAGGENER
By Gordon B. Crump, aka "Hermit in the Woods"
Some days are meant to be memorable.
The others shouldn't count against our lifetime. I don't remember who expressed that idea first, but I have made it my own.
One of my most memorable days was in May, 1947.
My whole life seemed a preliminary to discovering Columbia, each segment of it leading me to Adair County.
I discovered Columbia that bright day, and began a lifetime love affair with the best place on earth.
Grew up on tobacco plantation, south of Nashville
I grew up on a tobacco plantation, south of Nashville.
The time period lay in the heart of the Great Depression that FDR could not cure, but World War II spending did.
In 14 years (1929-1943), before I was in college, the Depression took the last of our family assets.
My father, Willie Crump, was a teacher and principal, rated a scholar in both Greek and Latin.
Tobacco became a savior when the size of the family outgrew teacher pay.
I loved the life there, endlessly exploring the 14 rooms in the Big House, imagining Jeff Davis himself standing at the mantel in the Great Room, resplendent in swallow-tail coat, explaining the attack at Charleston Harbor to Mr. Willie, my dad and Mother Crump, my mother; fishing in the creek at the bottom of the hill, and prowling the remains of slave cabins back of the Big House for souvenirs of a sad and misunderstood era.
One former slave, then nearing 90 and born there, remained in a house deeded to him by his 'owner,' separate from what was left of the original plantation.
He was Uncle Henry, a title of respect, not denigration.
He taught me to fish and to make fishhooks from small brass safety pins. He told me stories about the War for Southern Independence, slaves and what the area looked like when he was a boy.
Our friendship did not end until his death, when I was 19.
As a youngster put to work in the tobacco fields as part of my disciplinary training, I soon discovered I did not enjoy growing tobacco and could not have been more than 10 when I knew I must find some other life's work more interesting and enjoyable.
I decided that work should be as a small town lawyer. That governed what I read, what I thought and managed to see of the profession.
I played hookey from school to sit in the courtroom and watch what to me were great dramas as lawyers scuffled over whether someone stole someone else's hog and one time, over the ownership of found money.
Back to Hart County, our ancestral home
My family, now only my parents, my brother, John and me;moved back to Hart County, our ancestralgrounds.
When I was a junior in high school, I wanted to speed up the process whereby I would stand in the courtroom defending some greatpoint of law, I learned that by examination I might enter college, before graduating high school. If I could pass the test.
Before our family fortunes tumbled into ruins, I was confident I would study law at Harvard University, and strived for the grade point that would justify admission.
But with finances so dire, I thought to ease the cost by first attending college in Kentucky.
I soon discovered that if I attended any of the state colleges I would probably lose credits earned even from UK or U.of L.
Lindsey Wilson's credits would transfer to Harvard intact
But there was one college individually accredited by Harvard where credits were transferable intact . . . Lindsey Wilson College at Columbia, KY.
That was how I came to choose to attend Lindsey Wilson, though I had never seen it.
I never got to Harvard, it was a money thing; and I am poorer for it. I spent my working life as a journalist and editor. I have no apologes or regrets for that work. But my late son, Gordon IV, did get to Harvard. My younger son, Dennis Crump, graduated from Lindsey, holds three degrees and is now finishing up work on his doctor's degree.
I negotiated admission to Lindsey and began with the summer session.
The days at Munfordville waiting to come to Lindsey were hellishly long. I have always blamed the wait for the fact that I may have been the only boy in the US to get a warning ticket for speeding on a bicycle.
(Lt. Reed Bolton of the then-Kentucky Highway Patrol, insisted that I came down the long hill to the Bucker Bridge across Green River doing no less than 47 miles an hour in a 25 mph zone.
(I acted as my own lawyer, and luckily escaped hanging. I got off with a warning and a threat that next time the Lieutenant "would tell Mr.Willie his son broke the law."
We both knew that was roughly equal to facing a firing squad before breakfast.
The day dawned when I was to leave home and go out into the world and prepare myself for my life's work.
My brother would drive me to Columbia
My brother, John, would drive me to Columbia. But something came up and I had to travel by bus (freshmen couldn't have cars with them, and anyway, mine was a stylish cutaway wreck, replete with foxtail flying from the antenna, no radio, just an antenna; a bulb ooga horn and 'Lady smokers, throw your butts in here' lettered on the rumble seat.)
I first took a Greyhound from Munfordville to Cave City and then a nostalgic ride on Short Way Lines to Columbia.
The bus was a prewar model that groaned and complained at every tiny rise in the road along Highway 80 and at times threatened to quit the such work entirely.
I looked through the window at what is still some of the world's great scenery. Passing through the Palisades I reminded myself to remember that view, and I have done so.
Nearing the Public Square for the first time, I took in as much of the face of Columbia as one young man can.
The driver kicked the ancient bus out of gear, coasting onto the Square, stopping at Campbellsville Street to unload before proceeding to the Bus Station behind the hotel.
I gathered my baggage and struggled up Lindsey Hill, happy as a Powerball winner to be there.
Once enrolling and dropping the baggage in the old Boys Dorm, I ate a familiar menu at the dining hall in the basement of the old gym.
Katie Murrell Library had just been built
I knew no one and had no idea how to spend the evening, I walked across the campus to the brink, where the Katie Murrell Library had just been built.
The gathering night was warm as a mother's caress. I took in the fragant air and looked toward the downtown.
For five years during WWII, towns large and small turned off street lights and covered windows with heavy dark blinds to hide the inside lights so, enemy bombers could not use town lights to navigate to a target.
But now Columbia had lights, playing boldly through tree limbs, winking back at the young boy eager to get on with his life.
I kept returning to the lights of downtown, as if they were lighting my pathway in life. The longer I looked at them, the more hypnotic they became and the more glorious Columbia seemed.
I thought they looked like stardust strewn in the bottom of a great bowl.
I knew I was at home for the rest of my life.
I would live many places, Tokyo, New York, Singapore, Waikiki, San Franciscoand elsewhere, but Columbia became home that night... more home than any place I lived. And I would spend as much of my life there as circumstances would permit.
Soon I must go back to Lindsey Hill
One evening soon, I must go back to Lindsey Hill and see the lights again. Hearing again from memory the beautiful chimes that played at dusk.
Those who believe Thomas Wolfe's admonition that "you can't go home again," never lived in Columbia. .. nor attended Lindsey Wilson College.
Gordon Crump, one of Kentucky's truly great writers and journalists, until recently lived in the most enviable way a man can: Doing exactly what he wants to do off Cedar Grove Road, Clay Ridge, Adair County, KY.
Click here for story, "At 80, Gordon Crump proves you can live the life you want," about the Hermit of Clay Ridge
Click here to read "Gordon Crump is truly a treasured Adair Countian
This story was posted on 2016-05-14 00:43:24
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