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2004-01-11 5:38 PM
UnCommonwealth: Fayette County: This Deep Blue Pool
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This Deep Blue Pool
From the dusty home mountains, across briny waters, through new green mountains and now by new sweet waters; by this deep blue pool. Sign al Kassam, an aljawid of the Wadi al-Taym, had only one companion left, an old white camel. Together, they took some rest beneath ancient oaks; by this deep blue pool.
These last roads they’d followed had been made by animals, but still had the aged weight of the Roman roads around the inner sea. al Kassam hadn’t seen more than a handful of people—cautious, quiet, copper-skinned men, carrying weapons of stone and bone—since he and the camel had strode off the plume and onto a sandy shore away east. He had been left alone, which was what he had thirsted for, after all.
“No Christians here, right?” He had taken to speaking to the camel in the long plume crossing, once the susurrus of the white foam had familiarized itself down to quiet. “No smelly metal men. And no crazed killers from the Grandfather in the Mountains. No Persian caliphs grinding the Damascenes down to their late ignorance.”
The camel never replied. It would have been been one small miracle among many had it spoken, though maybe not one al Kassam would have welcomed. The camel was strong and swift after its fashion, but didn’t seem particularly imaginative and would probably have spoken mostly of water and food.
“Plenty of both here,” said the aljawid.
The ground around the pool was marked by the tracks of a dozen game species—some quite large—and the forest was weighted down by foreign nuts and fruits. Perhaps in time, he could trade with the people in these forests and mountains. The thousand tribes and sects of the bleeding Levant could be no more impenetrable than anything he might find in this fresh land.
There was a smooth ledge of stone along the opposite shore of the pool, a stone’s throw away. “Perhaps a place to pitch the tent for good,” he said. The camel stretched out its neck and took another long pull from the spring, perhaps in agreement.
This place, then, alongside this sweet water, more worlds than are dreamable away from caliph and crusader; perhaps this place might be a khalwa, a place to find solitude. A place to rest; by this deep blue pool.
Fayette County was formed in 1780 when the Virginia legislature divided its Kentucky County into three parts. The county can therefore rightly be counted the first in the Commonwealth, along with Jefferson and Lincoln Counties. Fayette County was named in honor of Marie Jean Paul Joseph Roche Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de LaFayette. The citizens of Fayette County are thus daily reminded of the great debt they and all Americans owe to the people of France, without whom there would be no United States. Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!
North of the towering palisades of the Kentucky River, which form its southern border, the county is the very heart of the inner Bluegrass Region of Kentucky. Its gently rolling karst topography provides a perfect setting for the dozens of great farms that make the area the Horse Capital of the World.
Fayette County is the second most populous county in the Commonwealth and shares an urban-county government with the city of Lexington. Lexington itself was named after the Revolutionary War battle, when Pennsylvania frontiersmen first heard the shot heard ‘round the world while camped by a deep blue pool in what is now McConnell Springs Park.
Lexington-Fayette County are home to the Kentucky Horse Park, to the Ashland Estate of that “beau ideal of a statesmen,” Henry Clay, to the Headley Whitney Museum, and to the University of Kentucky. Go Wildcats!
The invaluable Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer has an entry on Fayette County here .
Thanks to the staff of the Kentucky Room at the Lexington Public Library. As always I owe a great debt to the editors of the Kentucky Encyclopedia and to Robert M. Rennick for his Kentucky Place Names.
This story is dedicated to the memory of my great grandfather, Sign Kassam, who made his own long strange journey from the mountains of Syria to the mountains of Kentucky nearly a century ago. I have no proof that my ancestor was a Druze—as the character in this story is—though his name, his birth village, and the timing of his departure from the Levant all suggest that he may have been. One discussion of who the Druze are can be found here, and another, more sympathetic, here.
Thanks to Richard Butner, whose photograph of the mysterious statue in Lexington’s Phoenix Park, reproduced below, inspired this piece.
God save Fayette County, and God save the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events are either fictitious or used fictitiously.
Text copyright © January 2004 by Christopher Rowe. Photo copyright © November 2003 by Richard Butner. All rights reserved. These works may not be reproduced by any means without the artists’ prior consent.
Earlier entries in the UnCommonwealth series can be found by following the links below:
Lincoln County: Not That Lincoln
Jefferson County: Powers and Principles
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