August 14th, 2009 by The Lexington Herald-Leader

RED HOUSE -- Smack dab where the Red House post office used to be, '90s alt-rock band Tripping Scarlet is about to record an album at Red House Records and Recording Studio. Out in front of this unconventionally placed one-stop music haven, all manner of potted vegetation, all legal, flourishes, except for the puny green tomatoes that anyone can have for the asking.

Next door is the Red House Country Store, which J.R. Heiner, recent graduate of Madison Central High, extols as "the epicenter of Red House."

J.R. is the eldest stepson of Derek McElwee, music marketing graduate, Tripping Scarlet guitar player, recording guru, store owner and understated dismisser of the notion that Red House, with its rocking soul, is "the new Memphis," music-wise.

He'll grant you that it's hip for a country store, but that's as far as he'll go.

J.R., who is about to set off to college, is proud of all of it. He did his share of crawdad-catching in Otter Creek. Rode his bike down Red House Road without incident. But, he says — not meaning to complain, but sort of matter-of-factly, so you'll know — that the town "lacks cable" and for 12 of the 13 years he's lived here there's been, tragically, no cell phone service.

Look up from the store and the not-exactly-Memphis-recording-studio through the leafy trees out back and, if you had X-ray vision, you could see the Red House Consolidated School, which got built — it says right on the red-brick edifice that stands behind Melvin Smith's house — in 1921.

Harold Bucher walks up to big, heavy, white, too-many-times painted-over front doors and stops dead as the knob Melvin has just turned. He points to the tight-fitting seal between the door and the jamb and then to one of his large fingers, the severely dented one that looks as if it was cut nearly in half at some point.

Seems that when Harold was small, that finger got caught right there between the jamb and the door. A teacher grabbed his big brother out of class, and the two Bucher boys and the principal went flying out to the principal's vehicle to get some help.

The brother was needed to engage the principal's car brake. After a wild ride to the doctor's office, Harold's finger was saved. That damaged finger points to where Harold had to walk over that small ridge in front of the school to go get the mail where the store now stands. It also points to where the baseball diamond used to be and to where the first graders had their own building, which they once had to evacuate for a tornado.

Harold went all the way through sixth grade in this four-room-plus-lunchroom building. It has been closed for 40 years.

Of course, it is not the red house of Red House fame. Harold owns that house. Didn't set out to own it, but one day in 1970, when he and his wife, Jean, were living in Richmond, it came to this:

"He just wanted a farm and I just wanted out of town," says Jean. The red house was for sale.

And so, the most famous house in Red House, with all its historic baggage — a lot of it known and a lot yet to be known — fell into the capable hands of the Buchers.

The original part of the house — the Buchers have added on — was built in 1810 by the Colby Quisenberry family and was used as a stagecoach stop between Richmond and Boonesboro. Then it became a tavern, then an eating place, then a boarding place. A few folks have come by over the years, adding to the original story, telling the Buchers, for starters, how Quisenberry's wife was Lucy Bush and how her brother's friend, Billy, came into Kentucky with Daniel Boone himself.

Harold repeats them, hedging his bets about their accuracy because he has not had them checked out, he says.

That last story about Boone's friend Billy did get some heft a little later, though, when a Madison County historian came to see the cemetery that the Buchers worked to fix up on their property more than a decade ago. Seems one of the Buchers' daughters just couldn't stand that the old tombstones on the property were in disarray, and she persuaded her daddy to reset them all and put a plank fence around them.

Then the historian came out and, lo and behold, said, "You've got William Williams buried here. We've looked all over Boonesboro for him." (Williams' name is on the list of original settlers at Fort Boonesborough.)

Folks keep coming by. One man wanted to know about the slave quarters. Seems there's this story that a cook lived in a one-room house outside what is now the Buchers' kitchen window.

Harold feels bad about this one. Just weeks before, he had torn down a single chimney that had been poking up in his yard in what would have been the likely location.

Some new papers have since come into the Buchers' hands. They show a smokehouse, a buggy house, a chicken house — but now, of course, there is no sign of any of them.

The original low rock wall stands, as does the magnificent staircase and the towering interior ceilings and the porch with the view of the comings and goings in and out of Red House.

At exactly 6 in the evening, a freight train sounds its loud whistle through the length of town. The whistle starts near where the Red House Baptist Church has expanded to its current outskirts-of-town sanctuary and continues past the Red House United Methodist Church, past the Red House Country Store, the Red House Recording Studio and Red House Automotive and gets louder as it rounds the gentle turn at the red house itself. The train's whistle gets a second breath and blares again at the Red House Pentecostal Holiness Church and the train heads on, paralleling the creek and Red House Road.

Harold Bucher, standing in his yard behind the rock wall, feeling the rumble of the train, swears he doesn't even hear the whistle anymore.

Hasn't for years and years.

Reach Amy Wilson at (859) 231-3305 or at 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3305