Christopher Rowe

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UnCommonwealth: Lincoln County: Not That Lincoln
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Not That Lincoln

The shade of Benjamin Lincoln, threadbare but still mostly of a piece, was bound to ground he’d never walked in life. Shards of personality flashed up and out through his eyes now and then, coalesced in the cold wind, then knifed back into his stout chest. It hurt. Everything hurt.

Up on Sportman’s Hill, which Lincoln had been staring at for some undeterminable amount of time, the three Kentuckians were howling again, watching riderless horses race counterclockwise around a dirt track beneath a sky thick with choir members. He approached them. He’d done this before.

“Sirs, there are no riders on your horses, sirs.” He had said that before. They didn’t reply, didn’t react to his presence at all. They never had.

He knew them now, but couldn’t remember if he’d known them before. William Whitley built the race track, and the brick house down the hill. He was a county man. Isaac Shelby’s bones were enshrined away to the west. He was a county man. Benjamin Logan built the fort near the center of Lincoln’s boundaries. He was a county man.

One of the sharp and quick choir members floated down out of the air, shaping its permanent red into a semblance of someone Lincoln remembered. “See the Lord of Lincoln County,” General Lincoln heard, “Fading forgotten away, and that’s the worst kind of away, yes, the forgotten kind.”

The words were all wrong, but the accent and the face and the mien were Sir Henry Clinton’s.

“You... We fought at Charleston. In ‘80,” Lincoln said. Thinking about the war set his ankle—shattered by a redcoat’s lucky shot at Bemis Heights—to throbbing. Everything hurt.

The member put its hands to its jaws and lips and worked the face up and down until some more speech came out. “You fought, sir, I generaled, sir. Charleston, site of your ignominious defeat.”

The general pursed his full lips, drew up as tall and straight as his lack of weight would allow him. “There was no ignominy. No more than your Cornwallis suffered when he offered up his sword not so many months later. And it was me that accepted the sword, remember, Washington chose me to accept the sword.”

Another member, the bigger kind, dropped onto the hill and rolled across the track, blunt and grey and ever silent. The horses ran away from it, but the track forced them around until they were running toward it. It rolled over them and the Kentuckians quieted, whispered amongst themselves and passed a milky glass bottle back and forth.

“You are a Kentuckian,” said the red member, Clinton’s features dissolving away.

“I am a Massachusetts man,” said the general.

“Yes, yes,” it replied, “Born and died there, in the same house born and died. But now your name is tied to this ground here, so here you are. For now. Not much longer, though, see all the ribbons.”

It was talking about his arms, his chest, his legs. They were less attached to one another than he thought they should be. They were less of a piece.

“Your name, your ground. Is it? Is it?” The member put its rough hands on Lincoln’s face and began kneading. It clawed at his chin and shoved his eyes back deeper beneath his brows. It breathed a black cloud over his head, then opened its silver eyes up as wide as dinner plates for him to use as a looking glass.

“Who is that?” the general asked. The reflection asked it, too, the voice higher than the general’s, and with different inflections. Kentucky inflections. The reflection wore a black beard but had a clean shaven lip. The reflection’s eyes were haunted and black.

The member snapped its eyes shut and open again. The reflection was gone. “Not you. That’s not you,” it said. “But perception, easy perception, is giving him this. None for you.”

General Lincoln ran his hands up and down his chest, felt all the empty spaces inside him. Looking away south, he could see the Knobs, and the hills beyond them. The Liberty Hills, they were called.

“How do I keep all of a piece?” he asked.

The member closed up its face and didn’t answer. It put its permanent red hands on Lincoln again, forcing parts of him farther apart. It hurt, like everything. •


Lincoln County, which is much closer to being a heaven on earth than to being a place like that depicted in this story, was formed in 1780 by an act of the Virginia legislature, becoming one of the three Kentucky counties that can rightfully claim to be first in the Commonwealth. It was named for General Benjamin Lincoln, who has been called “one of America’s most important, but least known Revolutionary War generals.”

Lincoln County is a beautiful and geographically diverse county, rich in history. The county seat is Stanford.

Isaac Shelby, William Whitley, and Benjamin Logan were all important political and military figures in the early Commonwealth (and in fact, all three men have counties named after them as well). Their ties to Lincoln County are evidenced by the Isaac Shelby State Cemetery, the William Whitely House State Historic Site, and the ongoing effort to rebuild Logan’s Fort.

The invaluable Kentucky Atlas and Gazetteer has an entry on the county here.

Thanks to Lissa Albright of the Lincoln County Cooperative Extension Office, to the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, and to the staff of the Kentucky Room at the Lexington Public Library. I also owe a great debt to the editors of The Kentucky Encyclopedia and to Robert M. Rennick for his Kentucky Place Names.

God save Lincoln County, and God save the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this story are either fictitious or used fictitiously.

Copyright © November 2003 by Christopher Rowe. All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced by any means without the author’s prior consent.

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