Of Writers, Shakers, & Black Barns

Barn at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky.

Tonight I am resting comfortably in Chillicothe, Ohio. No, I am not ill, only a bit tired. It has been a busy and wonderful last several days that began with the Ozarks Creative Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There I listened to two exciting keynote speakers, attended workshops, and reveled in the camaraderie of writers. On the final night, I was honored with second place in the Rainbolt Children’s Book Award competition for my manuscript titled Moon Traveler. I was surprised and thrilled. Writing is a solitary labor of love, emphasis on the word “labor” where instant gratification comes after hours, days, weeks, and, most often, months of heavy lifting, if at all. This time emphasis is on “if at all.”

From Arkansas, my husband and I took off for Kentucky. Along the way, we experienced such wonders as Mammoth Spring—a beautiful spot that waved hello to us right before the Missouri state line. The Spring rushes up from the ground forming a large pool swirling left and right, dividing into gushing tributaries that run back into each other forming a large pond. That pond water then rushes to a dam, splashing and plunging headfirst into the Spring River. Mammoth Spring is the third largest spring in the United States and the seventh largest in the world.

After traveling through Missouri, we spent the night in Paducah, Kentucky. It had been years since we’d driven through Kentucky, and I wanted to go back. For so doing, we were rewarded with a world rich in color. In fact, I strongly suspect heaven looks like Kentucky in the fall, it’s streets of gold fully formed by the blending of yellow, red, and orange leaves drifting down from a choir of hickories, sugar maples, sumacs, poplars, oaks, sourwoods, and black walnuts.

From Paducah, we drove to Bardstown, a charming place known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. It’s location was perfect for enjoying the rural countryside resplendent with lush, thoroughbred ranches, forested highways and byways, and—again speaking of heaven—for visiting Pleasant Hill where once lived the third largest Shaker community in the United States.

At Pleasant Hill, we toured the Meeting House, several living quarters, a large vegetable garden, barns, and stacked-stone fences—all emphasizing the piety and industry of those who once lived there. We learned a Shaker worship dance, sang a couple of Shaker hymns, and listened to our instructor sing additional hymns with a softly textured, and hauntingly beautiful Celtic lilt.

Now, I would like to say that adventures comes in many different forms for many different people. For some like Daniel Boone, it is clearing the wilderness; for some, it is hiking the Appalachians; for still others, it is spelunking through deep, dark caves. But, for me, I confess adventure is discovery of a less rugged, more civilized sort—which I find not a smidgeon less exciting. One inconceivable discovery I made while in Kentucky was the existence—nay, the prevalence, of black barns rather than red ones. Black barns gave me quite a shock. I have known red barns, white barns, tin barns, and weathered-wood barns but do not recall black barns at all. But, in Kentucky, it seems most barns are black. Oh, yes, and most wooden fences are also black. I expect this is a shock to you as well and that I spent too much time on the Interstates during my trip through Kentucky years ago. Anyhow, I must say, set off with colorful barn quilts or the white plank here and there, black barns are stunning. While opening ourselves to new discoveries and adventures, we never know what may await. Tomorrow, my husband and I plan to search for the Great Pumpkin. I will keep you posted.

6 thoughts on “Of Writers, Shakers, & Black Barns

  1. Daniel Boone said, “Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place.” Any place is what you make of it, but some places seem to be blessed with potential.

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  2. Love following along with you two. The places you’re traveling look absolutely beautiful. The beauty is especially extra special during this season, with all the added gorgeous fall colors enhancing the countryside. I must admit I too am a fan of the black barns (I just found this out! LOL), and oh my word are those some very impressive pumpkins. I enjoy reading your blog Brenda, but am very weak at commenting. Please keep up the great writing, that makes for enjoyable reads for all of us! 🙂

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  3. wonderful ord picture. I love fall color and mom and I loved reading stories of the Shakers as told by Janice Holt Giles. I don’t remember anything about black barns. Is that a Shaker custom, and if so, do you know why they paint barns black?

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    1. Thanks, Mare. No, as far as I know, the Shakers did not originate the black barns. We were told that the barns were painted black to make them hotter inside. The heat dried the tobacco the farmers hung inside. We were in a once large tobacco growing area. I would not have thought that black barns would have been as beautiful as they were. I really loved them.

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