Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Chapter Nine. "The Kentucke State Faire."

The Kentucke State Faire was formed in 1816 by Colonel Lewis Sanders.  

It was founded five years after the first United States fair ever occurred in Massachusetts.

Freddy Farm Bureau
Freddy Farm Bureau has sat in front of Freedom Hall at the Faire since 1958. He talks to passer-bys, often about small Kentucke towns he has visited. He is one of my first memories as a child in Louisville. 

The event was not made an official "State Faire" until 1902.

It traveled from city to city until 1907, when Louisville became its home base.

It was hosted at Churchill Downs three times.

It was moved to the Kentucke Exposition Center permanently in 1956.

My family attended the Faire every year, it seemed. It wasn't long before I became slightly obsessed with the art and society of a Carnival. 

Midways have a charm that seems dirtier than a circus, and more curious, to me. There's just seems a darker side to a Carnival crew and its rides and games. 

It's part circus, part traveling amusement park, part vaudeville, part barker, part biker, part pop-culture, part lonely, part social, part crazy.

Patrick Henry Hughes performing on August 20, 2011.
(history source: wikipedia.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Chapter Eight. "Fire in Cairo: Bothering the Ohio, Part III."

So, I fled the river piracy and State Troopers of Cave-in-Rock. I carried its history heavily.

I headed back North on Route 1, turning left on a little exit taking me West into the Unknown on State Route 146 towards and through Elizabethtown, in Illinois’ Hardin County (oddly, the same county name Kentucky’s E-Town is located in).

The Ohio River would sweep and curl South of me as I followed 146 to eventually dive back toward the river on a straight shot via Route 145 South. My confidence was renewed in mankind as I drove straight down to one of the destinations I had been looking forward to since originally planning this trip. My Soundtrack played on, driving me through Illinois agriculture until I finally found a booming metropolis.

I've obviously had enough drinks tonight to let you know I was rocking Rush during this part of the trip. It's actually great driving music: you should try it.

Well, not quite booming, but still, it was actually Metropolis, the real city.

At the very end of 145, I dove onto US-45 West to head straight onto 5th Street, and cruised into a city that has based its tourism on its comic book counterpart.

Metropolis boasts a whopping 16,000 residents. It served as a settlement for the Mississippian Cultures, which reached its peak around 1100 CE. Documented history of the town begins in 1757 when the French raised Fort Massac there during the French and Indian War. On his campaign to capture Illinois for the State of Virginia, George Rogers Clark entered the territory in 1778 and won the area away from the British, earning him the nickname “Conqueror of the Old Northwest.” It was on his campaign to capture the Illinois country that Clark basically helped found Louisville, as well. 

Metropolis was founded by a merchant in 1839, 35 years after the abandonment of Fort Massac, as a hub for transported goods down the Ohio. As the town developed, it eventually served as a training camp for Civil War soldiers.

Then popular culture rang 134 years later.

In 1972, DC Comics declared the town the official “Hometown of Superman,” as did the Illinois State Legislature. And the reason for my visit: the city eventually built its culture around that.

 I mean, I was on track to follow the Ohio, but being a comics fan since the 1980s, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take in the sites. The city has erected a 15-foot statue of Superman in the town square, followed by a Superman museum. There is a bronze statue of Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in the early Superman film serials of the 1940s and the television show in the 1950s (Neill also had a career as a WWII pin-up model, ranking second to Betty Grable in popularity, and was signed as a singer by Bing Crosby…not too shabby a career. She actually played Lex Luthor’s dying wife in “Superman Returns” in 2006. She visited Metropolis at some point in the 2000s).

I was obviously not there to photograph the actual Noel Neill standing next to her statue.

Metropolis renamed its newspaper the Metropolis Planet. The original statue built for Superman was in 1986 and was seven feet tall. A city-wide funeral service was held when DC killed the character in 1992, and re-built the taller current statue in 1993. Each June, the city holds an official Superman Celebration, which was founded in 1979 in cahoots with the release of the film by Richard Donner, and usually features guest appearances by people associated with the character, including Brandon Routh (

Metropolis is like a little bitty Hollywood with its own Americana Hollywood Museum

I'm surprised this Batman-Boat didn't start a fight with the Superman statue while I was there.

I soaked in the sweat of Superman worship. 

I'm obviously not tall enough to be Superman, as I had to climb a ladder to stand and put my head in his neck. With no one to take the photo, I struggled to make this work without falling (which I almost did).

Take two was not really successful, either. Dammit. It was really hot, so I kept slipping my head out of the neck from sweat. July in Metropolis.
Now two seconds here to address comics fans and others. Mind you; I'm not a superhero comics nerd carte blanche. I've never really read Superman comics (although recently I've taken to reading John Byrne's 1980s reboot "Man of Steel" comics). However, my respect goes to the entire creation and industry of superhero comics, because they brought something to the table for generations of kids and adults like myself  who didn't give a shot about sports and needed some people to talk to late at night. Thus, my all-around respect for the birth and at this point longevity and (I hope) immortality of these characters. Superman was the cornerstone of these heroes, and I have always respected that. To me, Superman was also the beginning of superhero films and television, which can be terrible and great, depending on the decade and the producers. But Donner's original "Superman" (that link leads to the trailer...which you should watch) will always be one of those films that sticks in my heart. Superman is a character, despite myself not being an expert, I'll always really love.

I had to note a strange coincidence that didn’t occur to me until later in the night.  In one particular short story I’ve shopped for a while, “Also Southern Tales,” the character of Also finds himself blunted and burned on the deck of his narrowboat, sailing West on the Ohio. Nearly dead, lying on the deck, he slowly resurrects only to hear the sound of the “Love Theme from Superman,” from the 1979 film. As I walked into the Superman gift shop, the owner yelled “Hallo!” at me. 

“Are you closed?” I asked.
“No, not til 7.” He then hit a button to play some music in the store while I browsed.
Sure enough, the track was the damned “Love Theme from Superman.”

As I learned later down the road, it’s not necessarily a good idea to follow your characters’ exact paths.

Evening was setting in and I had to decide, standing in the parking lot of a Wendy’s in Downtown Metropolis, whether I wanted to spend the night in the Hometown of Superman, or continue to my final destination on the trip, The End of the Ohio.

I decided to press on. Despite feeling a little worn, I was inspired. I waved goodbye to Clark Kent and headed back onto 5th Street, onto Ferry Street, and finally onto 45 North, toward sights unseen.        

I kinda wished Superman had come with me.

Luckily I was armed with my newly purchased “Metropolis, Illinois: Home of Superman” beer coozie.

Next Issue: The End of the Ohio! And finally: Danger in Cairo!!

Chapter Seven. "The Bubbling Gurgle, Part II."

An excerpt from "Also Southern Tales."

The lazy drift of the Gauteng, its bow gobbling amongst the wake, the setting of the hard sun, the thick wind; all procured Also's thinking for him. His thoughts were serenaded by the requiem sung by the white octopus through the medium of the river, framed by the grove on his left, then his right, then his left, of Sand Island. The goddess cackle of a gosling, or some small water bird, as though imbedded within the throat of a lamb, swept over the ledge of the Gauteng. Her drift had become directionless, settling instead to maintain a circular pattern sweeping before the eyes of the small nonsensical island that rose before them. All of them. All of it. As if it were all.

The wind blew yellow sheets of papers from the deck. Sometimes onto the water, sometimes across the bow.

The papers contained Also's scattered notes of plans and life; works in progress that definitely hardly mattered. Purposes and thoughts that had seemed important once, but now were made for the ocean floor. Or a sufficing river bank. Random words in purple ink and crayon spit over the ship and river. Also scanned the boat and saw the leftover plots, a cabal of paper scraps uniting about his water lodgings. "Flower," "Fish," "Blue," "Smoke," "River," "Mother," "Man," "West," "Dream," "Paddle" and "Death." Letters containing the simple truths, written to deliver to a still existent ancient river, as though to clear his soul of their wrath and power. Carelessly flung fragments of his mind vying for control, wrestling in mud.  

The sun set slowly, searing the gondola until the paint seemed to burn to the skin of the craft, and Also's eyes were penetrated and his thoughts silenced  with its destruction. He waited moments before removing his line of sight from the grip of the Sun's charring communication. He stared at the Sun's descent, the Gauteng delaying its redundant motions. The Sun hung and pierced the remoteness of Sand Island, skipping over the knob that lay in its mid-section, cementing the groves with a hanging grumous fire that gorged into compressed spears of bleeding, lashing, perfected, seething, gorgeous, destructive and honed beams that blinded Also's left eye, and severally diminished the sight in his right. Also fell to the deck, unable to sustain his contest with the star, his brain gored and brutalized with an ache and a sweat. His entire frame felt feverish, and the boat slowly broke the stare with a wheeling circle, tending starboard.

A chorus of cells in Also's mind melted, and he swayed under their direction, gripping a sick gored stab within his own human hull. The Sun disappeared behind the grove of Sand Island, and Also, the Gauteng, and the white octopus felt they heard its rattle, leaving the sky light but dim, with the nods of a choking, diseased gosling crying over the island.

There was no breeze to relieve Also's losses, or his burns. His body shook and grimaced from the separated decisions of physical rejections that peeled through his bloodlines, organs, and spine. Something more than sweat seemed to emit from his core; instead, a wretched backlash of pure salt seemed to form on the surface of his skin, amounting to pillars of the mineral. He made slight attempts to wipe this grit from his face, his forearm, but his own touch gave way to sensations of flayed, raw, stripped hide. His fingertips burned from their contact with his forearm, and his forearm became a mucous tissue, the discharged sodium seeping into his snailish remains.

The dusk was ice, and Also Southern's skin gormandized the Ohio River's thicket of breeze. Even the swamp of humidity that swept quietly around his frame sank into the leftover sinew that was Also Southern, soothing the crisped remnants of his limp mind. Darkness was still far, but Also's burnt eyes stayed shut, and he relished in the relaxation of his death on the hull. His exposed muscle and softened being was larva; his thoughts were erased with the settling of the hot winds. The Gauteng turned circles, a whirlwind of momentum making at a pace extremists would deem slight. There was darkness from within his own skull. Skin seemed to replace skin, hiding limbs of muscle and blood. There were no thoughts, but only inclinations to gasp, to absorb oxygen, or at least the oil and smoke that was considered the valley's air. The first attempt was unsuccessful.

A thin layer of cells become another thin layer of cells, and factions of his frame began to regenerate; thinner skin rejuvenated to a second wave of trading and birthing, until a delicate casing of primordial hide bounded and enclosed his shape. The exuded salt lay on the surface still, but there was growth, and attempt, and refinement, and failure, and falling, and receding, and realization, all leading to a simple strained endeavor that existed only for the purpose of trying again.

And with the slow, tedious replenishing of bodily armor, a small gasp of oil and smoke fled into Also's lungs, and it sank deep.

The first realization was Black. Then that gasp of oil and smoke. The Black spun, despite any form or characteristics to mark place or shape. An undisclosed interval progressed, and aspects of the Black bent into shades, then colors that described nothing and had never existed. A purpose seemed ridiculous, and it was, as Also perceived, a time when purposes had not yet had the pleasure of invention. A lazy moment in the history of purposes. The spinning continued for that interval, which he would later decide was only two to three millennia. Also's thought whipped from Nothing, burnt into a white heaven of slumber and lack of reality. Creation was far from occurring, and Also had seen to it that it would be tardy. The rotating Black whipped the Thought and Also receded from that burned lacking, and began to perceive an actuality that could persist some day if only allowed. His first inclination was to ignore it, but the swirling increased in speed, and formed a tunnel that tempted irresistibly. Also wanted his Justice in silence and nonexistence, and made the move with every strain to remove his gaze from those swirling shades. There was that instant, that denial of reality,  that counterrevolution to everything that called, that shedding of instinctual endurance, that refusal to accommodate the Cosmos and to anchor into the absence, the lack of, the little or nothing. The desire to root with destruction and absurd oblivion was his intent. The animal pull of the spinning power that was so insistent was too close, and his sense of curiosity claimed the resolution set in his heart to remain motionless. He whipped his thoughts starboard, an act almost forcibly decided more by the gales of Creation and, in his mind, the irrelevant siphons of survival.

The breaths continued in regular slumps, and with each draw, he was lost. He plummeted immediately into the cyclone, spinning in seconds that saw the birth of the universe, the cataclysmic pound of existence, the labors of Creation, erasing all cravings for cessation he had relished in previously , only seconds, millennia, ago. He seemed to be moving, faster and faster, in a controlled chaos, burning with a swarm of dizziness and understanding of Animal, and the walking Big-Men, and of origins and endings. Centuries were sandwiched with regiments of paradoxes and lies, and ghosts danced and addressed him in slight whispers in his rushed swish back to the growing of the working world and the nearness of matter and newness and senses and some, though not all, lives. There was a lifetime he spent with his grandmother, but she nor he could dawdle, passing in opposite directions. Oranges came to fruition and rotted in his hands, and ice formed about his body, protecting it from scorching droughts and a storm of salt, and he began remembering where he existed in the future, and he was encased in a terrible fear of return, until, with millions of  warnings, he was catapulted through the shell and sprout into earth, out of the shades and swirls and blacks and whites, and into a nauseas fall that lasted nothing. This fall was horizontal, and bent him backwards, and he reclaimed the Gauteng, the valley, the Ohio, the white octopus, and the salted larval frame that was his. The spinning lost its silence and he heard winds, wild voices, and the  harsh, unavoidable and accidental noise of all realities washed over him.

Also's fingers moved, suddenly, and gripped the larboard, and he was monumentally aware, unexpectedly , of his parched throat. Salt rounded his closed eyes, cloaking his ability to open them from the jungle of dried perspiration that pasted them closed.  He celebrated his return with a dry heave and urination in his trousers.

Laying motionless on the deck, near the cabin of the narrowboat, the sounds were difficult to recognize. The swishing of the Gauteng’s hull on the wake. A water bird of the night. A transistor radio from somewhere. It was playing a static form of "The Love Theme from 'Superman'". He did not move. It was sweet.

"Fuck me," Also smiled.

The Gauteng slouched West.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chapter Six. "Derrick Wade Manley."

Derrick Wade Manley played at Mulligan’s in Louisville on Thursday, August 11, as part of the Louisville Songwriters Showcase.

Full disclosure here: he’s my brother.

I’ve seen Derrick play seventeen thousand shows, either solo or with his band Eddie and the Fuckmunkys  and The Bottom Sop. And still to this day I believe he’s one of the most under-recognized singer-songwriters in Louisville.

Derrick can write melodies that I can’t understand. They’re vocally catchy and challenging at the same time. Although we both seem to have somewhere in our development leaned towards music, Derrick gained an ability to manipulate lyrical melody I never caught. He has a past soaked in the folk, blues and country tradition that I listen to, but have never been able to access as well as him. While I might head into surf-rock or punk for constant re-inspiration, he seems to jug a vein of Americana that is some of the most honest music I’ve ever heard.  Plus he was blessed with a voice that can follow his rambles to a tee.

Again, there’s a big bias here, but I’m a fan of his tunes as much as a family member.
Derrick’s songwriting follows the bricks and dirt mantra: heartbreak; drinking; exuberance; loneliness; insanity; camaraderie; relationships; sex and Hell. He covers all subjects. And again, in honesty that others would not approach. “Happier When I’m Drunk” for example. One moment in his shows are raise-your-fists-and-yell moments, followed by give-me-a-shot-of-anything-to-cure-this-wound-with-whiskey moments. He sources Dylan, Waits, Haggard, Jennings, Prine, and a bazillion other artists I can’t even remember on this power outage sort of day. He does what Leroy Carr called the Bobo Stomp live in person. 

It was a family affair as one of my favorite folks in Louisville, Shawn Blair, joined Derrick on guitar for the show. There were crackles in a cord somewhere, but that was so ignorable during the set because of the music, the crowd was fine to skip past it and just listen. It was a great night. 

We roamed the bar/grille of Mulligan’s talking about the future, the water main break in Louisville, the Civil War, and hanging with folks from the kitchen who came out to watch him. Nice evening.    

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Chapter Five. "Tropical Trash. Pussy Kontrol."

The bands Tropical Trash and Pussy Kontrol played at Cahoots here in Louisville on Wednesday August 10. I was there to witness it. They played with the band The Men (I believe from NYC) who are on tour in support of their new album, “Immaculada.” I only caught the last quarter The Men’s set and my camera died just as I started taking pictures, so I can’t really represent them here.

I want to apologize to all bands for my shitty photography skills. One of these days my camera and I are going to get along. Right now, we still have arguments during shows.
Louisville’s Tropical Trash opened the show, standing eye to eye with the crowd in the no-stage set-up at Cahoots. I had been at the bar catching up with my good friend Mike Turner of Pussy Kontrol and ran passed the pool tables to finally see this band for the first time. I had heard a lot of good things from a lot of people in town that like lots of good things, and they were all correct.

They’re a three-piece that start loud and stay loud and fast. The double guitar whammo by Jim and Kirk is a great blast of noisy rock and roll that never really lets up, fogging between bizarre tunings and big sound. Jim’s vocals were inside and outside the music. Each of them took turns turning their guitars into spaghetti at various points in the show. Jordan held it together on the drums, smashing along with them. It was much appreciated and I’ll definitely be checking them out again whenever I see they are playing.

I didn’t realize that they had CD-Rs for sale. I want one. I had lent my extra five bucks for the evening to a friend so she could pay the cover, so I was out of cash at the time anyways. But next time, I’ll bug them for one.

Pussy Kontrol are four folks hailing from down the road in Lexington. I’ve known Mikey Turner for about a thousand years and seen him play in several incarnations and as usual, I loved this one. “It’s hardcore; well, it’s just fast, but it’s sloppy, but it’s awesome.” Yep and yep. 

Mikey takes the role of bass in this group and doesn’t stop rigging through the music. The vocals were yelled all over the place, including down at the floor. I one point I felt like I was watching Motorhead beat up Gregg Ginn, but then again, it was better than that. They never really breathed in-between songs except once. “This is our last song,” Mikey said. “No, we have a couple more,” the vocalist said. “Oh, awesome.” And they did and they were. The set was short and to the point and I like that style: leave you wanting more like a Venom concert from 1982.

“That was fun,” Mike said, outside on the street. “I thought my arm was gonna fall off at the end.”

I’m not sure if Pussy Kontrol has any recorded music. If they do, I want to know about it. And I hope they come back.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chapter Four. "Fire in Cairo: Bothering the Ohio, Part II."

O Dear Reader: The adventures I saw. Please continue skimming to hear of my arrival into lands of Pirates, Scoundrels, Crooked Politicians, Highwaymen, Counterfeiters, Serial Killers, Bandits, Outlaws and the worst, most frightening wickedness: State Troopers.

I was knee-deep in a valley of coffee and continued West on Indiana State Route 66, the scenic way into Evansville, Indiana. The sky had started to show signs of darkening in the distance, but no storms made themselves showed. 

Evansville was to be the last large city I would be seeing before finding my eventual goal: the end of the Ohio. Like Louisville, and most other cities along the route, it is nicknamed “River City,” and was originally settled by immigrants in the early 1800s based on its location on a horseshoe bend in the Ohio, making it another great spot for trade and such. It was incorporated in 1819 and by 1890, was the 56th largest city in the US. The population eventually declined, and at present day it rests somewhere in the area of 117,000.

But I’m not here to tell you about Evansville.  I would not be making stops in the town, although I had read of the existence of an infamous Shoe Tree that sounded interesting located near Ellis Park. My schedule kept me loyal to crossing through the city and eventually merging onto Route 62 West, which would derail from the bends of the Ohio and into the state of Illinois. I had smaller fish to fry in a small village in Southern Illinois.
I did manage to accidentally find these giant roadside silos I had read about before beginning the trip. They read: “TEA” “COFFEE” “SUGAR” “MILK.” Alright. Clever.

66 became 62 and I settled into the rhythms of driving through long straight passes of the road, my Soundtrack fully resumed:

The next segment of driving would encompass a longer stretch, as 62 would lead me through Mount Vernon and finally into Illinois, over the Wabash River and onto Illinois’ Route 141 West. I followed 141 to eventually begin a journey through Gallatin County and head back toward the Ohio on Route 1 South. Route 1 would take me to my next river town destination: Cave in Rock.  

I think it was about this point in the trip that I began to talk to myself quite a bit.

Route 1, for the most part is a straight shot road that lasts for miles and miles, and I was trying to make up a little time, having spent most of my drive on bending hills and no shoulder narrow routes that were a little more difficult to speed through.

Yes, you heard that word of foreshadowing here, first: Speed.

Southern Illinois is a strange area with some bizarre American history embedded into it. I followed Route 1, which seemed to lead straight into the areas that had been settled by Europeans in the 18th century. Much like Kentucke once was considered the far Wild West before Westward Expansion began its American lurch, Southern Illinois’ history possesses some elements of chaotic and dark endeavors that created the beginnings of the state. There really are no cities to speak of in Illinois’ South; it is instead dotted by tiny towns officially called villages.

Based on conversations I had with some locals selling vegetables and cold water at a stand in Cave In Rock, I learned Equality (current population noted at 720) was near what was often referred to in the area as The Mansion. Nationally, it is known as the Crenshaw House. Equality sat near the Saline River, which was used for some unknown amount of years by Native Americans to produce large quantities of salt from their “Great Salt Springs.” Eventually, as with everything they used, the original Americans ceded the springs to the US Government in 1803.

I mentioned in Part I of this here professional travelogue that the Ohio River served as a dividing line between slave and free states. Illinois was a free state, and often Kentucke slaves would escape across the river into Illinois. In 1838, John Crenshaw built his Mansion, a salt works factory. Due to the arduous work involved, the Illinois government allowed Crenshaw to legally use slaves for the tasks required to produce enough salt, deeming it necessary.

So, despite Illinois being a free state, Southern Illinois was, oddly enough, not free at all.

Crenshaw, being an entrepreneur and an all-around rotten asshole, not only bred and kept slaves, but also began immersing himself in the kidnapping of free blacks in Illinois, whom he would either use at his salt springs, or sell back to slave states, from Kentucke all the way down to Texas. The Crenshaw Mansion is recognized as a station on what is now known as the Reverse Underground Railroad. It was open to the public for years, but has since been closed by the state. Persistent rumors exist that it is haunted. 

(i didn't take this photo because you can't actually get near it)

So much for Equality.

As I neared Cave in Rock, I stopped for more coffee along Route 1 and stretched, readying myself for the last stretch back to the river.

Turning left back out the road, I continued talking to myself and listening to the Soundtrack. There were nothing but dying billboards, fields and then a State Trooper.

I pulled into the parking lot of an old abandoned gas station and let the Illinois Trooper, armed with hard-brimmed hat and mirrored sunglasses, question my existence.

“Why’re you so far from home?”
“I’m just doing some traveling on vacation, sir.”
“Where’re you headed?”
“Cave in Rock, up the road.”
Furrowed brow underneath the hat. “Why?”
“Because there’s a cave to see?”
“Why’re you trying to get there so fast?”
“I didn’t realize I was speeding, sir.”

And then just a stare, as though I would be lying and was conducting some secret mission to infiltrate Southern Illinois’ cave system with toxin from Kentucke. Yes, the Great Kentucke invasion of Illinois was about to begin and I had been caught. Shit.

“I’ll need see the rental agreement.”
“It’s in my bag in the back seat. I’ll have to get out of the car to get it. Is that OK?”
More hard-brimmed stare.
“Do you have any weapons?”
“Just two hand grenades and a slingshot.”

I understand pulling me over for speeding down a deserted straight-shot state route. But the line of questioning I received, as though I had much more to offer than my foot was pressed heavier on the gas that it should have been, was kind of ridiculous.

You are right, officer. Why am I traveling through your state, spending money at your historic landmarks? I thought that was a good thing. Why else do you have the damned landmarks?

And now the state gets $120 from me. That’s more than I would have spent at Cave in Rock, so Illinois wins.


Cave in Rock is another small village in Illinois, population 350. The village represented my reconnection with the Ohio River, which I would hug the rest of my trip to its end at the Mississippi.

Being slightly upset about the ticket I had just received, I casually cruised straight through the town, missing all of the signs telling me to turn left to the cave that the town was built around. 
Cave in Rock, IL 
       ( my vegetable-selling pals were up on the left at that red pickup truck)

I assumed it was dead ahead, although dead ahead was a ferry leading across the Ohio. Sitting on the ferry, I had time to examine the ticket. 

We were unloaded and I began driving straight, following all of the cars in front of me. Somehow, with reason blinded by annoyance at law enforcement, I assumed I was still in Illinois. How I thought this, I can’t figure out to this day. I had crossed the Ohio. Did I think I was on an island off the coast of exotic Illinois? These mysteries exist always.

I continued driving, listening to music, through green forested road, not realizing I was actually back in the homeland on Route 91, headed South toward Marion, Kentucky, near Shady Grove. I drove for about 15 minutes, countless miles (all covered at exactly the speed limit and not a bit over, sirs), until this thought occurred to me: “Cave in Rock is in Illinois; I’m in Kentucke. Something weird has happened.” No, nothing weird; just an insane disregard for my surroundings. I turned around, headed back to the river, and crossed on the ferry again. The ferryman on the Loni Jo waved at me like I was a regular.

But, I was there to follow the river. A boat ride in my car across seemed to fit right in.

Cave in Rock has a nice, sordid, crooked history, as well.

Although officially incorporated as an Illinois village in 1839, Cave in Rock began as a stronghold for what historians have called an "Ancient Colony of Horse-Thieves, Counterfeiters and Robbers" (Wikipedia said that). The cave at Cave in Rock State Park is a monstrous lair that I could definitely see as a good place to hide. It is a 55-foot wide cavern made of limestone. Its mouth opens straight onto the river. After the Revolutionary War, it became a shelter for Ohio River pirates. Samuel Mason, a former officer in George Washington’s Revolutionary Army, created a tavern, gambling den and brothel within the cave. According to the locals I spoke with, Mason and his gang would invite weary travelers on the Ohio to rest, have some spirits and libations, and buy supplies. If the travelers were an armed and sturdy party, everything was on the up and up. If the travelers were deemed by Mason to be weak and “easy to take,” they never checked out of the cave.

Dark and bloody ground.

I appreciated that you were able to explore the cave alone. It reaches back several hundred feet and it's a slippery walk through a long narrow hallway-like crevice. I spent some time standing in thick mud, looking at the dark rooms that were formed thousands of years ago to be used for "bad things" a couple hundred years ago. Apparently the imbibing of alcohol has not completely ended here:
And I learned that, as seen in that picture, that Donna and Ron were - at one time anyways - "together forever." Both the inside and the outside of the cave are covered in graffiti letting you know all the couples who have EVER visited it.

The village was the site of a lawless society that eventually formed on the banks of the Ohio that saw countless murders and kidnapping. Following the demise of the Mason Gang, the Harpe Brothers, fleeing execution in Kentucky, took refuge there and killed even more people. The story the vegetable salesman told me was the Harpes even killed a small boy just so they could take the bag of flour he was carrying back to his family. The boy was discovered in a nearby creek with the Harpes’ trademark: his chest was cut open and then sewn back together to hold in the rocks they had filled his body with to sink him.

There are also several stories of Kentucky civic leader John Ford, who operated the ferry in the early 1800s, moonlighting as a river pirate based out of Cave in Rock, leading a gang of murderers called “Ford’s Ferry Men.”
View from my farmer friends' vegetable tent

The farmer sitting on the side of the road telling me about the cave finished by telling to check out the 1968 book “Satan’s Ferrymen: A True Tale of the Old Frontier” by W. D. Snively, Jr., and Louanna Furbee. “Yep, this place was created by some pretty mean people,” the farmer said.

His friend, who had a large bandage wrapped around the left side of his head and seemed to be missing part of an ear, sitting quiet next to him in the hot sun, nodded. 

“People are evil," He said, wiping sweat from his missing ear. "Even back then.” 

To be continued…
Next: Superman! And: The most dangerous place!