We're on Highway 80 heading over to Kentucky Underground, aka, Mammoth Cave. Beautiful blue skies and puffy white clouds and temps hovering around 80 make it picture perfect. Yesterday the weather was overcast and rainy, but no one was complaining. The farmers hereabouts are in desperate need of rain, so say those we lunched with yesterday. The Schuler farm, near Waynesburg, Kentucky is run by Mary Schuler Lemons and her husband Keith and they were out hosts for the day. We arrived after touring the backroads, recognized the farm from John's memory, and pulled up to be greeted by a beaming Mary, Keith and their 4 dogs, Sammy, Beethoven, Cosmo, and Chow. We fell out of our van and the boys got acquainted with the dogs, while the adults got reacquainted with each other. You have to realize that I hadn't been to Kentucky in 20 years, since John and I were dating, but Mary and Keith made it feel like we were just there yesterday! I have rarely felt so immediately at home in any place and it took me back 20 years to when her parents, Fritz and Louise, were our hosts, sharing the same farmhouse hospitality. (As an aside, I loved Fritz from the minute I met him and felt like he could have been my dad or grandpa, I was that comfortable with him.)
Mary had arranged an impromptu reunion for us, a chance to meet other cousins and see Aunt Emma (91) and Aunt Loretta (89). They are the last of their generation, and no gathering would have been complete without these fine ladies in attendance. Raymond and his wife Helen, Dorothy, her husband Bill and daughter Amanda(hi Amanda), and Raymond's sister Bert, stopped by, bringing the Aunts, and we fell to eating and talking, laughing and reminiscing. These cousins all know each other and have for their entire lives. They grew up across the road, rode the bus to the same school, went to the same church, etc. You get the picture. Their lives are entertwined in ways we can only imagine and they know things about one another that suburban counterparts will never know. I feel for my children because they will not know their own cousins in the same way.
After a superb lunch, we looked and laughed at old pictures and someone suggested a stroll along the creek. With no recent rain, the water level was low, but in places, deep enough to amuse our city boys. Dodging cowpies, cowpatties, meadow muffins, whatever you call them, followed by dogs, we took off in search of "the tree". Years ago, Raymond had carved his initials and some mysterious girl's (not Helen's) into a tree. We thought we found it but it was difficult to tell as so many years had passed. Raymond was kind enough to carve a P and J in the tree to mark Paula and John's romance, and there we were on the tree for the next generation to discover. A little distance on, though, we found the real tree and it had quite a few initials on it. It don't know what that says for Raymond's love life, but since he's a happily married father and grandfather, I won't dig too deeply.
Back to the house to eat again, chat about politics, the price of gas, and Paris Hilton (go figure!) and it was time to go home. What a wonderful day, one to cherish, until the next time we can come home to Kentucky.
1. 20 years between visits is too long!
2. Farmers are definitely under-appreciated.