Friday, July 11, 2008

Log Cabin Tour

Kicking around in the backwoods of Tennessee and Kentucky, any poor boy can dream big. And if the boy is of a certain quality with a certain character in a certain era, those big dreams may just come true. Though it may not seem that way when your home is a log cabin set in the back woods against foothills in close proximity to the middle of nowhere.

The citizens of Cades Cove, TN certainly gave it a try. And though the citizens are long gone, their abandoned but not forgotten pioneer town remains as a must-see attraction deep in the Smoky Mountains National Forest.

Because nobody famous was borned under these humble timbers, the cabins and farms remain essentially unchanged since their owners moved on or met their ancestral kin on God’s Golden Shore. But go up the road a bit, make a detour into the Appalachian foothills, and tarry a while.

The King of the Wild Frontier was borned here, though not in this cabin exactly, though exactly on this spot or hereabouts. The original cabin itself is long gone, but a re-created cabin and the legacy remain.

Inspired by these heroes of the backwoods, we struck out for the frontier (of our imaginations, at least) and hugged the backwoods border of northern Tennessee prospecting for a suitable homestead.

Finding no unclaimed lands, just outside of Nashville we hooked north to follow the fabled “Cumberland Road.” Today it is a scenic byway, but back in the good old days it was the main road that ran between Louisville, KY and Nashville, TN.

By far, the best farm we saw was called Sinking Spring Farm. It’s not for sale and it is doubtful that it ever will be again, seeing that it’s the birthplace of an ambitious lawyer “from” Illinois who clearly dreamed big.

As every school kid in America knows, Abe Lincoln, America’s 16th President, was born in a backwoods, dirt floor log cabin. I don’t know, but to me this cabin didn’t look all that humble. But who am I to say? On June 14, 1936 President Franklin D. Roosevelt said many fine words on Flag Day before this very cabin, an estimated crowd of 50,000 people in attendance.

We mounted the 56 steps while marveling at its 16 windows, then pulled upon the heavy bronze doors and stepped into the cool conditioned air.

We should have known. It’s a bit strange, this log-cabin box within a box, but Diane, a die-hard and unabashed Lincoln groupie, could not have been more pleased.

To celebrate, we continued northward, for the Cumberland Road pauses in the sort-of-renowned town of Bardstown, KY. Home of Old Talbott Tavern, limestone-filtered springs and curiously flavored corn mash.

Though technically not a log cabin any more, Old Talbott Tavern has been a fixture of Bardstown, KY since 1779 and claims to be the, “oldest western stagecoach shop in America.”

These days, this respected establishment serves bourbon in cheap plastic cups while terrible hair-metal cover bands foul the air (we know; we imbibed in the former and suffered through the latter). But in times past, Jessie James shot holes in the ceiling. John Fitch, inventor of the steamboat, splashed away a fortune into its thunderjugs. Stephen Foster purportedly penned “My Old Kentucky Home” while passing through (recall, the lyrics refer to a “little cabin”). And Abe Lincoln slept here as a boy while his father lost a legal dispute over his nearby farm. It was at that farm that Lincoln had his first childhood memories and no doubt saw the slave trade pass on by. Said the statesman himself, “I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I cannot remember when I did not so think and feel.” Lucky for us all, this poor boy dreamed big and transformed his thoughts into action.

We crossed paths with him again a few days later in Louisville, KY. It seems that, as a young lawyer with a few more dreams to make come true, he had fallen into a deep depression after a recent break up with his girlfriend, Mary Todd. But the young Lincoln had a true best friend in the person of Joshua Speed. To cheer up the inconsolable Lincoln, Speed invited him to stay for a spell at the family hemp farm. By all accounts, the boys had a fine time hanging out…

Sleeping away the mornings…

… and giggling through munchy meals in the groovy dining room (yes, the wallpaper is period-correct).

And though Diane doesn’t like this last little bit of the post, she giggled. Then she was mad at herself for giggling, which then made her laugh… Anyway, she thought that the hemp farm was dreamy.

No comments:

Post a Comment