We're all relatives

Sure. Some gripe about being able to choose friends but
not family. It's a sad line to hear for anyone who's fond of
family. Once a year cousins, kids and spouses in my
extended clan gather somewhere to revel in being us.
We've got a gazillion last names. But somehow Becks,
Batcheldors, Brewers, Bollands, Clarks, Englands, Grilles,
Herndons, Lawsons, McDermotts, Sanchezs, Starks,
Sterners, Stuedles, Whites and Wingenbachs, among
others, share common bonds that are unmistakable in our
faces and mettle. Each of the 40 or so kin on the staircase
at Walnut Grove – a mansion my great grandfather Jacob
Batcheldor built – is an encyclopedia on some arcane angle
of the family. To keep from boring ourselves with all the
tales, we meet in some place we might not otherwise see
except from 35,000 feet flying elsewhere. This year, it
was Bardstown, Ky., a blip of a town that is home to
many of my kin, including my mother. Gingerbread hand
sawed by Jacob still adorns her home in nearby
Bloomfield. The region also is home to thoroughbred
horses, bourbon and Stephen Foster. Although the Clark
homestead has become a restoration project waiting to
happen, it still retains the soul of life on the 1780s. Huge
hand-hewn logs are visible in interior walls. Tucked in a
corner of the old smokehouse was a baby turkey buzzard
trying to hide from my camera. Nearby is a field that
produced mint for juleps at the Kentucky Derby. Unless
it's produced within the region, whiskey cannot be called
bourbon. Distilleries are surrounded with cornfields for
their products must contain at least 51 percent corn under
rules governing the appellation. Composer Stephen Foster
lived here when he wrote
My Old Kentucky Home to sing
for his supper. Over the ridge, monks in the Abbey of
Gethsemani crank out fruitcakes and cheeses that seem
like they're aged a little too close to the laundry hamper at
first. A couple of sips of bourbon later, they taste just
fine. On the grounds is a simple cross over the remains of
philosopher / author Thomas (Louis) Merton (1915-
1968.)  By chance our clan arrived when 17-year locusts
were at their peak. Bernheim Preserve was pulsating with
the sound of insects rubbing their legs together. Scary to
we city folks. But even their sound was no match for that
of a bunch of kin folks descending on Bardstown to talk
about what's new and what we never knew.
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Clark Farmstead
Batcheldor Clan
Kentucky Thoroughbreds
Bourbon / Corn
Old KY Home
Stephen Foster
Locust Plague
Bernheim Forest
Thomas (Louis) Merton
Log Cabin
Gethsemini Abbey
Baby Buzzard
Mom's Home