History – Day 3

American history must be quite easy – they don’t have as much of it as we do.  But then maybe they have more future than us? Who knows?

Actually (oh!, and by the way, today’s waitress is Susan), the USA seems to have fitted in a revolution, a civil war, a couple of World Wars (although arriving a bit late for both) and lots of other wars in a very short space of time.

I had a refresher on American history on the flight over – I watched Django Unchained and Lincoln so I’ve got the Civil War period more or less taped.  If you have a 10-hour flight then the more 2.5 hour films you watch, the better.

I am in historic Henderson, KY. It’s historic because John James Audubon lived here while producing his great work on American birds.  I’ve had a quick look at the Audubon State Park and hope to be there at dawn tomorrow listening for warblers and vireos and then looking at the exhibits.

Audubon saw a flock of about one billion passenger pigeons just east of here.  Here is a cheap motel on strip of cheap hotels, and cheap eating places just south of the mighty Ohio River.

Audubon’s sighting was about 200 years ago near a place called Hardinsburgh.  Hardinsburgh is still there even though there aren’t a billion pigeons there.

It must have been a small place, only about 30 years old, when Audubon stayed there.  Today it is clearly a farming town as John Deere and New Holland compete across the road to sell you a tractor on one road into town.  There is also a US Department of Agriculture Service Center (!), a Farm Bureau, Farm Credit Services (with an American so-called robin in their parking lot) and Southern States have a 15% off offer on chicken wire.

I was up early and looking for breakfast at Hardinsburgh – where it was drizzling.   There was nowhere obvious, but with all those farmers nearby I thought there must be somewhere.  So I got some gas from the Marathon station at the crossroads and asked Trish where I should look.  After trying to sell me a microwaved sausage bap (fair enough for trying – but no thanks) she told me where to find Jake’s Place.  Trish, with her striking dark eye-liner underneath her eyes, had heard of Audubon (and there are quite a lot of businesses, roads and parks named after him here) but not of passenger pigeons.  She was very helpful but not a waitress.

Susan is a waitress. She is (not that looks are everything) short, thin, limps in her right leg, is a bundle of energy and quite mouthy!  I ordered the special (since this was the first food since breakfast yesterday) of two eggs easy-over, hash browns, ham, toast and coffee.  Susan persuaded me to have gravy with it – white gravy.

The food was good but I’m not sure I’ll have white gravy again

I got chatting to two guys from Pennsylvania about passenger pigeons.  Susan told us that she had had one in her garden.  She’s also, apparently, had ‘that extinct woodpecker’ in her garden too.  I wish I’d had an invite!

I liked Susan.  She was full of energy and did a huge amount of work while I was there and yet still had conversations with lots of people including me. My suspicion is that Susan is a bit interested in birds but wouldn’t admit it.

Hardinsburgh was a nice stop.  It was a good breakfast.

During the day I didn’t track down a passenger pigeon but I visited some places and saw some things that will find their way into my book eventually.

It was a history day and I visited both the Kentucky Historical Society’s museum and the Thomas D. Clark Center (!) for Kentucky History too.  I did know, even before watching those two educational films that Abe Lincoln came from Kentucky but I hadn’t realised that Jefferson Davis, his opponent on the Confederate side, was also from Kentucky.

You see, Kentucky’s past was rooted in the South but its future was looking to the abolitionist west and north – it was conflicted.  Not so conflicted were the KKK who were (are?) quite strongly represented in Kentucky.  Did you know that in the 1890s there were 92 lynchings in Kentucky – 66 of blacks and 26 of whites? Neither did I until today – you see how educational this blog is?

You can’t understand the present without understanding the past (generally speaking). That’s true of race relations, voting in politics and the status of the passenger pigeon.

Today is tomorrow’s past.

And birds? Wild turkey (like on the bourbon bottle), gray (!) catbird and blue-gray (I can’t keep !-ing American spelling mistakes) gnatcatcher were old friends with whom I have become reacquainted.  Hoping for at least a couple of hours of proper early morning birding tomorrow.


1 Reply to “History – Day 3”

  1. I hope that the book on the passenger pigeon you are working on will contain many of the littel gems that fill this blog.

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