I spent last Monday through Sunday living out of my camper on top of Poppy Mountain in Morehead, Kentucky (my 12th year of insanity). I don’t want to get into exactly what Poppy Mountain is in this post as I’ll be writing another post in a bit on my “Poppy Experience”. I will say however that half way through my stay on the mountain I was ready to drive down the hill just to see some signs of “normal life”.
Typically during my annual fall trip, I’ll go into Morehead for supplies, but this year I didn’t have the pleasure of getting off the mountain to escape until Saturday when I just had to get out of there. So I decided it was a good opportunity to go shoot some photos. Earlier in the week I had talked to some locals about abandoned buildings in the area and someone had told me about the “partially abandoned” Grahn Brickyard in Grahn, Kentucky. I wasn’t so sure about shooting a partially abandoned building but I thought I’d give it a shot.
Grahn, Kentucky is due east of Olive Hill on KY 182 and it consists of about a dozen houses, a closed general store, the brickyard and a post office. I’m not sure why but it seems the post office is the Saturday morning hangout in Grahn because as I pulled into town there was a crowd of about 10 people “hangin” in front of the post office. At first I assumed I had driven through during the postal rush hour, but when I went past the town and was forced to drive 3 more miles to turn around, the same 10 people were in the same positions as before. Made me wonder if the Grahn Prom is at the Post Office as well! That was rude, I know!
All small town jokes aside, Grahn was awesome. I finally found the brick factory and very cautiously drove down the “do not enter” drive. Since experience has taught me to walk up to places like this with my truck door open as an escape from pissed off dogs I slowly walked towards the entrance to the factory. After hanging there for a bit I was just about ready to call it quits and retreat when a guy walked out between 2 of the kills and asked what I needed.
James was a hesitant guide at first, but after I shared my passion of “the days gone by” with him he welcomed me to the “yard”. James was a proud employee of the yard. Not a man of many words, just enough for me to understand I had ran across a hard working, proud of his life’s accomplishments type of man. He was what I love about meeting total strangers in the middle of Kentucky. He was strong, he was what we need more of today!
Our first stop was the employee lunch room. James decided the first stop of my tour had to include a 10 year old xeroxed newspaper article of the company’s history that was proudly posted on the lunch room bulletin board. Thinking I wouldn’t have James’ attention for long, and he had left the room for me to read the article, I shot photos of the article instead of reading it on the spot. I ended up regretting that later as James referred to the story along our tour and I felt I had betrayed him. After all he had trusted me in his world and I didn’t have the decency of taking it all in.
I’m not sure if James decided he had work to do or if he sensed I wanted to freely roam the yard, but after my company history lesson he had disappeared. Thinking I had free reign of the place I was shooting what I thought was interesting outside when James reappeared. He asked if I wanted to see the “factory”. Apparently this wasn’t only a “fired” brick factory but also a “formed” brick factory. He took me to the second floor revealing what I can only imagine was thousands of custom brick and block forms. What amazed me more than the molds everywhere I looked, was the fact that there were recently formed blocks drying. How could this little backwoods factory in the middle of Kentucky actually have an order of any significance? My curiosity got the best of me and I decided to ask James that very question.
Now I could continue this post with all kinds of great adjectives trying my best to describe the Grahn Brickyard but I think it would be best to go out with a lesson from James…. when I asked James “Who the hell would buy bricks and blocks from the Grahn Brickyard in Grahn, Kentucky when they could get them at half the cost elsewhere”, James in return asked me “My uncle has made his living building houses for people in these parts, so why wouldn’t he buy bricks made from people in these parts?”. Lesson learned… thanks James!