Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky

My wife and I bought an old house – built in 1940 and composed of drill-proof Portland cement, two-by-sixes that are actually 2” by 6”, and hand-mixed plaster applied by master craftsmen – but outside it’s noisy with a busy two-lane boulevard behind us leaking traffic noise through two rows of pine trees.

We’ve stuck around for nearly four decades because we’re located on a shady island in the middle of the city called The Tree Streets with walkable sidewalks and bicycle access to local shops and a twenty-mile-long Tweetsie Trail.

But when we need to escape, we head for a place of peace, and the Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky always delivers.

Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
White picket fences complement twenty-five miles of stone fencing.

If you desire pure tranquility, twenty-five-miles of handmade stone fencing, three thousand acres of walkable Eden, amazing architecture, gourmet meals, romping farm animals, giant trees, fish-filled ponds, and easy access to Lexington with all its bourbon-infused amenities, this is the place.

Shake it, don’t break it.

The Shakers didn’t believe in sex.  You heard that right:  the past tense is appropriate for obvious reasons.

Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.

They believed Jesus was above and beyond all the rooting and grunting, and that He was coming back soon, so they forsook those worldly pleasures, trading them for dancing.  Perhaps you’ve heard their famous tune:  Lord of the Dance, a.k.a Simple Gifts.

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right. 

— Simple Gifts, written and composed in 1848, generally attributed to Elder Joseph Brackett from Alfred Shaker Village.

I don’t remember Jesus shaking His leg that much in the Bible, but the Shakers made that jump and stuck to it.  One of the main buildings in the middle of the village was constructed for dancing, and you can almost hear those sliding feet and orgasmic wails still ringing off the walls.

’Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free ’Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, And when we find ourselves in the place just right, ’Twill be in the valley of love and delight. When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed, To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come ’round right. — a Shaker song written and composed in 1848, generally attributed to Elder Joseph Brackett from Alfred Shaker Village.
Dance Hall. Shaker Village.
Dance Hall. Shaker Village. August 2022.
Dance Hall. Shaker Village. August 2022.
Jeremiah 31:13  Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

Architecture is another fascinating aspect of Shaker Village. Men lived on one side of a building; women were housed on the opposite side.  There are two entrance doors on each end and each side of the brick housing units, and two sets of stairs to the second floor so the sexes would not come into contact inside the dwelling.

That would really fire you up, don’t you think?” said my wife looking at those twin sets of stairs. And some Shakers did sneak off to the woods from time to time, and they adopted local children, but the majority died off by the 1920s.

Symmetry.
Symmetry.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Spiral Staircase. Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Spiral Staircase. Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village, August 2022.
Shaker Village, August 2022.
At its peak in the mid-19th century, there were 2,000–4,000 Shaker believers living in eighteen major communities and numerous smaller, often short-lived communities. External and internal societal changes in the mid- and late-19th century resulted in the thinning of the Shaker community as members left or died with few converts to the faith to replace them. By 1920, there were only twelve Shaker communities remaining in the United States. As of 2019, there is only one active Shaker village: Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village, in Maine.[1] Consequently, many of the other Shaker settlements are now museums.   – Wikipedia
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Stone Fence. Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.

My cousin Tom, a traveling motorcycle mechanic and financial entrepreneur, happened to be camping north of Lexington – Shaker Village is located an hour straight south – and he bought tickets to the James E. Pepper distillery tour down in the city’s industrial district that’s now being revived as a tourist attraction.  He’d called several other distilleries, and they were all sold out, so one needs to plan ahead to secure a bourbon tour.

Colonel James E. Pepper (1850-1906), Master Distiller, was a larger-than-life Bourbon Industrialist and flamboyant promoter of his family brand. He was the third generation to produce 'Old Pepper' whiskey, "The Oldest and Best Brand of Whisky made in Kentucky," founded in 1780 during the American Revolution. His namesake distillery in Lexington, Kentucky was at one point the largest whiskey distillery in the United States.  -- Distillery web site

James E. Pepper

Ironically, when the economy crashed in the late 1800s, Pepper lost his business. But his wife stepped in with her own money to save the day by investing in racehorses. My wife thought this was the best part of the tour, and I think it would be interesting to look at how many of these pre-income-tax industrialists would have fared without the brains and inherited cash their wives afforded.

Ella O. Pepper, savior of the distillery.

In 1923, the James E. Pepper brand was being marketed to pharmacists and was endorsed by more than 40,000 physicians, commanding a price six times higher than before Prohibition began. In October 1929, as warehoused inventory dwindled, some distilling was allowed to resume at the Stitzel-Weller distillery and was used as a source for the brand's bottling operation. The approaching end of Prohibition brought about a period of heavy investment in large production facilities, and the distillery was purchased around 1934 by Schenley Industries, just as the large-scale operation was able to resume.

-- Wikipedia
The Pepper Stills.
A small operation today, and the product is produced, labeled, and bottled by hand.
Medicine
Medicine!

Waxing the cork by hand. George Pepper Bourbon Distillery, Lexington, Kentucky.


If peace and tranquility, amazing architecture, rich history, and smooth bourbon sound good, then Shaker Village in Pleasant Hill, Kentucky near Lexington is the place to be.

We’ll go back soon and stay as long as it takes until our ears stop ringing.

Shaker Village
Shaker Village Fences
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.
Shaker Village. Pleasant Hill, Kentucky. August 2022.

Momma Mamilla

Mamma Mamilla

Giorgia – a graduate school girlfriend – elevated her quiet nature into an imminent road hazard whenever we strolled down the sidewalk.  Male drivers – necks straining, eyeballs bulging—often smashed into telephone poles or clipped fire hydrants as we sauntered down the avenue, heads up for automotive danger.

Living on the same dormitory floor— we knew each other by sight — but never talked until the night I got blind drunk after breaking up with another undergraduate, an artist who drove race cars.

Can you drive me home? I asked Giorgia, dangling keys in front of a nearly-flawless face slightly smudged by a deviated septum, a casualty of early Cocaine Wars.   She sat talking to girlfriends at the last bar I stumbled into and laughed a yes with smiling eyes before leading me to the car.

I thought you were never going to talk to me, she said, after I blurted a lame excuse to lay the back of my head down on her lap while she drove.

Too forward for a sober man, but acknowledging my condition, she laughed and acquiesced, giggling as I looked skyward, vision blotted out by anti-gravity projectiles.  I’d grown up on a dairy farm and remained unimpressed with mammaries, perhaps making me attractive to such fine specimens.

Giorgia made extra money tutoring “special needs” college students, so I knew there was a beating heart under the quivering mamilla.

We enjoyed each other in countless ways, but then I drove off to Chicago to try out my new degree, and she stayed behind, three years younger and needing attention.

Then Christmas arrived.

Her parents, working-class Italian immigrants with World War Two in the rearview, lived in the suburbs, so we met there, six months of my neglect shading the day.  I drove out from the city and she drove up four hours from the school.   She didn’t need to announce the new attitude sparked by my six-month absence.  The slumped shoulders, the sad turn at the corner of her mouth, and the failure to meet my eye screamed infidelity.

I sorely missed my own family during this precious holiday – turkey, gravy, red wine, brother, parents – as I sat down to a Christmas dinner of spaghetti and meatballs. Pizza.

And when her mother bent over to retrieve a box of frozen shrimp sweating under the icebox – it says right on the cover, keep under refrigeration! – darkness turned to light.

Varicose veins, yellow smoker’s teeth, boobs running over knees, forty-five extra pounds. Unassisted grease farts lifting a faded house dress in a hot kitchen.

The future.

When we kissed goodbye and Giorgia swished back to whomever now shared her collegiate bed, I felt the weight lift, the spirit rise.  A window opened.

Glowing skin, radiant eyes, gravity-defying bazookas. Under refrigeration, crammed into bras, or blowing in the wind, they could not defy gravity.  Forever.

May they attract a better man while they can, while they stand — a man who can go the distance — I prayed. 

Someone who neither contemplates expiration dates, nor the continuous emotional support of a sad-and-saggy princess.

%d bloggers like this: