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Producer, videographer, editor: Ernie Lee Martin
Sights and Tastes
Barbecue and history in Monroe County
Every true connoisseur of barbecue knows that you just can’t rush it. Perhaps that’s why it’s such a dietary staple—and culinary art form—in places where life is just a little less rushed.
One such place is Monroe County, subject of an extended visit during this episode of Kentucky Life. This county on the Tennessee border is still largely rural, with only about 11,000 people spread over an area almost the size of Louisville. Though there are a few factories, agriculture, especially tobacco farming, is still the backbone of the local economy, as it has been since the first white settlers arrived in the late 18th century.
If, like them, you’re coming from the east, you’ll have to slow down just to get very far into the county: About the only access by road is Kentucky Route 214, which crosses the Cumberland River not by bridge but by ferry. The route takes you through the middle of a giant loop in the river that must have struck someone as resembling a gobbler’s crop, because it’s known locally as Turkey Neck Bend. Ferry pilot Joe Anderson takes us across the Bend on this visit.
Once you’re in, you’ll soon find that, even without a large population, Monroe County is blessed with an abundance of barbecue restaurants. On this tour, KET’s dedicated producer/videographer visited seven to sample the fare and talk with the owners. All of them welcome visitors with open arms and Southern hospitality—just don’t ask for their secret sauce recipes.
Besides the good eats, another thing that brings visitors here is a piece of Kentucky and religious history known as the Old Mulkey Meeting House. This log meeting house was built in 1804 during the great religious revival that swept America’s frontier territories in the first years of the 19th century. The building was constructed by a Baptist congregation. Its unusual shape features three doors and several right-angle turns in the walls, giving it 12 corners in all. Those architectural details are said to represent the three parts of the Trinity and the 12 Apostles.
Now maintained as a state shrine, the Old Mulkey Meeting House is also the site of the graveyard where Daniel Boone’s sister Hannah is buried. The park is located about two miles south of Tompkinsville on Kentucky Route 1446. The building and grounds are open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm CT year-round; there is no charge for admission.
Producer, editor: Cheryl Beckley
The Art of Freedom
Sculptor Ed Hamilton
When we last visited Louisville sculptor Ed Hamilton (in Kentucky Life Program 208), he was at work on a monument to African-American soldiers of the Civil War. By completing that work, Hamilton made a little history of his own: Spirit of Freedom: The African-American Civil War Memorial is the only memorial by a black sculptor on federal land anywhere in the District of Columbia.
This update visit to the artist’s studio looks back at the finishing stages of Spirit of Freedom (which was officially unveiled in July 1998) and features a talk with Hamilton about his inspirations and working process.
The memorial, at Vermont and U streets in Washington, DC, is a granite-paved plaza with Hamilton’s sculpture of soldiers, a sailor, and family members in the center. Surrounding it on three sides is an engraved Wall of Honor with the names of the more than 200,000 United States Colored Troops and their 7,000 white officers.
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