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Within earshot of Jerusalem Ridge

In Community, Community Contributorsby OC Monitor Staff

Our Community Contributor Angie Hudnall and her companion, recently visited the Bill Monroe Homeplace to commune with the spirits of Jerusalem Ridge. (Photo by Dustin Bratcher/OC Monitor.)

**This piece was submitted as part of our Community Contributor pilot project in collaboration with the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.

By Angie Hudnall / OC Monitor Community Contributor

Many people have made the journey to see, touch, or hear, what is left behind of the legendary Bill Monroe.

Bill Monroe’s Homeplace, on top of Jerusalem Ridge, is located off U.S. 62 East near Rosine, Kentucky. Visitors pass over a gated bridge to climb a winding little road, which leads up to a lovely white farmhouse trimmed in green.

If you ever get the chance to go, roll down your windows, quiet down, slow your pace, and deeply draw in the fresh air.

The winding little road will take you way up on top of the Ridge, twisting you about the woods, showing you where young Bill was raised.

While there, you may be greeted by these fluttering, small, beautiful, yellow butterflies, which the Cousins say have always been there. In some cultures, the yellow butterfly is revered for bringing all things positive. Some even declare yellow butterflies carry the whispers of souls long gone.

If you are fortunate enough, you may hear those whispers the yellow butterflies carry…

On a recent trip to the Monroe Homeplace, I was accompanied by someone who has the ability to “tune in” to channels other than our own. People like this can communicate across dimensions.

When we arrived, four spirits were waiting at the gate.

Malissa was one of the first to come forward identifying herself. She greeted us kindly and announced how happy she was to have us all here. She said her son was known all over the world, he even sang at the Grand Ol’ Opry. But she quickly gave a warning to be watchful of ticks up on the Ridge, for they are a bother. She then acknowledged our tour guide and called him “Cousin.”

Another of the four greeting us identified himself only as a ranch hand with something about being Dutch, but it was not clear.

Another male and female were of a more complex nature who made their presence known, but did not identify themselves until later.

We reached the top of the Ridge, winding around an older home of Bill’s relative, through the woods until the trees finally opened up revealing the graceful little farmhouse.

As we stepped out of the car, we immediately began to feel the importance of where we were, almost like we were about to step on spiritual ground.

Some say they can hear music without anyone there. It’s like the rocks and timber have retained it all these years, waiting to release it to those who can listen. Some Homeplace attendants say they hear music while working on the Ridge when there’s no possible way for it to be playing.

As we entered the home, a man calling himself “J.B.” came forward quickly warning not to touch things.

The Cousins presumed this must be Buck, Malissa’s husband, and Bill’s Daddy. The Cousins reported the ladies who clean the home do experience some odd things, with one even hearing the word “Stop!” shouted at them with nobody else there.

J.B. said the women were coming in the home and messing with stuff, putting things in places it doesn’t belong, and he didn’t want them touching certain things. He continued on expressing his desire for visitors to wipe their feet when entering the house he built and the Cousins needed to get a shoe brush for the door.

J.B. said he stays with his house, walking about it and he knows we are there. He was short and quick with his demands, but said we were welcome. We advised the Cousins to announce their purpose, when doing things around the house, for a better understanding between domains.

Malissa, as we walked about, said Bill had picked the colors to repaint. Listening for her, we all walked around the house. She disclosed how this was not the original house they moved into when Bill was 7, this home was a gift from her husband. Again, she mentioned Bill came and picked out the colors to repaint. Malissa talked about a light, but we could not understand what it was about.

When asking the Cousins about the “light,” they looked at each other and told us about a song of Bill’s. In the song, Bill wished to see the light in the window when he was coming home. They confessed how they had the old lamp made electric to avoid having to keep up with the oil for it.

The Cousins revealed this part of the house in which we were standing had, in fact, partly burned and Bill’s father had rebuilt the home. They also confirmed Bill himself came and picked the colors of the house to be painted at the refurbishment.

The Cousins revealed the story of Bill coming to see his home place and how sad he was to see there was no one at home and no light in the window. He went back and wrote the song, “I’m On My Way To The Old Home.”

Back in the days of my childhood
In the evening when everything was still
I used to sit and listen to the fox hounds
With my dad in the old Kentucky hills

I’m on my way back to the old home
That road winds on up the hill
But there’s no light in the window
That shined long ago where I lived

Soon my childhood days were over
I had to leave my old home
For my mom and dad were called to heaven
I was left in this world all alone

High in the hills of ol’ Kentucky
Stands the fondest part of my memory
I’m on my way back to the old home
That light in the window I long to see

-Bill Monroe

The sad thing we discovered is J.B. and Malissa do not know the other is there. Husband and wife in this house for eternity not knowing the other is right there. What a heartbreaking story.

We walked through a small bedroom adjacent to two larger bedrooms. Malissa explained after the fire she had to have young Bill close to her. The Cousins told how the room’s former use was just a breezeway and Malissa requested her husband to fix it into a room for their young son because of the scare from the earlier house fire.

Malissa said Bill was not with her and she had not seen him since he came to the house when it was being refurbished. She said Bill knew she was there and knew he would return.

Malissa died in this home with immense pain. The Cousins told us Ms. Monroe would scream so loud that Birch and the boys would run off and hide on the property to keep from hearing her.

Malissa reported she had pulled a small tick off the back of her neck and feared she did not get it all out. She believed it had to have been the cause of the torment that killed her. She said Bill was young, about 10, when she died and she knew when she died Bill did not understand she was gone. He thought they were just taking her away.

Malissa talked about her Daddy and felt it of great significance we knew about him. She said she is buried not far from him. We asked the Cousins and were told they were all at Rosine Cemetery.

The Cousins showed us a beautiful quilt depicting Bill’s songs: the light, the little girl with the snake, the “Grand Ole Opry” with one Cousin telling us the museum has a hat from Minnie Pearl with the tag on it.

We walked out onto the porch and Malissa told us about the singing, even going down the road singing. She said she stays because she’s attracted to the music here.

The Cousins told us Bill got his talent through his mother. Ms. Monroe could play and sing and Bill’s Daddy would dance. They would sit up on the porch and play.

We were told they had sawn off the bottom of the rocking chairs so they wouldn’t rock, that’s why their chairs were so short. Bill, Charlie, Birch and the Boys, with Uncle Pen, would ride the wagon on those chairs and go down the road singing and playing music where everyone could hear.

We walked outside and stopped at the tree in the front yard. Standing at the tree and placing a hand on the bark uncovered what it held. A beautiful lullaby by Malissa. The Cousins said they have seen people, from all over the world, stand at that tree, drop to their knees, and cry, for they hear her singing.

We walked around the back of the house, J.B. came forward again telling us the back porch is where he likes to be and where the best of friends visited.

Standing by the back porch, I can see why J.B. liked this best. The view of the woods with the slight breeze coming up the Ridge, I could spend a lot of time rocking on the porch. But it’s his spot up on Jerusalem Ridge.

Editor’s note: The Bill Monroe Homeplace is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 270-363-9501.

In the summer, the Monroe Homeplace hosts “Pickin’ on the Porch,” the second Sunday’s of the month from 2-4 p.m. The Bill Monroe Foundation and Ohio County Tourism encourage everyone to bring their instrument and lawn chair.

Angie Hudnall

Angie Hudnall lives in Cromwell, Ky., and is a health improvement nurse for Perdue Farms. She has been a registered nurse for 18 years in long-term care, physical rehab, mental health, substance abuse treatment, and home health.

Find out more about our Community Contributors here.

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