Looking Up the Road

The Pesta homestead is nestled in the woods, just off a winding lane that meanders past country churches, the coon hunters’ club, overgrown pioneer graveyards and the guy who tunes tractor-pull engines. I’m describing Starve Hollow Road. It’s been around a while. If you look at plat maps dating back 150 years, there it is, “Starved Holler.”

An old well in a cornfield along Starve Hollow Road.

An old well in a cornfield along Starve Hollow Road.

When I was a kid, Paul and Doris Herndon were our nearest neighbors on Starve Hollow Road. Doris collected pioneer recipes and had a remarkable wall of cast iron pioneer cookware in her kitchen. Doris and Paul lived in a tiny home that echoed a simple design favored by settlers of an earlier era -- two rooms, two front doors. In the hillside out back, a root cellar had been dug. 

Paul Herndon once befriended and tamed a wild turkey. The turkey would roost in a tree in front of the Herndon home, at a bend in the road, and gobble aggressively at passing cars. Paul knew where to find a wildcat den in the woods behind his place -- maybe a bobcat? Whatever it was, he took me there once as a kid when I bumped into him out there one day, where he was tapping maple trees. 

Paul disapproved of Starve Hollow Road being paved.

Today, Doris Herndon’s collection of pioneer recipes is in the hands of Molly, who lives in a curiosity cabinet of a converted barn a mile or two up the road. Molly claims to know where bootleggers’ stills used to be hidden in the wilderness out back, and she can tell you about the historic architecture of her barn. If memory serves, the barn is a traditional “three cross” design, referring to its framework of heavy timbers held together with wooden pegs.

When Molly first moved into her barn, many years ago, she had a horse problem. If she left the front door ajar, the horses who previously lived in the barn would clip-clop right into her living room.

The times are changing, horses! Anyway, this is the view from Starve Hollow Road.