Content Tools

1615 Brick Kiln Lane, Louisville, Kentucky 40216

Well, here f am again! Doing what I like to do almost more than anything else in the world. It's 'seng' digging time and I aim to be right in the middle of it. Of course, the government has as usual put somewhat of a damper on the pasttime, but it has by no means put a stop to it.

'Seng' for the uninitiated, is short for ginseng; that all powerful elixer, rejuvenator, cure-all, etc., that so many people (especially the Chinese) swear by.

Any 'dyed in the wool' seng digger can hardly wait for late summer and fall to come around, and soon we're all heading for the woods with our digging tools, sometimes no more than a screwdriver, and big pockets to put the precious roots in.

Some of the more sophisticated diggers also carry a small 22 cal. pistol with them to ward off the dreaded snakes, both copperhead and rattlesnakes that they may encounter, but almost never see.

But enough of that. I have gone as far as I can go by road out here in the wilds of Kentucky and am headed into the woods on foot, sure to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I have been exploring several especially promising wooded areas for a couple of hours now with fair results and really enjoying the fresh autumn air. Up ahead, dimly through the trees, I see a building of some sort. My first inclination is to detour around it, since ginseng diggers are a mostly solitary lot, but something I can't explain draws me closer. I can see now that it is a very substantially built brick building with what appears to be a tile roof. Strange that a building like that would be out here in such an isolated place.

I begin to walk around to look it over and I notice something lying around that looks like broken pottery. All sizes and shapes made of a pretty reddish clay.

It is obvious that this building hasn't been used for a long time. Even the road that, most surely at one time, had led to it has disappeared in the undergrowth.

There are only a couple of large windows, high on each side and it is remarkable that most of the glass is intact. In front there is a massive oak door with a huge iron lock securing it.

My curiosity has been thoroughly aroused and I begin looking around for something to climb on so that I might look in the window. I find some bricks and soon have enough stacked up to make a step and I take a peek inside.

In the dim light f can see something that looks like machinery. Like some kind of mixing machinery and I realize then that this is probably a long abandoned pottery and crock making plant. On closer look I can see overhead shafting and pulleys and 'lo and behold,' down in the end of the building I can see what most surely must be an engine of some kind.

Now engine collecting happens to be many times my preferred pasttime over digging ginseng and I'm about to explode. But since there is no way to readily get inside I decide to go ahead with my 'seng digging' for the time being. I soon find that is impossible. I can't get it out of my mind.

Maybe the old mansion that I had passed on the way in could give me a clue about the old engine. It had at first looked abandoned but I thought otherwise because of the old hound-dog lying on the porch amongst the columns that reached up to the second floor.

I finally make it back, all out of breath, to my truck and head for the old house. As I drive up, the old hound lazily rises and begins barking, half-heartedly; at the same time wagging his tail, as only a friendly old hound can. I walk up on the porch and knock. After a few moments an old white-haired lady appears and greets me.

I explain how I came upon the old building out in the woods and ask if she happens to know anything about it.

She says, 'yes', the old factory had been a very prosperous business for her family until the clay pits gave out many years ago and then was closed up. She says she is the only one of the family left now.

'Would it be possible for me to take look inside and especially at the old engine?' Much to my surprise she gives her consent immediately, but says she has long ago lost the key and if I don't have a hammer, there is one out in the barn I can use to break the lock. It doesn't take me long to find the hammer and get back to the old building. It also doesn't take many licks with the hammer to break the rusty old lock and soon I'm inside, marveling at how well preserved the machinery is.

With my flashlight brought from the truck I head for the old engine. What a beautiful engine it is. I look for the nameplate. It says L.T. and C. Hagan, made in Winchester, Kentucky. I just have to have it!

Back to the old mansion I go and explain to the old lady how I collect and restore old engines and ask if maybe she would be willing to sell it to me.

After a thoughtful moment, she says, 'Young man, that old engine isn't doing anybody any good sitting up there and if you want it you can have it.'

'What is it?' 'Honey what are you doing?' 'Why did you wake me up?' I was having a wonderful dream.'

Oh well! It was a beautiful engine while it lasted.