Monday, April 13, 2015

Henderson, Kentucky

Easter is held in such reverence in the Bible Belt that the pastors of the region set aside their competition to attract customers with catchy sermon titles on their message boards and nearly universally simply adorn them with "He Is Risen."  There are a few benign variations such as "He Arose!,"  and other Easter-related variations that push the bounds on the ban on wit and word-play from pastors who just can't control themselves--"The Tomb Is Empty" and "Jesus--He Is the Sonrise"--that might earn one a hearing before the Sermon Review Board.

This deference to Easter included not just the week before, but the week after, making this a comparatively lackluster two weeks in the Bible Belt.  Without clever sermon titles ("Satan Subtracts and Divides, God Adds and Multiplies") diverting my thought from my private reveries, that duty has largely been left to road kill. The first two days of these travels with Don Jaime were devoid of roadside cadavers, as they do not turn up on bike paths. 

If it weren't for road kill, I wouldn't have known that armadillos had made their way to Alabama.  Otherwise its just been the usual coons, possums, squirrels, skunks and deer along with the occasional dog and cat.  There was a string of bloated and decaying deer alongside the thick forest of the Audubon State Park near the Ohio River.  The exceptionally warm spring with some days of eighty degree temperatures heightened the stench of the massacred.

I haven't needed the tights or long sleeve jersey or heavy gloves that I have in the past on these spring training rides, though I have worn my down vest a couple of nights in my tent.  The spring showers have been limited to just one afternoon in Alabama, and it was so warm it was almost refreshing.  

Even though I have been averaging over eighty miles a day in these ideal conditions, my three-day swath across Kentucky only included one Carnegie a day.  The first in Hopkinsville was vacant.  The town was fully cognizant of its significance and splendor and had just won a $50,000 grant to restore it for some other use than a library, as it had a new much larger library a few blocks away.

It was a pleasant town with few franchises and quite a few small local restaurants.  It was on the Trail of Tears and had a park named for it.  Don Jaime and I had earlier intersected with the Trail in Georgia.  It would make for a worthy ride.

The Carnegie in Owensboro has been turned into the city's Museum of Fine Art with a large addition behind it.  Its two-tiered inscription on its front facade acknowledged the era of its construction one hundred years ago when "public" libraries were a rarity with "Open to All" and "Free Public Library."  It is rare to come across a Carnegie with both pronouncements. Few even feel the need to use the word "free." Kentucky isn't exactly in the Plains, but among the sculptures outside the museum were a pair of bison.

As I was headed to my final Kentucky Carnegie in Henderson along the Ohio River just across from Evansville, I was listening to a Ralph Nader podcast from February 14 that I had missed while in the Middle East.  One of his subjects was how he and some of his Princeton classmates were collaborating to raise money for a class gift.  He said it was the duty of those with wealth to share it.  He called it "moving from success to significance."  And lo and behold, he cited Andrew Carnegie as perhaps the ultimate example of this and offered his quote, "a rich man who dies rich dies in shame."  He told how Carnegie, who was the wealthiest man of his time, gave away much of his fortune to build libraries.  Nader has a tendency to talk off the top of his head and did it here as well, when he said he had built 3,000 libraries in the US, when it was actually about half of that, still a significant number, nearly doubling the number of public libraries in the US at the time.  His show of February 28 had a lengthy segment on the huge number of American prisoners being held in solitary confinement.  His guest told of one such person who is a very gifted writer.  Nader, with his bleeding heart, asked how could such as nice guy be so confined.  His guest said because whenever he is put into the general prison population he gets in fights with his fellow prisoners and guards.  End of the conversation.

The Henderson library had a Main Street address adjacent to the town park.  It had a large addition to its back, hidden though by the grandeur of its front side.  

I was eager to cross into Indiana, the state with the most Carnegies other than New York, where my diet would rise from one to several a day.

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