After decades of neglect, the great wheel and all the internal parts have been repaired and replaced by our talented millwright, Ben Hassett, and last Sunday, October 18th, water was released from the millpond through the sluice and the great wheel, creaking and groaning, began to turn again. The fieldstone building that supports the wheel and houses the machinery, still solid although it is 150 years old, welcomed a group of neighbors and friends and supporters of the conservation not-for-profit, Riverfields, which holds the easements for the mill and Wolf Pen Mill Farm—one of the homes of my heart!—listened as we told the story of the three-year-long project of repairing and rebuilding. Golden yellow corn meal, ground from organic corn (the only non GMO corn in the state) filled seventy two-pound cotton bags printed with the logo of the mill that its earlier owner, Eva Lee Smith Cooper, designed when she ground corn for the dinners on the old L&N Railroad. I hope the cornmeal will turn into cornbread and hush puppies and muffins in kitchens all over the neighborhood.
I was too busy will people to shoot the wheel turning, but later I walked on the farm and took pictures of its autumn beauty. This is a sacred place. Generations of the Cooper family (many of them present for the first grind) preserved and loved it; neighbors have walked and picnicked there for years—one of the dramatic memories of my childhood is Mrs. Cooper with a shotgun at an upper window, telling my father in no uncertain terms to get off her land. In spite of that, I rode horseback on the farm all during my growing up; and now it may be that, once we have restored the big black barn, horses will be on the place again.
Sacred places deserve to be protected. Over the years, trespassers and guests who were not able to appreciate the place have been common, but even more common, the guests who can appreciate both the farm’s past and its future. Protected by conservation easements, the 420 acres can never been torn up and turned into the throughways, hideous strip malls and soulless subdivisions that surround it on every side.
That is, if the good angels are watching…