Kentucky — The Bluegrass State: Home of Beautiful Women, Fast Horses, and Good Whiskey (an old slogan I still like)
In writing this post, I indulge in nostalgia for My Old Kentucky Home. Eminence is a rural town located in North-Central Kentucky. Louisville is the closest big city. Eminence is 32 miles from Louisville; 44 minutes driving time.
Looking at the picture, it must have been taken with a wide-angle lens. The street looks wider somehow. Parking is now parallel, not angled.
When I lived here, there was only one traffic signal. It was a flashing caution light in a neighborhood — not in town. Someone told me there is a stop light in town now. There wasn’t even a chain restaurant in Eminence.
I checked out the website and learned a few things. A couple of quick facts:
- Eminence was incorporated in 1851.
- Union soldiers took over the Fairgrounds and camped there for three years.
- Estimated population now 2,231.
- Eminence is the only “wet” city in Henry County.
The old train depot is in the middle of town. Sometime along the way it was converted into a library. I loved spending time there. I volunteered many Saturdays. It was a great escape from possible turmoil at home.
I rode my bike, but it was within walking distance. I shelved books, organized record albums, and cataloged card files. I usually picked up lunches from Chat ‘n Nibble, a good restaurant nearby.
The librarians recommended books. I remember two in particular. One was Puns Puns Puns. I enjoyed it. Puns can be so clever. I just checked Amazon. It’s not in publication — surprise!
The other was Angel Unaware by Dale Evans Rogers, of the famed duo Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. It is a compelling read. It’s in publication.
Front and center on Eminence’s website’s masthead is the old train depot. It has been spruced up from its humble beginnings.
Hanging with My Dad
Some Saturday mornings I went with my dad to work. I was about five or six. We walked to the Chat ‘n Nibble for breakfast.
I always ordered a glazed doughnut, sometimes warmed, and a Coke. This was just the best thing. Afterwards, we’d walk a little piece around the corner to the John Deere Store where he worked. He was the parts guy.
Summers on the Farm
Mother needed someplace for me to spend time for a couple of summers while she worked. (She worked in a town called Pleasureville — some people get a chuckle out of that.) She made an arrangement with Mrs. D, the English teacher at school.
Mr. and Mrs. D rented a big farmhouse, surrounded by many acres. What a great babysitting arrangement for me.
Mrs. D had three daughters and a son, John, the youngest. We were the same age so he was who I played with. We were probably 9 or 10. He was great fun. We made mud pies and sat in the apple tree eating apples. A creek ran through the property. We were on the hunt for salamanders.
Once or twice one of John’s sisters took us horseback riding. I was riding double one time and was thrown from the horse into the fence. That was a terrifying experience for a moment. I survived, no sweat.
It was not unusual to be chased by chickens. I just ran like the wind.
An interesting thing about John was that he stuttered. I don’t remember him stuttering when we played, maybe he did. In English class in 7th or 8th Grade, he struggled to read out loud. I wanted to help him. It was so hard to watch and to hear him grasp for his words.
The May Day Parade. Seems like the whole town showed up. It was great. Floats. Students dressed in white carrying small U.S. flags, so patriotic. Decorated bicycles. Band music. Tractors pulling floats.
We would work after school and in the evenings to build our float. There were lots of us in the barn. Lord knows how many Kleenex tissues I stuffed into chicken wire.
I played the clarinet (third chair, so nothing to brag about). We hadn’t learned to march so we rode on the wagon.
I wanted to play the flute, but everybody wanted to play the flute — that’s how I ended up with the clarinet. The music teacher told my mother some cockamamie story. The way you hold the flute can be awkward and uncomfortable for your shoulders. Really?
The Henry County Fair
How can I talk about Eminence and not mention the Henry County Fair? It was held nearby every summer. Loved the Fair!
Through 4-H, I entered some of my homemade baked goods. I received blue ribbons and one, maybe two, red ribbons. I never got a purple. 4-H is a great organization. Its symbol is a four-leaf clover, with an “H” on each petal — Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.
People entered jams and jellies and pickles and pigs and the like. Livestock aplenty. Quilts, afghans, clothing, just any and everything you find at a fair.
There was a beauty pageant. A few rides. Games of chance and skill. I usually got cotton candy or a sno-cone. The Fair lasted a couple of days. Size-wise, it was modest, not very big.
The horse show was the best thing of all. I had no appreciation of the beauty and grace to which I was being exposed. What I wouldn’t give to re-live those horse shows.
I enjoyed watching the carriages and harness racing. I’m not sure there was actual racing, but they did run their harness racing gear and horses. Trotters and pacers and more.
To me, there’s hardly a more beautiful animal than a thoroughbred. I have quit watching the Kentucky Derby because I can’t bear to see the horses whipped.
Do you happen to remember Barbaro, possibly not? He became my favorite. I really felt for him. He was exceptional. He had a chance at the Triple Crown in 2006.
Barbaro had won the Kentucky Derby. On to the Preakness Stakes where he shattered his right hind leg barely out of the gate. He was euthanized eight months later.
An editorial in The New York Times dated January 30, 2007, no author’s name given, speaks mainly of Barbaro. It also comments on interactions between horses and humans.
The author writes, “You would have to look a long, long time to find a dishonest or cruel horse … if you did find one, it was made cruel or dishonest by the company it kept with humans.” The author went on, “It is no exaggeration to say that nearly every horse — Barbaro included — is pure of heart.”
In the majority of instances like this, most racehorses are put down within minutes. Barbaro’s owners gave him everything to try and save him. The editorial says Barbaro had given his owners everything. In turn, they did the same for him.
Oh, the deep feeling of compassion for an animal. At the time, I saw a segment on the TV news showing Barbaro being rehabilitated. He was hanging in a sling in water in a large swimming pool-type basin. I was so rooting for him to make it.
It is a beautifully written editorial. If you are interested in reading it, hopefully you can find it on the Internet. The title is One Horse Dies.
Small Town Charm
Here’s a neat story. Two of the more engaging people living in Eminence were Pete and Repete.
They often walked down the sidewalk in front of our house, one following the other. One was taller. It made an appropriate look as they traveled about town on foot.
Years and years later, they came to mind. I wanted to know what they were about. Recently, I called the trusty Henry County Library. I ask if they have any info about them. The librarian was more than happy to check this out. She took my number and said she’d call back.
In 15 minutes she had the history. It did not come from library documentation. A patron at the library called his wife and she knew of Pete and Repete.
She said they were brothers and were very close. One brother’s name was Pete. The name of his brother was unknown — so the townspeople referred to them as Pete and Repete. The wife added they did everything simultaneously.
I was 13 when we left. It was about 10:00 the night we drove out. Mother picked up my dad at work. He had worked late. I was in the back seat and sullen. My life was turning into a nightmare and I couldn’t stop it. This night had been coming for weeks.
As we approached the edge of town, I saw a bunch of my friends on the right side of the road on the sidewalk. They were waving, hollering, jumping up and down and saying so long, goodbye.
It was a kind and meaningful send-off. It was touching and I was tearful. We had been friends since 1st Grade. Now I was losing the most important people in my world, where I felt accepted and loved. I was acknowledged by friends who cared. Just a wonderful feeling.
I never thanked them for being there that night. Thank You Dear Friends! Since blogging, I learned some felt they had suffered a loss as well. I never considered their feelings. I feel bad about that and offer my apologies for being thoughtless.
Naturally, Eminence is not the same place it was — what is? It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience I keep with me. Looking back, it feels like a fairy-tale.
How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
—A. A. Milne from Winnie-the-Pooh
Website links for further reading (go to):
May is Mental Health Awareness Month
National Alliance of Mental Illness