Contributed by Shelby Roy Hopkins.
On the following pages is a transcript of the oral history of Dripping Springs given by Miss Jane Haselden of Lancaster, Kentucky, in January of 1977. Miss Haselden was born in 1903 and died on March 14, 1991 at the age of 87. She was the daughter of J. Raymond and Tabitha Haselden. She was never married. She received her Doctorate from the University of Kentucky and taught French at U. K. for 34 years. She was a licensed pilot.
As a child, Jane’s family would travel to Dripping Springs each summer and spend about a month. Her father operated Haselden Hardware in Lancaster and would join the family at “Dripping” each Friday evening before he’d return to Lancaster on Sunday afternoon.
Dripping Springs is located in Garrard County near the point where Indian Branch empties into Fall Lick Creek on the Garrard-Lincoln County boundary line. This mineral spring was famous as a resort in the late 1800’s until about the mid 1920’s. At one time there was a hotel located there as well as a racetrack.
As this is an oral history recorded on a cassette tape, there are a few words that I can’t hear well enough to understand. In those instances, I’ll put question marks (??).
“Dripping Springs, A Memory”
“I am Jane Haselden of Lancaster, Kentucky, who probably spent more summers as a child at Dripping Springs than any one now living. Dripping Springs was one of those small, family type summer resorts scattered throughout Kentucky and the South, wherever mineral springs were found. Dripping Springs had both iron and magnesium water, both an addicted delight, entirely different from the mal-odorous salt and salt sulfur water famous at Crab Orchard Springs.
Dripping Springs was 12 miles from Lancaster, turning left off the Crab Orchard Pike, just before the Dix River Bridge. The unforgettable fragrance from the combination of odors of moss, pine and huckleberry bushes filled the air as the last mile and a half wound around the knob hill, crossing through a clear, pebbly creek 21 times. After a big rain, there was no way of getting in or out except on horseback.
The main building was situated at the base of a steep, pine covered knob called “Old Baldy,” because of a twin crown outcropping of shaly rock. The final 300 yard approach was a straight sand and pebble lane across flat meadow land stretching from the 21st creek fording to the foot of “Old Baldy.” On each side of this road the only fencing in miles was of white washed board made with planks into a long (??) fastened to posts at the top & bottom rails. The main hotel was two stories tall with banistered porches completely wrapping around both floors. Angling about 30 degrees to the right, attached to and even with the second story, was a long dining room and kitchen, with several out-buildings beyond, among them servant’s quarters and privies for all. These were hidden from a path which followed the upward curve of the hill.
The main building was made of wide, upright, white-washed planking with red painted batten as stripping. The roof was slightly hipped but somewhat flat and those are the porch. A very large rock at left front dominated a ball of flowers; columbine, touch-me-nots, sweet peas and scarlet sage. Morning glories, hops and other climbing vines, spiraled up strings to the second floor. One training made a particularly lacey curtain, brightened with small red flowers. Another vine was strewn with what seemed to be tiny brown potatoes. I can still memory sniff this specially pungent fragrance of a huck flower head, which resembled flat, scaly, flexible, green worms.
Outside steps at the left led from an unloading or hitching area for horses, buggies, wagons and carriages to the entrance of the hotel. A large stable and barn combination was further down the road to the left.
Attached further back to the main building was the principal gathering place for the guests, a 30 foot square open salon(?). X-crossed boards, fastened to rails, formed the back of planking seating along the sides. Posts based by railing 2 x 4’s, afforded the guests who smoked to the front and each side of the square. Beyond this open pavilion, round about and almost touching it, the mountain led into a spring cave just high enough to make grown-up’s heads duck above. Damp moss, vines and ferns trailed over the edge. Water dripped, dripped from the rock ceiling as if rain were trying to make up its mind direct. From above the ledge a pipe came bent and poured a stream of icy iron water to a kind of pulpit attached to the pavilion. The pulpit front kept workers dry. The half-cock formed a resting place for a tin cup and an occasional glass left there.
The water flowed continuously into a barrel size hole in the rock floor below. In season, in that very cold water hole, bobbed delicious watermelons awaiting their owner’s pleasure.
The over flow water ran under the pavilion, air conditioning guests before the word was ever invented. At night, guests slept lulled by the tinkling, flowing and dropping of that water.
Across the length of the cave about 4 feet up the back was a natural rock trough filled with iron water. Yet, at the right end slightly separated and not so deep a magnesium spring made a white pudding of magnesia around the rock edges. Children sometimes fingered magnesia into their mouths for a taste of (??). In the main trough, milk, butter, or other perishables were often cooled.
The office of the hotel was through the first floor center. Beside it, a stair mounted to the second story. There was another stairway at the dining room end of the building. The main hotel, which seemed huge to me as a child, had only three rooms on each side of the stair opening on both floors, just twelve in all.
Each room crossed the width of the building and faced the lane. On the front side of each was a wooden entrance door plus a full length window. On the spring side there was a square window with a swinging shutter of plank. Doors and windows were generally left open yet were screened only in the last years of the resort.
Inside of each room there was comfortable space for a double bed, a cot, bed table, dressing table, mirror and two straight chairs. There were no closets, only pegs on which to hang clothes. No electricity, only lamps set in brackets with tin reflectors; one lamp per room, one in each stairway passage; no bathrooms, only chamber pots or “slop jars.”
Among the out-buildings were separate privies for men and women. The women’s, at least, was a 3- or 4-holer. Plank coverings were attached at the back of each hole. Paper was usually from a catalog or cut squares of newspapers. There was a more smaller holer for children. Having been born into a home with indoor plumbing, somewhat rare at the time, the child’s holer seemed too small for me, although there was difficulty in reaching the larger one.
In addition to the main hotel, there were 3 two-room cottages with rooms similar in size to those in the hotel. One cottage was on a level place up the hill above the spring cave. Another was on a flat space above that one, but quite near to “Old Baldy’s ” bald spot. A white-washed plank fence ran upwards beside part of the path to the first of the above spring cottages. Wild sweet peas, along with huckleberry bushes, formed the ground cover, under the gnarled pines and scrub oaks beside the perilous path which climbed to the topper’s cottage.
In early days, bachelors tended to rent the hill cabin. The choice cottage, cabin planked, was just a little above the middle of the croquet court. That court was on a level space to the left of the hotel.
I don’t know the exact date of the opening of Dripping Springs as a resort. I seem to remember tales about carriages from the south driving to Dripping around the time of the Civil War. However, a fairly early date is true. Dan Slaughter, of Paint Lick, had a quarrel with and was killed by a young boy (Rodney Singleton), whom he had stabbed and thrown to the floor of the hotel at Dripping Springs. From the floor, the boy called out, “Dan!” As he turned, the boy shot him. Slaughter died shortly thereafter.
It was in 1887 that Dan Slaughter’s sister, Mrs. J. I. McKinney, called “Katydid”, published a poem entitled, “Dripping Springs”, and dedicated it to her brother Dan. In the poem is this line,
“Some love the ball-room’s din and glare
as soft they trip some favorite air.”
Then, the dining room often became the ballroom, when decorated for dancing. What I remember was that occasionally some mountain fiddler would start fiddling near the spring. Shortly, people would be dancing in the pavilion and on the porches. The cooks would be stomping beside the kitchen door all strictly impromptu. “Katydid” writes of something similar before that with a cook named “Easter.”
“The black-eyed Easter trips along
The kitchen porch with smile and song,
We find a poem in her churn,
An essence in her coffee urn;”
I, too, remember milk being churned to butter in a cedar churn near the kitchen door. The up and down beat of the paddle emphasizing the rhythm of the cook’s song.
“Some love to lounge about the spring,
Some frequent spots where hammocks swing,
Hammocks, too, were my love of Dripping Springs.”
“Breakfast over, ‘round the springs
The guests assemble--some in swings--”
Probably the slow moving swing soothed aching feet. However, the swing I remember best was a chain and wood swing hung fast and high to a limb of a huge sycamore tree which grew beyond the croquet court. What a sky flighted day! One ever remembers days while flying through the air, a green tree snake was dislodged from a branch above; fell, and curled about my bare ankle, before dropping to the ground. The snake that is; I just flew away! Hadn’t we all been warned to watch out for rattlesnakes and copperheads frequently found in that part of the state! Who would have thought to remember that these green snakes are not dangerous?
This is January, 1977. How can I give such an accurate description of Dripping Springs of 1909? There are 8 pictures in my mother’s old scrapbook in front of me. When young, she took and developed her own prints. She must have taken these that year. One picture is of the main hotel building taken from the approach lane. Another is of my brother Louis standing beside a caladium plant. He is no taller than a middle-sized elephant ear. He has long hair still, curling about his shoulders. He probably became two that summer and shortly afterward had his hair cut. At that time, boys beyond baby hood did not wear long hair.
I, in May, would have been five going on six in 6 weeks. That would be 1909 for the un-dated pictures. The third picture is of six children and a boy sitting on a big sloping rock to the left of the spring cave. Front row: me, Lee Davis Fisher, now the Emeritus minister of the Somerset Christian Church, where he preached all his adult life, and Mary Kay Williams. Who would have thought that two future college dean’s of women were sitting on that rock? Shy me, in Kentucky. An older, confidant, Mary Kay Williams in Oklahoma. Back row: Woodford and Bradford Williams and Eugene Austin. Below is a spotted bull pup, Jerry. I remember, embarrassingly, that that dog’s name was so near to mine.
Gene Austin’s mother, Miss Anne, synchronized the service for the hotel. The Williams’ children’s father was a prominent Lancaster lawyer. We were all from Lancaster, except Lee Davis. Mr. and Mrs. Fisher ran the springs for several years (in the late 1890’s). Had they started it then, or was Mrs. Fisher just running the food service for Mr. Rothwell? My first memory of a Proprietor was Mr. Rothwell, Samuel, I think. He was tall and thin with flashing black eyes and longish white hair. He always wore a wide rimmed Panama hat. In fact, he would have made an excellent Kentucky Colonel portrait. I thought that he was handsome, maybe because he seemed to pay me more attention than to most children.
Mr. Rothwell’s lawyer son, Mort, (J. Mortimer), lived with his father at Dripping Springs. Most people thought he looked very handsome, too. He was very clever but often not atrothed from too much drinking the night before. Several years later (August 8, 1914, at the age of 44), just as Dan Slaughter was, Mort Rothwell was killed in a brawl.
My family had come to Dripping Springs even before my brother Louis was born. I remember three white pennies which I guarded for years. They had been given to me at Dripping Springs by Miss Tellis Carpenter to buy me a goosey. I loved the geese which most mountain families kept, not only as a source of food, but as producers of down and feathers for pillows and bedding.
Miss Tellis and her father, Dr. Carpenter, from Stanford, regularly were summer visitors at Dripping Springs. Miss Tellis (Telly) Carpenter, who married a man of the same name, Homer Carpenter, who for years was a minister at the 1st St. Christian Church in Louisville.
We must have stayed in the main building in those days. I remember sitting in the dining room on benches, which were on either side of long tables. Behind us stood a colored child constantly waving away flies with a long brush made of strips of paper cut into a fringe and fastened to a stick. There would be a huge platter of fried chicken, and a mountain of steaming corn on the cob at each end of the table. Probably there was a vegetable between. Later; cakes, pies, cobblers and puddings for dessert.
Watermelons were more often taken cool from the spring water, cut and served without plates to the guests crowding into the pavilion, salting slices and spitting seeds into the spring run-off screen. The mountain sweet potatoes, called Nancy Haws, were firm, very pale greenish yellow, and baked with absolutely no sugar. No stringy, watery yam ever grown can compare with it. Between meals, I remember hanging around the kitchen door talking to the cook, until a chicken leg, a gizzard, or a piece of pie, or a cold sweet potato, would be slipped into my hand. I was back by the door conversing with the cooks after we were living in the cottage and having most of our meals there. Anyway, I still like gizzards and cold Nancy Haws.
The 4th picture was taken of a group of us sitting before a striped awning fastened to the ceiling before the front door and dropping to the floor to keep the afternoon sun out of the cottage. It was the clapboard cottage beside the croquet court, which must have been first someone’s home. Our family cooked and ate, as well as lived there. We were sitting on the edge of the porch. This picture was taken the same day as the other three, for both Louis and I were wearing the same dresses as in those. Yes, Louis was in a dress, another reason to think he was not quite two.
There are Uncle Malc (Malcolm Gill Aldridge), grandmother, Virginia Katherine Hughes Aldridge, Mrs. Harvey (??), my older cousin Roger Sherman Aldridge (Uncle Malc’s son). The name, Roger Sherman, has descended into all branches of the Haselden family because of an ancestor signer of the Declaration of Independence. Artimicia Haselden, dad’s sister, had married Malcolm Aldridge, mother’s brother. Their children were our double first cousins. Next, at my side was Lee David Fisher. We were within 6 months of the same age. We played together every day. Lee David had many older brothers; Matt, Sam, Tim and Lloyd. All those guys could say the funniest things. I don’t think Sam ever opened his mouth without some deadpan piece of clever humor coming out. I would be laughing with delight before some brother would be ready to hit him over the head for his remark.
I don’t remember whether or not this was the year the Aldridge’s had rented the topper’s cottage. Aunt Archie, we children changed the Artie (shortened of Artimicia) to Archie, loved it (the top cottage), but not only for the view but probably because 5 or 6 trips up that mountain would dampen the energy of any child, and the family was within two of completing it’s twelve, definitely not cheaper by the dozen. The older three boys were away, one dead, and two yet unborn. Six would be plenty to keep out of death’s way, and energy reduced.
Roger would be allowed to take us for long walks, following in Indian style a path which went around the mountain and along another hill and beyond. Is this the path which went to “Greenbrier Springs?” There had been another mineral springs resort called “Greenbrier.” It was a mile or so from Dripping with a main building similar in structure. But, at my first remembering, abandoned and in such disrepair that mother would not let us climb to the second floor, lest some plank or railing give way. Was the batten of that building painted green? I think so.
In the years before Louis was born, we probably came to Dripping Springs in mother’s Fenton, which hitched to a fast horse; she drove herself. This was probably the order of arrival of the cottage now that there were two children. I remember similar ones. Early in the morning, a spring wagon would be loaded with clothes, bedding, an oil stove with separate ovens, the awning, and most food staples for a month; flour, meal, lard, canned preserves, spices, sugar, oatmeal, grits, bacon and ham. Fresh vegetables, chicken, eggs, milk, melons, peaches and apples would be bought from the mountain neighbors.
Two of dad’s colored workmen would drive us and unload the wagon; Uncle Jerry Doty and Sam Perkins. They both loved the chance to get away from harder work. Going to Dripping was a short outing for them, too. Both of them would have resented being called black. Uncle Jerry was rich chocolate brown. Sam Perkins, a much younger man, was a deep tan color. Both were very much liked by all. Both were very strong men. Sam Perkins could break hemp for hours with a steady rhythm, using a hemp brake; a sort of saw horse with a raisable flail at one end. A large handful of wide hemp stalks would be put across the saw horse with the left hand. Bang! The right hand would bring down the flail. The left hand would then pull the hemp to a slightly higher spot on the stalk. Bang, pull, bang, pull until many, many yards of gray fiber would be left to be sold for rope making.
Uncle Jerry Doty, although not as large a man as Sam Perkins, must have been almost as strong. Once, when four year old Louis had ridden pony back to the public square, Uncle Jerry lifted boy and pony off the ground to show some men how strong he was. He did it! I saw all four pony feet clear the ground.
Aunt Harriet Mason’s picture is in the scrapbook, too. She lived to be 107 years old. Part of the first 20 years of her life were spent as a house slave in (Brigadier) General (Richard) Gano’s family. (In 1853, at the age of 7 years old, Harriet was given as a wedding gift to Richard Gano and his bride, Mattie J. Welch) There, she learned to do everything correctly as they knew it. At my birth, it was Aunt Harriet who received me from Dr. Kinnard’s hands, wiped out my mouth with a strip of bacon fat, wide bound diapered, and put on my first clothes. Aunt Harriet called persons of her race colored people, never Negroes. When especially scorning some black person, she would say, “That no good darkie! That cornfield labor hand!”
About 10 years ago, I made the principal banquet speech of the state meeting of the Kentucky Association of Colored Women’s Club; Miss Lillie Mason, state president, Aunt Harriet’s daughter. Aunt Harriet had named her daughter for a white mistress of long ago, called by everyone Miss Lillie. Not only for the reason of remembered kindness, but also as Aunt Harriet would laugh and say, “Everybody who says my child’s name will have to call her Miss.”
The first black high school in Garrard County was named Mason High (built in 1939 by the WPA and named Mason High in 1950) for Miss Lillie. Although they would greatly have approved of integration, they would have been saddened when all black students, being moved to Garrard County High School, the Mason High building was then used for other purposes.
To get the family to Dripping Springs in 1909, mother now had a heavy carriage with a sedate horse, “Old Prince”, who had gotten his training as a hearse horse. Grandmother and Louis would be put into the glass enclosed rear section along with last remembered bundles. Mother and I would be on the front seat with the extended top protecting us from the sun as we jogged off to Dripping behind “Old Prince.”
Sometimes Aunt Harriet or one of Uncle Jerry’s daughters would ride up with us, to help with getting us settled at the cottage. She would return home in the spring wagon after Uncle Jerry and Sam would have rubbed down and fed “Old Prince”, dusted off and put the carriage in the barn.
Was it that carriage we would sometimes ride to Green Brier? I remember often driving to Crab Orchard for needed supplies or to visit with Mr. and Mrs. Tom Cherry, for to whom cousin T. Cherry Aldridge was named.
Dad would come up from Lancaster for long weekends. The next year, 1910, my father bought his first automobile. He owned a hardware store which sold buggies. He had gone to a big “Banner Buggy” meeting in Ohio. Henry Ford had his 13th car of his Model T there. It was a bright red touring car, no door on the driver’s side, only the handbrake, no top, acetylene light, and hand crank. Dad had been thinking of buying a Reel or a Cadillac. The Ford was a little more expensive, but then the Banner Buggy people would take measurements and make for the car a folding leather top. Besides that, Mr. Ford offered him the Ford dealership for all of Kentucky except Louisville and Lexington. Dad bought the car but declined the dealership for anything except Garrard and surrounding counties.
The car arrived in solitary splendor, a whole boxcar to itself. No one in town knew how to drive it, so dad and mother’s cousin, Fred Hughes, who could run a road roller and a thrashing machine, read the manual. They had the car gently rolled by many helping hands from the boxcar and carefully drove it home. The garage for it was already built, with a little room partitioned off the back for a playhouse for me. No, that wasn’t the time dad forgot to put on his brakes early and two tires poked their noses into my dollhouse. After that time, the playhouse became a tool room.
At our next stay at Dripping Springs, dad would drive up every night after work. At the first creek, he would begin honking the horn. All of the children at Dripping Springs made a dash for the end of the approach lane and climbed on the running board. Dad would slowly arrive at the hotel, lost in a yelling mass of wild Indians, among excited first questions, “Did you bring us a watermelon?”
When I was eight years old (1911), we went to visit dad’s cousin, (??), in Michigan City, Indiana. Helene, one of her daughters, was my age. Of course we had to go bathing in Lake Michigan, so mother bought me my first bathing suit. I had been insisting to Helene that I could swim. Hadn’t I been watching those fish do it in the creek for years? Without hesitation, I waded right up to my neck in Lake Michigan and started off. Surprise, surprise, I couldn’t! No water was ever as cold as Lake Michigan. Out I came stuttering. Mother simply said, “When we get back to Dripping, I’ll teach you to swim.”
We did go later that summer to Dripping Springs. Not far from the end of the lane, just beyond the first fording of the creek, was a perfect 30 feet in diameter bowl of gently flowing creek water, with a smooth pebble bottom. It sloped very gradually from all directions to a depth in the middle, just reaching my mother’s waist. Mother could not swim, but we were never conscious of it. She would wade confidently almost to the middle, take first one and then another of us by the mid-back of the seat and say, “Swim, just do what a dog does.” Or, “Lie back on my hand. Pretend it’s a bed. Float.” Finally, we were both able to paddle like puppies around her, to dive down, to open our eyes under water. Even at it’s deepest, water of that creek flow was so clear that you could see the bottom pebbles. We grew to imitate the fish.
One day I lost my turquoise, heart shaped ring; my love! We had been playing enough to stir the sand and stones. We could not find the ring. The next day everyone was made to stay out of the water until I’d waded carefully to the spot where it must’ve gone off. There was the ring’s green blue eye with it’s band of gold. Gently, I went down beneath the water, slipped the ring on my finger, came up hand first, waving the recovered jewel. Mother was in her 70’s years later in Florida when I taught her to swim. Aunt Archie was living there and having too much fun bobbing around in the Gulf for mother not to want to try.
As children at Dripping Springs, what did we do to amuse ourselves; catch small turtles and lizards for pets; or add an occasional tortoise to the collection; wade in the creek chasing minnows, hurriedly moving our toes away from disturbed crawdads; hunt smooth round creek stones for marbles or just rub in our hands; play croquet until all were really good at it; swing high in the big swing; follow paths wherever they went; climb to the top of “Old Baldy” at least once a day; pick huckleberries or blackberries for pies, if not too many eaten on the spot; visits to mountain homes for provisions? There was a particularly delicious white freestone peach to be bought, plus green apples for green apple dumplings.
At night, often men would go fox hunting. Late into the night we would hear the running voices of the hounds. Some older person would say, “Hayden Leavell is out there, I hear his hounds.”. Another might say, “Woods Walker or some of the Walker boys are out tonight. I recognize that Walker hounds tongue.”
One night, another kind of baying was heard, a baying of words. “Get her! Get her! Catch her! Cut her off! Faster!” I happened to be alone on the front porch of the main building. I went down the steps, climbed up the big rock in front of the hotel to see what was happening. Running by the side of the meadow was a gang of hill boys chasing the cook’s daughter. She was running as hard as she could, panting and gasping for breath. The boys were just behind her and gaining all the time. As she was about to pass the rock, I reached down an arm, called her name. Catching my hand, she pulled herself up on the rock. Standing there in the moonlight, with my arm around her shoulders, I shouted down at them, “You won’t touch her! You won’t touch her! I won’t let you!” Whether it was because I might have recognized some of them or because we were too near the main building, the gang faded away into the shadows. There we both stood, shaking, outlined by the moon, with our arms around each other; a skinny blond and a black girl, each about 10 or 11 years old. Finally, our breathing quieted, I asked her what happened. She said the boys had jumped out at her between the privies and the servant’s quarters. She had run down the hill. They had followed, trying to drive her into the meadow. Being still ahead, she was running hard toward the main entrance. Without my hand, she would have been caught at the foot of the steps. I was too young to realize why the boys were chasing her or what might have happened to her had she not made the safety of the rock; but she knew, or at least sensed it, as did the fox, which the hounds were chasing. After awhile, we slid to the ground, with arms still around each other. We crossed the lengthy porches. I stood waiting by the dining room door, until I could see her enter her mother’s door.
There was one incident at the cottage which was frightening. Cooking for the hotel one summer was Ann Hughes. She always claimed kin with grandmother, who had been a Hughes. It well could have been that Ann was right. She was nearly white. Her husband Dick, I don’t think his name was Hughes, was a tall, well-built, darker man who played around extensively among the colored ladies. Ann, she was handsome, so it might have been that she had decided to pay him back. Anyway, they had quarreled so hotly that Dick, who was a little drunk, was trying to kill her. I was still small enough to be sleeping in dad and mother’s room. It was after midnight. All of us were asleep. We were awakened by Ann running into the room screaming, “Mr. Raymond, Mr. Raymond, Save me! Save me! Dick’s going to kill me! Save me! She threw herself to her knees by dad and mother’s bed. And Dick, a long Carbonet knife in hand, bounded into the room. Ann dived under the bed. Dad, half up, pushed his hand hard against Dick’s shoulder saying, “Dick! What do you mean coming in here? Get out of here! Give me that knife! Get out!” Dick dropped the knife on the bed and ran out of the room. Dad threw a blanket to Ann and said, “Hush up! You can stay here the rest of the night.”
The next morning Dick came and sheepishly apologized to dad. “I didn’t know what I was doing, Mr. Raymond, you know I didnít.” Dad said, “Take this butcher knife back to the kitchen!” No one had ever thought of locking doors at Dripping Springs.
The last time all of the family ever stayed at Dripping Springs was after the hotel had long been closed for guests. Topper’s cottage was uninhabitable. There, where as small children many times we had stirred with a twig the center of a small conical depression in the sandy shale calling, “doodle, doodle, doodle”, hoping to see the little bug speak as it dug the earth into it’s hole.
The other cottage on the hill was completely gone; our lower clapboard one boarded up. My father rented, for a small sum, the three best rooms left in the old hotel building. These were the upstairs rooms toward the old croquet court. Mother and dad had the first room, Grandmother, Virginia and I the next. My brother slept on a cot in the third, which during the day, was for the dining room/kitchen. Dad had patched the screens. At night, a hook only fastened the screen doors. Grandmother and my young cousin, Virginia Aldridge, slept in the big bed; I, on the cot across the window. That night, my face was partially in the bright moonlight. Anyone outside would be clearly visible. I awakened with a sense of being watched, and then I knew. I gradually lifted the lids until I could see through my eyelashes. There, looking down at me, was the mentally retarded son of a family who lived up the road. He was a large, fully-grown man with the mentality of a very small child. He stood there for a long time, then silently moved around the corner of the porch, where he would be able to watch us through the small square window on my side of the room. I continued, unmoving, tense as a board, until I must have finally fallen asleep from exhaustion.
The next morning, I told my father about it. He was disturbed. That dull boy had grown up the butt of his bright brother’s jokes. He’d always been considered harmless, but recently he’d become irritable with people. I’m sure dad never again felt quite secure leaving us at Dripping Springs, even during the day. We children were still enjoying roaming about, but mother insisted we not go far and stay together. Now bigger and swimming well, the bathing pool was not as much fun.
The next summer, that was the end of my sophomore year in high school, we started going to Crab Orchard Springs, which was still a flourishing resort. It offered its guests golf, polo, horseback riding, lake and pool swimming, billiards, bowling, dancing, bridge, besides good food. We tried to learn them all, with varying degrees of success, according to our size and interests. The thing at which my brother and I worked most at first there was to perfect a swan dive into the 20 foot deep lake water. We had not only been the fish, but birds too. Nothing gives quite the feeling of bird freedom as those airborne seconds of free falling before hitting the water, unless it was something that I learned years later; to kick a Piper Cub into a spin, spinning out from 3,000 feet, free falling again before the necessary pull out.
Last night, while re-reading Mrs. McKinney’s Dripping Springs poem in “Patches of Garrard County,” after the line “where hammocks swing”, came this; “as others saunter to the pool, their tired limbs to bathe and cool.” Dripping Springs never had any swimming pool! I searched my mind for anything which might resemble a built pool. None! Suddenly came the answer! Our swimming bowl was it! At the end of the approach lane, a short walk from the hotel, easy to bathe in and play in, whether one could swim or not, man or nature made, it had existed before 1887. Our pool was Katydid’s pool! The last time I went swimming in it was 25 or 30 years ago (1947-1952), when my brother, his wife and I took his daughters for a picnic at Dripping Springs and a swim in our pool. It was still there, but all of the cottages gone, the hotel fallen into a pile of rotting timbers.
Four or five years ago (1972-1973), Louis’ wife Virginia and I took his teenage son to try to show him Dripping Springs. There was just the spring cave, it’s rock ceiling still dripping, dripping, and the natural rock trough inside iron water rusty. So many of the pine trees had been cut or died that it was difficult to climb to “Old Baldy’ s” top. It was winter, we could not hunt for our pool. At the springs, we filled bottles to carry home. The water was just as good as when “Katydid” wrote:
“And let me listen to the splash
Of the old spring that drips and drips
To cool and cure the feverish lips.
Who could forget the landlord’s vim
Or cottage rooms so neat and trim?
Who would not leave the city’s glare,
The heat, the dust, the stifling air-
Who would not part with all his wealth
To gain at Dripping Springs his health?”
Nephew Tom was intrigued. His father and I tried to keep this teenager from being bored while driving back from a Christmas vacation in Florida by telling him these tales of Dripping Springs. Now, more of a city boy Tom wanted to buy the springs and the knob to build himself a cabin near the top of “Old Baldy” where the bachelor’s cottage had been. My brother even inquired the price of the land’s owner, who, thinking it must be wanted for a development, asked ten times the price Louis was willing to pay for a memory.
A friend of mine once wrote a ballad about the first steamboat which ever steamed up the Kentucky River into the Kentucky mountains. That first automobile that ever drove up before Dripping Springs was my father at the wheel of his bright red, brass trimmed Ford, was bringing the death cause; the automobile, to all such small resorts. Just as the last line of Charlie Hays ballad about the first heard hoot of a steam boat whistle; so dad’s pressure on his rubber bulb horn let Dripping Springs die at the feet of progress moving in.
I might add a kind of postscript. This past fall (1976) a neighbor, William Tudor, wishing to paint a picture of Dripping Springs from mother’s 1909 photograph and from actually seeing the place, went there with Bill Daniels. Bill, brother Louis, and other friends had sometimes during their high school years camped at Dripping Springs. Bill could still find it. The spring cave was still there. Now, the hill could hardly be climbed. Motorcycle rough riders had started on the level of the old croquet court for a take-off; shot up the path to the top of “Old Baldy” and on beyond. That path, no longer slippery with pine needles, was cut and ice slick from motorcycle tracks.”
A Poetic Expression
Written by Mrs. J. I. McKinney
Dan Slaughter of Paint Lick was killed by a young boy whom he had stabbed and thrown on the floor at the hotel at Dripping Springs. The boy then called, “Dan,” and as he turned, he was shot and died shortly afterwards. Mrs. J.I. McKinney, Dan’s sister, known locally as “Katy Did” wrote and dedicated the following poem to “My brother - D.G. Slaughter.”
Something moves my pen; its former chime
I fain would drop, and gladly lose the rhyme
That lights my verse as ore lights up a mine
If on my canvas I could curve and line
These quiet hills, and for an hour could say
Iíd caught the warmth that on the landscape lay,
And that I dreamed as artists sometimes dream
Who blend their smiles with meadow, mound and stream;
I am indeed a child worn out at play,
And weary of my game I long to stray
To other haunts, to other heights unknown,
And claim that Raphael’s brush as half my own.
She floods the old familiar fields with light,
She bids me pause, take up my pen and write.
This scare yet dawn, the leaves awake,
And in my brow the raindrops shake
The only remnant of the cloud
That pealed last night with thunder loud;
The oily hint that here with flowers
Come sometimes shadows, sometimes showers.
The morning is a dream of bliss,
The breeze not unlike Love’s first kiss.
My soul expands - I drink the dew,
It gives my veins a deeper hue,
I halt where like a singing rill
The spring comes dripping o’er the hill.
I fill my cup again, again
I drink for all good health to men
I hear the rising bell’s faint sound,
The porter makes his usual round.
And black-eyed Easter trips along
The kitchen porch with smile and song,
We find a poem in her churn,
An essence in her coffee urn;
We note the pale dyspeptic’s cheek
Is growing rosy, round and sleek;
His torpid stomach forced to fast,
Here seen partakes the rich repast.
Breakfast over, ‘round the springs
The guests assemble - some in swings -
And those of a romantic turn
Stroll two and two in search of fern.
For them the woods have more than speech,
A calm that to the heart doth reach,
That perfect peace of mind and soul
The sacred Book to us hath told.
I deem that morning holds more charms
Than day hides elsewhere in her arms;
Alas! forsaken by my Muse I turn
And backward glance - she beckons my return
But when she folds her shadowy tent,
And stars laugh in the firmament,
And newer phase doth nature take,
And in the heart new joys awake.
Some love the ball-room’s dine and glare
As soft they trip some favorite air,
Some love to lounge about the spring,
Some frequent sports where hammocks swing,
And others saunter to the pool
Their tired limbs to bathe and cool.
But give me just the shady rock
That o’er the dripping spring doth look,
And let me watch the bright lamps flash,
And let me listen to the splash.
Of the old spring that drips and drips,
To cool and cure the feverish lips.
Who could forget the landlord’s vim
Or cottage rooms so neat and trim?
Who would not leave the city’s glare,
The heat, the dust, the stifling air -
Who would not part with all his wealth
To gain at Dripping Springs his health?