Recently, while waiting in the business’ reception area, I had a conversation with a young lady who was manning the desk and phones about our RV lifestyle. Guessing, she had to be in her mid to late 20’s, single, no kids and full of life and aspiration gathering from our conversation. She seemed genuinely interested in our lifestyle.
this whole nomadic thing. We appreciate these gifts from God, our Country and the big blue marble we live on. But way too often, we humans ruin it. We populate places where God didn’t intend and our experience at Glacier National Park was one of those.
Did you know, that every moment of your life, you breathe in toxins. Adding to that, the products you use, cosmetics, OTC’s, cleaning agents in our homes (and RV’s), processed food products, etc. are laden with chemicals and toxins…what you call ‘free radicals’.
Most who have been following our journey know our story from the beginning; where our road to freedom started…the Bluegrass State; Kentucky. We truly loved our home and our hometown. It was our Mayberry. We forged amazing friendships and community presence that was really difficult to watch get smaller in our rear view mirrors back in 2014 when we pulled out. However, we made a promise to our friends that we’d come back to visit.
After a tumultuous March and April this year (2017) of losing Dan’s Dad enroute to San Antonio and dealing with medical care at U.S. Army Fort Sam Houston, we were eager to get back on the road to recovery by going back to our old Kentucky home to see some familiar faces.
Once we hauled out of Texas, we stopped for a few days near Little Rock, Arkansas for a little rejuvenating reprieve to gather our thoughts and get some much needed rest. We then excitedly high-tailed it to Taylorsville, Kentucky or known-to-us as ‘Tatersville’, a term of endearment, when we lived there.
When we arrived in our former hometown, we could literally feel everything negative leave our souls; familiar faces, American flags and banners lining the streets, smelling Dave’s coffee and warm fresh made pastries outside the Tea Cup on Main and driving by Spencer County High School at graduation time. You see, Taylorsville is the epitome of ‘small town America’; which is why we bought into this little piece of rural hometown-heaven back in 2007 when we PCS’d from Maine to Kentucky for Dan’s last Coast Guard tour of duty. Taylorsville is like that warm flannel shirt that we felt so comfortable in.
By the way, just a little notoriety of our little hometown is it’s also country music singer, JD Shelburne‘s hometown as well. Here in this video (I surely hope he doesn’t mind me sharing it!) is his rendition and love for the same town we endeared…called ‘Hometown’ which was filmed in tiny Taylorsville.
Upon arriving, we made contact with our friends to reconnect. Our calendar filled up quickly with Kentucky Derby parties with Suzanne and Van, Kim and Jim, Roger and Debby, pool time with Cindy and Don, lunches and dinners with friends, taking Krissie and Kandi to see Dr. Shelley at Elk Creek Animal Hospital for their immunizations and well-kitty checkups, catching up on some maintenance and small repairs on Liberty, and Dan driving home to see his Mom in Pennsylvania for a few days to help her ready her home for Spring. It was just what the doctor ordered.
|Suzanne and I grabbing in a selfie at her and Van’s Kentucky Derby Party|
|Watching the Kentucky Derby winners at Derby Party|
|One of my best friends, Kim and I took in a few lunches|
Between getting together with friends and other commitments, we still made time to go exploring and visit places we’ve somehow missed during our seven years of living there.
One of our favorite things to do while in Kentucky is touring the Bourbon Distilleries on the Bourbon Trail. This time around, we’ve toured Woodford Reserve near Lexington, Kentucky. If any of you are familiar with the locale of this particular distillery, you’d understand our quest for wanting to go there. The drive is absolutely amazing; seeing all the beautifully manicured thoroughbred horse farms and ranches with black fences lining the roadway in the spring when everything is in bloom.
We also stopped in Frankfort (Kentucky State Capitol) for a bite to eat and walk old Main Street.
We parked on the street and walked across the Kentucky River Bridge aka ‘The Singing Bridge’. We noticed something quite peculiar we’ve never seen before.
There were several padlocks on the chain link fencing. Some had initials with dates on them and others had lovers names inscribed. We took some photos because we found it odd. We enjoy seeing odd things.
Oh, and about those locks, we learned that padlocks or ‘love locks’ are locked on the bridges by sweethearts symbolizing their unbreakable love for each other; throwing the keys down in the river below. As shown above, they inscribe their initials and date for memoir. However, this proliferation has massed across the nation and even internationally. Some municipalities though, consider them vandalism or litter while others embrace them as a tourist attraction. On this bridge, there weren’t very many.
It wasn’t a long walk to Main Street; we couldn’t help noticing that Frankfort has really cleaned up and revitalized this section of town. There were cafes and small stores that lined the street in the old early 20th century buildings and newer modern structures.
As with most any city or town, Frankfort bestowed banners of their notoriety and infamy. Each banner on the street depicted a Frankfort, Kentucky person of notoriety. There was Johnny Depp (Actor), General Blanton (Bourbon Distiller) and quite an array of others.
We walked the old state house grounds which was impeccably manicured. We read some historical markers while enjoying the warm sunshine stroll in the park.
|Old former Kentucky State House|
Looking at our watches and feeling parched and hungry, we found a ‘country-hip’ little cafe/bakery that totally took us by surprise. We went in to just get a canoli or two but then we noticed they served lunch as well. So, we ordered a couple Paninis and enjoyed our little window table looking out onto the street as we ate. After we finished, we chatted with the owner and told her we adored her bakery. You can read more about our wonderful dining experience at B’s Bakery in a prior blog.
|B’s Bakery on Main Street in Frankfort, Kentucky|
After our quiet lunch at B’s, we made our way back to our home on wheels that was parked in Taylorsville.
It seemed that time slipped by so fast and before we could catch our breaths, it was Mother’s Day already. Since we weren’t around family, we decided to just enjoy the beautiful day riding the farm roads and have lunch down at Taylorsville Lake Marina. The weather was outstanding as you can see.
Another weekend, we took part in a local fundraiser ‘A Ruff Day at the Fairgrounds’ to help finance a new Spencer County Animal Shelter. There was an awesome K-9 display and demonstration from the local Taylorsville Police Department, Spencer County Sheriff and local neighboring towns.
We even made a donation of a cat play tunnel for their silent auction. Hey, we helped make them $30 as well as supported their fundraising efforts by enjoying their food vending, shopping at their yard sale and window shopping at various local craft vendor tents. Later that day, we stood and listened to the local band which Kandi and Krissie’s Veterinarian, Doc Shelley sang and played various instruments with the local “Judge Angus Band“. It truly felt like we were home again.
|More than a Wheelin’ Bryce and Camille|
As you drive through the state of Kentucky, whether on dirt country roads or state highways, you’ll notice black-stained old “Tobacco Barns” peppering the farm country landscape. It’s no misnomer that the black is the chosen color as it absorbs heat from the sun to speed up the drying and curing process of the tobacco leaves. Inside, ‘tobacco sticks’ (also called ‘laths’) are hung with tobacco attached for drying and curing. Having lived in Kentucky prior to taking off on our RVing adventures, we got to see start to finish the tobacco farming culture.
Kentucky farmers have and still grow three types of tobacco; burley, dark fire-cured and dark air-cured. Burley tobacco, used primarily in cigarettes, comprises more than 90% of total production and is grown in all but 1 of the 120 counties in the state. There are only an estimated 4500 tobacco growers left in Kentucky and has been declining due to growing health concerns as well as the increasing number of outsourced overseas growers; both of which have devastated the state’s tobacco industry.
Tobacco is harvested in late summer in Kentucky. The plants are cut using a tobacco knife. Once cut, the plants are hung on ‘tobacco sticks’ (or laths) which are hauled on open wooden wagons towed by farm trucks to the black tobacco barns to cure. Later, the leaves are removed from the stalk and sold at market.
How tobacco sticks (laths) are made…
Decades and to even a century ago, after each harvest, while the tobacco dried and cured, large trees were harvested and logs were cut into five-foot lengths. Each log was split into thinner pieces with a froe; a wedge tool driven into a block of wood with a mallet and split into thinner sections until the lath was made. Typically, farmers could make upwards to 500 laths per day. Several thousand were needed for each farm however, most times, they made more than they needed to sell on the side to other less-ambitious farmers. Back then, the sticks sold for about three cents each. Today, they are worth much more…”if” you can find them.
Now, as years pass and tobacco farms folding, the tobacco barns are left to remind us of days gone by, torn down or burned.
Fast forward a generation or five…
Recently, we decided to take a field trip to Oldham County to learn a little Kentucky history and watch an amazing Craftsman create art that has that history attached to it.
We met up with Tobacco Barn Craftsman Matt Hartlage and his wife, Sara to learn about their amazing art pieces. When we arrived at their workshop, we were met with smiles, sweaty hugs and calloused handshakes. It was a typical scorching, late May day in Kentucky, but the heat didn’t pull this forty-something year old couple away from reclaiming tobacco’s past. As Matt was working on one of his pieces, Sara was busy building display racks for upcoming fairs and festival showings while their little boy played in the yard.
Chatting with them, we learned that Matt, is a truck driver by day and Craftsman by night and weekends. Some of Matt’s fondest memories were spent each summer working with his cousins on his grandparent’s farm (tobacco and other crops) in Ohio. In his teen years, Matt took interest in Woodworking in his high school shop classes. Years later in November 2016, his upbringing (farming) collaborated with his passion to create TBC. He procured a bundle of tobacco sticks to make homemade Christmas gifts for family and friends. His first design was the ‘Kentucky Snowflake’ that sparked so much interest that he began designing and crafting other interesting wall art.
Sara, mother to their 5 year old boy and a CRM Manager for a global insurance broker handles much of the administrative, PR and other planning for Tobacco Barn Craftsman.
As we were listening to their stories, we noticed stacks upon stacks of these ‘tobacco sticks’ (or laths), buckets of sheered off remnants, saws and tools of every kind, and a rather, beat up-looking Cowboy hat that hung on the wall behind his tool-cluttered bench. I wanted to ask “what’s up with the Cowboy hat?” but didn’t. I bet it made for a great story or two based on it’s not-so-delicate-wear. Off in the corner hung finished works of art waiting to be boxed up and sent as gifts across the Country. I can’t tell you how impressed we were with unique creativity and history reclaimed into magnificent wall art that breathes a story.
While we stood back and watched them design, sizing sticks, layouts, sawing and sanding, I thought to myself, THIS is America! This is the bread and butter on their walnut-stained tables they say their blessings at each meal. Matt and Sara were bringing back Kentucky History in their art to be put in homes all across America.
Without giving away their trade secrets of acquiring their lath supply (locally sourced in Kentucky), the design process or actual assembly, I can only show you what their end product looks like. Actually, I had planned on expounding on the building process and took several photos but respectfully, as a fellow artisan, I just couldn’t.
So after a few hours of watching them create of one of their wares, they gifted us with THIS piece…the United States.
Tears filled our eyes because this beautiful work of art spoke to our nomadic hearts.Though it was a piece of Kentucky, it said ‘you have many more to travel’. We were amazed that a pile of sticks and a few hours of skillful hands made THIS:
We just couldn’t put it down but we had to because it wasn’t quite finished. Matt’s final work was signing, numbering and placing their ‘Kentucky Proud’ sticker that he so boasts about earning. Oh, by the way, this particular piece is numbered #1 which means, we were gifted the prototype.
This beautiful piece forged a Kentucky friendship forever. It will hang proudly in Liberty, and when the roads we’ve traveled have lessened, we will proudly move it to our future home. Until then, it will remind us of the history and hard work that created it.
For more information and to visit Tobacco Barn Craftsman online store, we invite you to visit:
Facebook: Tobacco Barn Craftsman
Online Store: Tobacco Barn Craftsman
For special orders, please contact via Facebook, Email or Phone.
“Barn to Box’ orders take approximately 2-3 weeks. Special orders may take longer.