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Project Dateline: The town of Easterday

EASTERDAY — On the day before Easter Sunday 1810, a few people with a desire to bind themselves together in service to God and one another established a church at what is now the intersection of Ky. 112 and 36.

An updated version of Whites Run Baptist Church stands there still, named for the creek that fairly runs into it. In front of it, surrounded by a crumbling dry rock wall, is a cemetery sparsely dotted by tombstones that have no legible dates that reach into the 20th century.

The church and two blocks each way on either highway used to be the whole of the Carroll County town of Easterday. But any signs that made note of that fact came down 40 years ago, and the general store that used to be its only commerce gave in to the likes of Kroger not long after.

There are a few houses and a trailer park within what would have been Easterday's technical limits but, on the morning of Maundy Thursday, no one is about. The church is locked up.

The keepers of this lost town then are a long bed of dewy iris, two happy dogs that seem to own the place, a trio of geese overhead, fallen limbs left from the winter storm, those peacefully at rest and an old cross in the corner of the graveyard.

Richard and Bobby Beach, bachelor brothers and gentlemen farmers, are pretty sure the town was named for a family with the last name of Easterday. It's actually pronounced "Easterdee," they say.

The Beaches make no mention of the church's founding date. They make no reference to a pioneer with a poetic bent. They think it was simply a family who came to stay — and, too soon, left no mark. It happens.

The Beach brothers have been here a long time. Their family came in 1952. They've been working the land together since their daddy died in 1972. They're sharecroppers who can hire when they need to but mostly do all the work themselves even if they're both older than 60. They don't owe anybody any money.

They have a fair stake in things around here, what with working 272 acres, every cow within it and every bit of barbed wire that surrounds it.

Nobody but them is farming that side of the road anymore.

Things are changing around Easterday. Then, they kind of aren't.

Somebody renamed Four Mile Road recently, but everybody is still calling it Four Mile Road. A prime cornfield got made into a subdivision that now has houses that people think are too big to buy in a recession.

Easterday has no signs, but the old-timers still call it Easterday.

The Beach brothers have their greenhouse warm, and each of the 75,000 tobacco seedlings inside have four leaves sprouted and should be ready for planting in mid-May. "It's a lot of work, but we've done it so long we don't pay any attention to it," Bobby says.

He adds that he and his brother have started over more times in Easterday than they care to think about. "I'd rather sell my cows during hard times than abuse them," he says. "Then we just get more when we can, start again."

It's what farming is — renewal — every year. Kind of a resurrection.

Back down the road, the two dogs run after cars and meet all comers. They guard everything but are too friendly to warn anyone off. They are Easterday's unofficial greeters.

Ida Perkins is 85 and remembers best the Easterday store. Her brother John Barnhill owned it and ran it. She liked it because it was convenient when transportation wasn't.

She liked it because she lived next door to her brother and he'd deliver to her when she'd forgotten something.

Ida remembers, too, that her brother "knew who was honest and who wasn't" and extended credit accordingly. Until the tobacco came in. Then you were expected to come in straight away and pay up.

Ida can't recall ever knowing how the town got its name, come to think of it. She says that she never did hear of a family having that name. She never did hear of anyone being buried in that cemetery with that name. She never did much think about it. It was just the name of the little town she grew up near. Where her family was, where it prospered, where it sold penny candy and where it went to church.

Back at the churchyard, the dew has burned off with the afternoon sun. The grass has been freshly mowed. Wild violets run rampant between the headstones. Here Samie P. Montgomery was laid to rest, one year, 14 days after his birth, on Aug. 18, 1861. Close by is Harry P. Montgomery, who died five years later, also an infant. In between them, lies their mother, Marian.

Some stories — the ones about life and death, sons and mothers, new spring after long winter — linger in the stippled light.

And the dogs hear the invitation and dance.

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