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My old Kentucky home in Madisonville

Being childlike in downtown Madisonville.
Being childlike in downtown Madisonville.
Sally Boyce

The people who know me all know that I live in Madison, Tennessee. It's a little suburb of Nashville, situated just past Inglewood on Gallatin Pike.

But what most of my friends don't know is that my ancestors actually took up their first permanent residence in Madisonville, Kentucky, a little town north of Hopkinsville. 

"We need a family coat of arms for this event," announced Uncle Robin at Thanksgiving last year. "Who wants to make it?"

I raised my hand, trembling with excitement at the challenge of learning how to sew and the opportunity of showing honor to my elders (I had been hearing teachings about honor at church). 

"What do I do?" I queried my 50-something uncle.

"Well," he drawled in a Georgia accent, "you just get a picture of the coat of arms and put it on a banner somehow."

The event: a dedication and marking of our ancestor Captain Stephen Ashby of the Revolutionary War's grave at an ancient but well-kept cemetery in Madisonville, Kentucky. Sadly, all present had been in Madisonville the previous weekend to watch the burying of Great Uncle Allen Ashby (see "Kentucky backroads," linked in the box under the photo).

The difference in name did not daunt the Boyces; in fact, all of the men in the Boyce clan were so excited about marking their mother's ancestor's 1780-something grave that I got swept up in the excitement, although not entirely sure why we were all so excited.

At any rate, I made the little banner, purchasing a coat of arms flag from a website and tailoring it to our needs. (It really was the first time in my life I had used a sewing machine. Since then, I have made another flag and I must say I'm getting into it!)

On the big day, I slept later than usual in my cozy Madison, Tenn. bedroom, arose and tried on clothes at my Madison, Tenn. friend's house, and was rudely aroused by my a phone call to my father reminding me of the time. (At least there was no change this time!)

"Great," I muttered to myself, "I'm going to be late after all my hopes of making my family proud!" I was satisfied in knowing my father had taken the flag with him and was justly prepared to mark Capt. Ashby's grave.

I careened home in the same Subaru of previous adventures, forgetting to be nervous that she might burst into a thousand pieces at any unguarded moment (how my fear disappeared will be related in another tale). 

I burst unannounced into my living room, giving my 16-year-old sister the shock of her week by fairly screaming, "Sophia Boyce, we have to leave right now; grab a change of clothes; grab some fruit; we're late!" I'm sure it sounded like I was speaking in bold letters rather than italics.

She strode nonchalantly out to my car, having gathered all of her own things; I was still pouncing madly on my toiletries and water bottle and earrings before I met here there.

Scrambling into the excruciatingly hot leather seats, Sophie and I looked at each other. "Sorry..." I began, but she shrugged and I focused on my next molehill: we needed gas!

I jolted out of the driveway and sped along Old Hickory Blvd. until we reached the Phillips 66 down by our entrance to I-24. I tried to calm down, but the gas would not pump any faster. I decided to focus on my hair style.

"Didn't you brush your hair?" said my trendy little sister. "No," I said meekly, fully aware of my fashion fallacy. She handed me a brush with a shake of her stylish little head, and I smiled a grateful smile of distraction from my mission.

Hair brushed and gas in car, I once again "took off like a rocket," as my father suggested I might have begun, as evinced by missing my exit an hour later. My parents had taken Jeeves, the family GPS, a few days earlier; could he blame me?

Yes, there we sat an hour later in the Chevron parking lot at the Cadiz, Kentucky, exit. I supposed many a wandering navigator had washed up on the red, white and blue shores, for the cashier promptly handed me a printout with step-by-step directions to Madisonville.

Although I confused my navigating father via cell phone at this point by telling him I was turning left (out of the gas station parking lot) while he directed me right off the Cadiz exit, nonetheless Sophie and I soon found our way with the Chevron directions. (Although I must note here that it is 11 eleven miles to the Pennyrile sign, not 14. Thank you.)

Rocket impulses again seizing the steering wheel, I zoomed right over the Pennyrile highway, a bypass running the distance between Hopkinsville and Madisonville, and into a T. I turned left, supposing I would once again see signs for the Pennyrile. Instead, I found homes and fields and trees.

i pulled into a driveway. Sophie saw it in my eyes--"I'm going to knock on their door." I opened the car door despite her protests of my breach of propriety, and marched right through the jungle of front porch plants.

Knock-knock! A little old lady peeked her head out the door, not surprised to see a panting young woman on her doorstep. 

"Hi, I'm lost, can you give me directions?" I blurted out, further breaching the Southern protocol of niceties before business. Later I breathed thanks that I had been in Kentucky instead of Georgia.

She pointed me back the way I had come, detailing a bridge "you couldn't miss" over the Pennyrile, and directed me north.

As we turned back onto Highway 1069, in less than half a mile we saw the bridge. "Heheh, lookie there," I sheepishly nodded to my sister. She rolled her eyes.

The signs for North were so confusing that once again, the Pennryile and it's turnpike bridge zoomed into my rearview mirror and I knew I would have to turn around. Again.

Groaning with frustration--even slamming the steering wheel--I hung a right turn at the stoplight, pulled a U-turn, turned left at the same stoplight, and veered safely onto North Pennyrile. 

"Great. Only 35 miles to Madisonville when I was supposed to be there right now," I thought to myself, although instead of sharing this negligible information with Sophie, I pushed it to just over 80 mph and resumed my rocket stance.

This time my mother called and gave us specific, to-the-10th-of-a-mile directions. I as pulled off at the Hanson exit five minutes before the start of the ceremony, I smiled to myself.

One point seven miles later, we turned right at the balloons, and 100 feet later Sophie was pointing to the ceremony up the hill. We pulled into the first spot we saw, jumped out, and sweated over to our parents' lawn chairs.

I was congratulated on my punctuality by my father and rewarded for my banner-making skills with a hug from my uncle.

I just chuckled, knowing it was that 80 mph, that old lady, and prayer that got me there in time.

And Sophie and me? We are better friends than ever. Her skills at iTouch tune-picking really saved the day...although I think I'm going to start brushing my hair more often.


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