June 7th, 2006 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
DSTEPHENSON@HERALD-LEADER.COM
AWILSON1@HERALD-LEADER.COM

So this is Hell.

On a day that was supposed to make us quiver for all its Satan-revealing, Revelations-weary calendar warning of 6-6-06, let's just say the road here is paved. With asphalt.

That is, until you get to the end of the one road in this Harrison County town and it turns into a one-way, cratered path that opens onto Bill Milner's 32-acre stand of baby tobacco.

Bill and his son Scotty and his nephew Odes and Ed Million and Ralph James and Billy Huffman have pointed the way here, noting that Hells Halfacre itself is, says Bill Milner, "done and gone."

It was once, this group figures, the schoolhouse and the street across from the schoolhouse, though no one is sure what they called that street except that it was "down there by Hells Halfacre."

Hells Halfacre got unceremoniously flung off the map when the emergency 911 system came in and named the road Prince Lane. Nobody seems to make a connection to the, you know, Prince of Darkness or anything. It's just Prince Lane.

The half-acre part of Hells Halfacre is the land where more than a century-old one-room school used to stand. But why the spot -- it is neither city nor village nor town nor burg nor municipality of any sort -- was so named is left somewhere deep in the history books and in the memory of those who can't be sure anymore.

Someone mentions something about the school once being a hotel where drunks congregated but no consensus can be reached. Just as there seems to be a total loss of focus on this, Ralph James volunteers a comment.

"I don't know nothing, honey," said James, 80. "I quit knowing anything around about 1990."

That's when James gave up cross-country trucking. Told he's been to Hell and back many times, he says, "and I had a good time doing it."

Looking for signs into Hell is a waste of time. There are none. Coming from Lexington, you will pass Honky Tonk Heaven, proving many a country song right about such places.

Still, it's a reasonable assumption that you will pass the whole town before you know you're there. To be on the other side of Hell is actually to be at Ken's Value Center, a hardware and feed supply store where you can buy bolts, cow grain mixture and diet Pepsi.

Ed Million's family has been here forever. The first Million was born in 1776 and settled in Edwards' Bottom, just a few miles toward Berry.

Million sends those who inquire about the naming of Hells Halfacre to Helen Bowen, who lives near Renker and is flattered by the mention but doesn't know anything either. She calls someone who calls someone's niece who remembers that someone at the nursing home might know. But alas, no.

But, know this about Hell: Cool breezes do waft through. Standing in the shade of the big oak, it is positively pleasant. The Rose family pit bull, the one guarding their fenced-in goats, is toothless and wags its tail at passersby.

Though, in the interest of truth, buzzards do circle and an impenetrable patch of thorny locusts guards the dead at King's Cemetery where Geter King died on Nov. 29, 1877, aged 11 years, 7 months and 14 days. Geter was placed at the front of the cemetery so she could, presumably, watch the schoolchildren across the road.

And another thing: The people are really nice despite the plethora of No Trespassing, Private Property and Redneck Parking Only signs.

At the Rose house on Prince Lane, Judy Rose explains that, "I don't raise hell unless I have to, though you got to stand your ground sometime."

Anna Jean Sparks, the Rose family's "adopted" grandmother, says she does have a brother-in-law "who raises hell with everybody."

Out back of the Roses, Hell is full of goats -- nanny goats and baby goats. They have names like Charlotte, Dixie, Bailey, Little Bit, Mary Catherine, Nutmeg, Cracker, Pepper Ann and Lightning.

They are accompanied by roosters who must, on occasion, be the guest of honor at a plucking party where they are promptly beheaded, put in a washtub of hot water and defrocked.

Says Judy Rose, "the rooster with the most attitude goes first."

It is hard not to find words to live by in that.

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