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Three Hundred Springs

It’s a place like no other: hallowed ground, where
Indians long ago camped…cool and refreshing, where witch hazel seeds itself…mushrooms
hover as big as a man’s hat…old oaks, red elms, horse chestnuts, and sycamores
tower…and rare maidenhair fern grows.

It’s called Three
Hundred Springs.

You might say it’s a
quiet Cupid kind of place, detached from the cacophony of the
superhighway, I-65 in Hart County.

Geologist and historian
Dr. Willard Rouse Jillson (1890-1975) described this water wonder
as "bridal veil-falls," which is apt today. On the high
bluff above the outpouring, 90-year-old W.O. (William Oscar)
Buckner lives with his valentine Marie Dangerfield Buckner.

They’ve been married 67
years.

She has a pacemaker
now, and he’s proud of his artificial knee. "I told the
doctor he made only one little mistake," says W.O. "He
said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘You didn’t leave a scar for me to
brag about.’ "

While Marie stays in
the century-old house to mind one of her jam cakes, W.O. leads me
and my wife down the slippery old mill road to the springs. Sheba,
the 4-year-old Australian shepherd, goes in front. Just the other
day, she distracted a bull that wanted to have W.O. for lunch.
"I squalled and waved my arms. Sheba worked on him from the
other end," says Mr. Buckner going down the leaf-, limb-, and
rock-strewn slope as if his knees belonged to a 19-year-old.

"Your wife said to
watch out for copperhead snakes," I say, trying to keep up.

"No copperheads
out this time of the year," says W.O. "Saw a bobcat the
other day."

"What did he look
like?" I ask.

"Brownish color.
Didn’t stop for me to look at him. He looked taller, because he
was more in the air than he was on the ground." W.O. winks,
"I’m careful where I walk."

Suddenly, there’s the
Mother Spring of Three Hundred Springs. Water gushing out as clear
and cold as the instant it was born "over yonder on Maxie’s
Knob." From a cliff overhang looking like a natural grotto,
sparkling water cascades on a sharp 45-degree angle to form an
85-foot waterfall straight down into Green River.

Springtime is the best
time to experience Three Hundred Springs, when the water
"roars," says Ray Jewell, who farms in Round Bottom on
the other side of the river. During the wet seasons, water springs
from the earth in uncommon numbers, hence the name Three Hundred
Springs. The best way to view the glorious spectacle of the
falling water and the maidenhair fern is from a canoe or a
broad-bottomed boat.

Standing beneath the
waterfall is not advised. Not good for fern or fellow. As W.O.
describes the feeling: "Strip off, hump up, and get out-you
can’t stay."

We walk to the site of
a 19th-century water-powered gristmill. All that’s left are a pair
of millstones, part of the foundation, and memories of Marie’s
grandfather, Milam, who worked there. She has a treasured picture
of him and his bride. Their descendants, W.O. and Marie, are
living today, she smiles, "Just like country people-do as we
please."

Marie has slices of jam
cake waiting on small dishes and freshly made coffee poured when
we return.

W.O. has stopped to gather a bucket of turnips
for us to take home. We also leave with a piece of driftwood, a water table rock,
and a piece from W.O.’s collection of rock with petrified snail from the time
when Three Hundred Springs was, we guess, part of a great prehistoric sea.

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