Friday, February 26, 2016

Remembering the Past, Looking to the Future at Rabbit Hash, Kentucky

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

During the evening hours of February 13, 2016, fire broke out at the Rabbit Hash General Store. Multiple fire departments responded to the fire, but they were only able to pull a few large pieces from the store before it became too dangerous to be inside the building.

The fire could be seen across the river in Rising Sun, Indiana. By the time the fire was put out, the building was a total loss. The General Store building was owned by the Rabbit Hash Historical Society. The store and the town had survived so much, including the Civil War, the Great Depression, multiple floods, and landslides. The Rabbit Hash General Store was in continuous operation since 1831, during which time 38 US presidents took office.

While the old site is being cleaned up and the planning for rebuilding is completed, the General Store is up and running in the annex known as the Rabbit Hash Barn.

The good news is, they plan to rebuild. The bad news is, it will take quite a lot of money, which they do not have. A GoFundMe page has been set up to assist in raising funds for the rebuilding of the store. You can also mail a check to the Rabbit Hash Historical Society at 11646 Lower River Road, Union KY 41091. There will also be some fundraisers in the future with all proceeds going to the rebuilding fund. If you would like to receive updates about the store, “Like” the Rabbit Hash Historical Society’s Facebook page.

Joann and I love old general stores, and we were blessed to have visited the Rabbit Hash General Store twice in our travels. We soaked in the atmosphere and the charm of the town and its people and visitors.

The town of Rabbit Hash is only a few acres, but to the people who live there and the people who return again and again, it was known as “the center of the universe”. When we visited on the weekend, it was hard to find a place to park.

The Rabbit Hash General Store was a destination. With the help of neighbors and friends, it will be again.

If you love General Stores as we do, visit them whenever you get the chance. We plan to visit Rabbit Hash again the next time our travels take us to Northern Kentucky.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

So Long, Lucky!

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

On Friday morning, my brother-in-law Howard posted some sad news on Facebook about the loss of their sweet little beagle, Lucky. We didn’t know what had caused young Lucky to leave this world until we attended our 10-year-old nephew’s birthday party today. The first words out of Toby’s mouth when we arrived were something like, “Did you hear that Lucky died? It was only four days before my birthday.”

No one knows exactly what happened, but they think Lucky may have slipped on the ice, severely injuring his back. And they were forced to make the sad decision to put him out of his pain. The whole family went together to the vet’s office to say goodbye to their beloved Lucky.

I don’t have any photos of Lucky, so I am posting photos of some cute beagles we have met on our travels.

In his Facebook post, Lucky’s “dad” said, “You were here just a short time; you left us with a lifetime of memories. May the rabbits be abundant in heaven and may you always be able to lie in the sun. We will miss you.”

We’ll never know why things like this happen, but I do know one thing for sure. My sister’s family was lucky to have a dog like Lucky, if even for such a short time. And Lucky was lucky to be a part of their family.

So long, Lucky, and Happy Shunpiking and rabbit hunting in heaven!


Sunday, February 14, 2016

In Honor of Abraham Lincoln

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

Abraham Lincoln was born on February 12, 1809 in a log cabin in Kentucky. His birthday is a legal holiday in several US states. In other states, Lincoln’s birthday is celebrated on President’s Day, which is the third Monday of February.

Lincoln only attended school for a few months as a child, so he educated himself by borrowing and reading books. In 1830, when Lincoln was 21, he moved with his family to Illinois and served in the Blackhawk War in 1832. He received a license to practice law in 1836. In 1842, he married Mary Todd and two years later they bought their first home in Springfield. It was the only home Lincoln ever owned. The Lincoln’s had four children. Robert was the only child who lived to adulthood.

Lincoln served for 12 years in the Illinois House of Representatives and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1846. In 1860, he was elected as the first Republican president who represented a party that opposed the spread of slavery in US territories.

Before Lincoln even took office, all the states of the Deep South had seceded from the Union. On April 12, 1861, Southern forces fired upon Fort Sumter, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the Civil War. During the four long years of this war, Lincoln dedicated himself to the proposition that all men are created equal. He preserved the Union and put an end to slavery.

On April 14, 1865, five days after the Civil War ended with the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia, an exhausted President Abraham Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, decided to attend a performance of “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. At 10:13 p.m., in the middle of the performance, John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln in the head. Lincoln was taken across the street to the Petersen House, where he died at 7:22 the following morning.

On April 19, a funeral was held for the assassinated President in the East Room of the White House. On April 21, “The Lincoln Special” funeral train left Washington, D.C. on a 1,654-mile journey to Springfield, Illinois where Lincoln was to be buried. Other than a few changes, the train traveled the same route back to Springfield that Lincoln had taken to Washington for his inauguration in 1861.

Lincoln’s eldest son, Robert, was on the train for the first part of the trip, but Lincoln’s wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was so distraught over his death that she remained in Washington, D.C. Approximately 300 mourners and a Guard of Honor were also on the train. The funeral car carried an ornate black and silver coffin containing the body of President Lincoln, and draped with a 36-star American flag. It also carried a second coffin containing the body of Lincoln’s son, Willie, who had died three years earlier at age 11 of typhoid fever.

The train stopped in state capitals and other major cities, where Lincoln’s coffin was taken off the train and transported in specially constructed horse-drawn hearses to public buildings for viewing.

In Philadelphia, an estimated 500,000 people were on the streets when the funeral train arrived at the depot. In New York, the line of people waiting to view the President’s body stretched for three-quarters of a mile, with an estimated 120,000 making it in to view the coffin.

This was followed by a huge procession through Manhattan where 75,000 citizens marched through the crowded streets. Chicago’s procession was similar in size. These numbers would be large even for current populations, so they were astronomical for 1865. The Chicago viewing took place from 6:00 p.m. May 1 through 8:00 p.m. May 2 at a rate of 7,000 mourners per hour.

The funeral train left Chicago at 9:30 p.m., passing through more than 30 towns before it arrived in Springfield around 9:00 a.m. on May 3. During the entire 12-day journey from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, the funeral train passed through hundreds of cities and small towns. It passed depots where people were mourning his assassination, and also the lost family members who had left from these depots to fight in the Civil War, never to return.

People traveled for miles just to get a glimpse of the train carrying their beloved President. They came on horseback, in horse-drawn wagons, and on foot, traveling rough country and primitive trails. Many stood for hours in the rain or in the middle of the night to mourn. Some gathered around bonfires; others held lighted candles or torches.

Choirs sang hymns and funeral dirges. Buildings were draped in black mourning cloth and bells tolled. The funeral car was lit inside so that President Lincoln’s coffin could be seen as the train passed by. People removed their hats and placed them over their hearts, bowed their heads, and wept.

Although Springfield’s, population at that time was around 12,000, Lincoln’s body was viewed by nearly 75,000 people over the 24-hour period that it was displayed in the Old State Capitol building. It is estimated that over one million people viewed Lincoln in his coffin and 25 million attended memorial services around the country. On May 4, the day began with a 36-gun salute (one for each state, including the Confederate states). At 10:00 a.m., Lincoln’s coffin was closed and sealed, then placed in an ornate black ostrich-plumed hearse loaned to Springfield by the city of St. Louis.

Nearly 150,000 mourners attended the funeral procession from the Old State Capitol past Lincoln’s home to Oak Ridge Cemetery. The procession was led by Major General Joseph Hooker, the Marshal-in-Chief, and Brigadier Generals John Cook and James Oakes.

The procession was the largest public display that people in the Midwest had ever witnessed. It was a scorching day for early spring and the route covered about two and a half miles, much of it along a country road leading to the wooded cemetery. As the hearse and procession participants made their way to the cemetery, thousands gathered on the wooded hillsides to get a glimpse of their President for the last time.

When the hearse finally arrived and passed through the arched entrance, Lincoln’s coffin was transferred from the hearse to a marble slab inside a receiving vault that was built into the side of a hill. The vault had been built in the early 1860’s to hold a person’s remains until a permanent tomb could be dug or constructed.

The funeral ceremony was held in front of the vault. It consisted of prayers, hymns, and the reading of Lincoln’s last inaugural address. The graveside sermon by Bishop Matthew Simpson included these words, “Hushed is thy voice, but its echoes of liberty are ringing through the world.”

Please note that the facts I included in this blog post are as accurate as possible considering the mounds of information I gathered and read, much of it conflicting. I hope you’ll return to read my future post about my experiences at the Lincoln Funeral Reenactment in Springfield on the 150th Anniversary in May 2015.

Until then, Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Beauty Multiplied

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

On February 2, a snowstorm was predicted for much of Wisconsin, starting by around 9:00 am in the Madison area. There was a light dusting of snow on the ground when I awoke, but the next several hours turned out to be pretty uneventful. By late morning, it began to snow heavily. As I watched, the snowflakes grew bigger and bigger and I saw two deer outside the living room window. They were looking for any birdseed that had fallen from the birdfeeder.

Then I noticed two more deer in the woods. By then the snow was coming down so heavily, I didn’t know if I would be able to capture any photos of them. As I focused my camera lens on the two deer in the woods, they began to nuzzle each other.

When the two deer near the house discovered that there wasn’t much food to be had below the birdfeeder, they headed up the hill into the woods to join the other two. An hour later, when I thought these deer were long gone, I saw them resting in the snow not far from where they were standing when I photographed them.

In addition to the deer, the squirrels were very active during the snowstorm. One was seeking shelter from the snow that was now being blown by the wind.

Another was frantically digging under piles of snow and occasionally popping up with a seed in its paws.

And then there was the female pileated woodpecker that comes on a regular basis to the peanut feeder hanging right next to the window.

Her flaming-red crest looked even more brilliant with the white snow behind it. And I was feeling extremely blessed to have such wonderful wildlife and such a beautiful snowfall to watch and to capture with my camera.

Although Groundhog Day was wrapped in a wintry snowstorm, both Wisconsin’s famous groundhog, Jimmy, and Pennsylvania’s, Punxsutawney Phil, predicted an early spring. Meanwhile, Ruth and I are planning our spring escape to the backroads of Ohio.

Happy Shunpiking!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Day the Music Died

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

The Winter Dance Party Tour began on January 23, 1959 at the Million Dollar Ballroom in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Nearly 6,000 young people turned out for that first concert. The tour was set to cover 24 cities in 24 days. The artists on the tour were Buddy Holly and the Crickets, The Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson), Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, and Frankie Sardo.

Planning for the tour was done haphazardly and had the stops zigzagging across multiple Midwest states, sometimes with as many as 360 miles between concerts. A bus had been rented for the tour, but after just a couple of days, the bus proved to be very unreliable between breakdowns and little or no heat. It was a cold and snowy winter in the Midwest.

By the time they reached The Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, Wisconsin for the February 1 concert, Carl Bunch (Buddy Holly’s drummer) had left the tour with frostbitten feet.

The next night, the bus limped into Clear Lake, Iowa, where the artists performed at the Surf Ballroom. By that time, Buddy Holly had had enough of the freezing bus and he was tired. He decided to charter a plane to take him to Fargo, North Dakota. There he could get some rest, and join the tour the next night at Moorhead, Minnesota.

It was a four-seater plane, so there was room for the pilot and three passengers. The original plan was for Buddy Holly, Tommy Allsup (Holly’s guitarist), and Waylon Jennings (Holly’s bass player) to take the passenger seats. At the last minute, The Big Bopper, who was suffering with the flu, asked Waylon Jennings for his seat. Waylon agreed. Ritchie Valens asked Allsup for his seat, and they decided the winner of a coin toss would get the seat. Valens won the seat.

The plane took off from the Mason City Municipal Airport around 1:00 A.M. on February 3, and crashed minutes later in a field about six miles northwest of the airport. All three musicians and the pilot were killed in the crash. At the time of the crash, Buddy Holly was 22, The Big Bopper was 28, Ritchie Valens was 17, and the pilot, Roger Peterson, was 21.

In 1972, Don McLean released his single “American Pie” which referred to the crash as “The Day the Music Died”. McLean delivered newspapers when he was young, and learned of Buddy Holly’s death in the newspaper on the morning of February 4, 1959. In the song he uses the line “February made me shiver, with every paper I’d deliver.”

Several years ago, I learned that there was a memorial at the crash site. When I went to mark the spot on the map, I saw that we had been very near the site on a previous trip. This was before I marked the site, so I didn’t even realize we were that close.

On a return trip to the area in June of 2015, we decided to make the crash site memorial our dawn photography stop. It had rained some overnight and the ground was wet. The site is marked by a large pair of Buddy Holly glasses. From the glasses at the roadside, you follow a path down into the field to the actual crash site and memorial.

The memorial was erected in 1988 by Wisconsin fan Ken Paquette. Michael Connor of Clear Lake, Iowa, crafted the Buddy Holly glasses marking the site. The original monument was only to the three musicians. It wasn’t until 2009 that Paquette added the memorial to the pilot, Roger Peterson.

Visitors to the memorial site leave their own mementos. Some leave glasses, some leave coins, some leave flowers, and some leave a bottle of liquor.

After our stop at the crash site memorial, we went on to Clear Lake to photograph the Surf Ballroom, where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P “The Big Bopper” Richardson performed for the last time.

The Surf Ballroom is largely unchanged since the 1950’s. A concrete memorial to the three musicians and the pilot stands outside the ballroom. Every February since 1979 the Surf Ballroom has held a “Winter Dance Party” tribute show in honor of the three stars.

If you’re ever in the area, stop and pay your respects to four young men who left this earth far too early.

Happy Shunpiking!