Everyday is a winding road

These crisp fall days make me want to drive the country roads. Plus, I've got a new car with a sun roof and steering wheel stereo control so the draw of those winding country roads is stronger than usual this year.

These days, though, I have to have an excuse to go driving in the country, which explains the stories about houses far, far outside the Fayette County line featured in this space lately.

In the old days a six-pack of Miller Light and a pack of Marlboros were reason enough. We would pile into my friend Stephanie's old white station wagon and drive... till we ran out of road, or got too drunk to go on. And I'll tell you something even worse: we always bought our Miller Lite in bottles so we could smash the empties on the pavement of the road. I don't remember ever feeling a second of remorse as we screamed with glee at the crash of the broken glass. We thought we were such wild and romantic rebels but it seems so obvious now that we were just stupid.

Amazingly, buckling my children into their car seats, popping in Sheryl Crow (it puts them to sleep - don't ask me why) and hitting the open road feels just as wild and perhaps more satisfying than it did when I was 17. Without the beer and cigarettes the sense of escape is all the more profound. The satisfaction that comes from navigating until lost, then heading back to familiar roads is more a goal than a side effect.

This morning dawned cool and crisp and as my schedule could easily be cleared (one call to the dishwasher repair guy), I decided I needed to take (another) long, long drive in the country. I checked my files for a letter I remembered receiving from a woman who lived on the other side of Cynthiana. I called her. She said come on. So we headed out for Mary Carroll Burnett's Kitty Dream Ranch. (Her name not mine - I would never call a house such a thing - too many "Kitty" houses smell like kitty. I'm happy to report this house smelled like nothing more than last night's fire and a good breakfast.)

Her letter said, "I bring you... ALMOST TARA... charm, history and architectural integrity."

The two-story stucco-covered frame house sits on one-and-a-half acres just outside of Cynthiana. Twenty-eight hundred square feet of well-planned living space includes all the traditional rooms - as well as a cheery breakfast pass-through between the kitchen and dining room and a formal entry hall. Upstairs the wide landing opens to four bedrooms including a large bedroom with an attached study or dressing room.

Mary Carroll, who bought the house at an auction two years ago, has done much of the unseen work. She installed a new septic system and repainted the exterior. She has repaired and refinished some of the flooring and the plaster in some rooms but there is still quite a bit of work to do and many aesthetic decisions to be made. I arrived as she was pulling up carpet and re-papering one of the twin parlors. Because she has worked room by room and replaced wallpaper with new but appropriate paper, the house looks much less like a work in progress than one might expect.

The stucco finishing begs the question "Why?" So I asked. And When? Mary Carroll said she doesn't exactly know why, but she thinks the finish was applied about 70 years ago to what was a frame farmhouse. The stucco does lend an air of solidity, and it is certainly unique looking.

Mary Carroll is moving to smaller digs because the house is a little too big, but she tells me that she didn't really set out to live in Cynthiana before she moved here. She bought this house, "just because I liked it."

How truly wild and romantic.


Millersburg Pike, Cynthiana

2800 square feet

1 and a half acres

4 bedrooms; 2 baths


Contact Mary Carroll Burnett 859-235-9211

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.