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Spicy politics at 130th Fancy Farm Picnic

August 7, 2010 by Tom Eblen  
Filed under News, Photographers, Second Look, Slideshows, Tom Eblen

The U.S. Senate race between Democrat Jack Conway and Republican Rand Paul was the main attraction at the 130th Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County on Aug. 7. The political speaking began after a lunch of barbecued pork and mutton, fresh vegetables and homemade pies made by St. Jerome Parish.

Lexington Police officer Bryan J. Durman laid to rest

Lexington Police officer Bryan J. Durman laid to rest

Wild Cat: “No better place to be raised in”

March 19, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Centerpiece, News

By Amy Wilson
Photos by David Stephenson

WILD CAT — At dawn, the Mouth of the Beech Creek River is a deep jade green. The ground that rises up all it is the unmistakable color of wood shavings. The sky above it is cloaked in a still frozen fog. Visible in dark patches, freshly turned earth, ready for planting.
Still, the roosters down at Larry Owens’ compound are noisily gearing up for their big every-morning-doodlefest, beaten already to the punch by the gee-whiz daffodil bulbs which have forced their greens up and their yellow petals out to greet this day.
It’s March Madness in Little Wild Cat, a town of maybe 75. That might not count the whole Combs family that lives over in Big Wild Cat, says Chris Davidson, who is out in his camo-gear this morning, thinking of bagging a few squirrels, and isn’t up to doing a census.
Big and Little Wild Cat are separated by Honchell Bend which catches a curve on Ky. 11 and folds down and away from the road into a veritable well of Wild Cat past. There’s the behemoth sawmill and the roadside commisary that served it. There’s the white boarding house where something like 50 men used to bunk when the lumber was coming in and railroad ties and mining posts had to be made on the QT.
Zella Webb’s house now sits on just barely higher land than her Grandmama Margaret’s which washed away from this site in 1947. They found the house in Bollings Bottom, yonder ways, but, by then, everything was gone and, well, that’s just life lived this near to a river.
The great advantage of the proximity of the water used to be that “all the neighbors used to come here to get water,” says Zella, as she pries off the lid and laments the now-broken pump. Of course, the Webb home has city water now but Zella does miss the taste of the well water which — come, look — comes up along the squarely laid limestone walls still perfectly white after all this time.
As a little girl, Zella was one of 11 children but, she swears, she was the only one who swam in the river. When she heard her mother calling for her to come up to the house, “she’d knew where I’d be. I was supposed to bring the switch with me on my way up.”
Even after all that, Zella says Wild Cat “couldn’t have been no better place to be raised in.”
Zella did leave for a long time to raise her own kids and she had no thought of coming back. But when given the chance to buy the old homeplace back from her daughter, Sheila, “I said, There are no bad memories there. I love this river. You get your butt back there.”
Sheila, who has boy children, left behind the basketball goal and the swing set back behind the house. The swing set is blue and white. The basketball is weathered. The blue morning sky is the limit.
From Zella’s house, you can hear the river tumble gently over the rocks. You can hear the scant morning traffic. This is Wild Cat’s version of the dribble-drive, it seems. Quiet, without ostentation, watched by all the wildlife that Kentucky can muster in this corner of the world at this hour. That’d be hawks and sparrows, muskrats and — the locals are certain — wildcats.
That’s how Alton “Shug” White figures the town got its name. He’s just sure there’s still a mess of those cats around “screaming like lost children.”
You hear them and you know to get going in the other direction, Shug says. “They can work on a dog,” he offers up, shaking his head in dismay, taking another puff on his Hav-A-Tampa Jewel.
William Sharp, whose grandmother, Sophie Walker, was the last postmistress of Wild Cat, now owns Sharp’s Grocery and he will attest to the truthfulness of the still lively wildcat population in the area.
The rest of Shug’s stories are not so easily verified. Seems Shug, a lumberman, tumped a bulldozer over and down the river bank a few years back. His head was torn open badly and “my guardian angel came to me and he said, we got to get you outta here. I said, I can’t drive outta here.”
That’s when the guardian angel helped him back into the seat and got the air conditioner or the heater working (Shug tells it both ways) and waited for his son to come back to find him some four hours later.
As he was “fixing to walk into heaven,” Shug told his angel to tell Jesus that he would like to do an honest day’s work in heaven “because I don’t like to be idle.”
The deal was about done before Shug was dragged back to life, courtesy of a $7,000 helicopter ride to the University of Kentucky.
That appears to have sealed the now existing deal between Shug and UK in terms of lifetime allegiance as now Shug is able to go on and on about the way the Cats beat Tennessee in the SEC tournament and the dangers of “pouring it on.”
And about the fun of what is coming up, for the Cats and, in life, for of us.
There’s no great moral to Shug’s story other than this maybe: Sometimes Wild Cat seems like heaven. And, if it’s not, it’s still a place with considerable marvels.

Snow Blankets Central Kentucky


Snow Blanketed Central Kentucky on February 15. Staff photos by David Perry and Charles Bertam; Mark Ashley.

Crowd praises the return of 10 Commandments

Hundreds gathered to watch the Ten Commandments being replaced after eight years. A 2002 ruling forced lawmakers to remove the historical documents.

By Linda B. Blackford – lblackford@herald-leader.com
LEITCHFIELD — Amid anthems, hymns, and plenty of “amens,” a copy of the Ten Commandments was placed back on the wall at the Grayson County courthouse Monday, almost a decade after it was removed.

“We all love Jesus Christ and anything that comes with it,” exclaimed Steve Mahurin, a minister who works for the road department, one of several hundred residents who showed up for the ceremony. “This represents our savior, and it’s the law we have to go by.”

The ceremony was sparked by the Jan. 14 decision by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which struck down a lower court order. According to the 2-1 decision, posting the Ten Commandments did not violate the U.S. Constitution because it was part of a display of historical documents, including the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact and the U.S. Bill of Rights.
A federal judge in Louisville had previously ordered county officials to remove the Ten Commandments from the display because it violated the constitutional rule against government endorsing or promoting religion.

But the Grayson County Judge Executive Gary Logsdon says the Sixth Circuit judges got it right.

“This brings back our heritage, and let us know how our forefathers founded this country,” said Logsdon, who also keeps a copy of the Commandments in his office.

Magistrate Presto Gary said the fight over the Ten Commandments, which started in 2001, has been a long one.

“If we don’t get something back for Christian people to believe in, what kind of shape will our country be in?” he asked. “But we had faith and kept praying.”

“It’s something good for everybody to live by,” added fellow magistrate Jason Dennis.

Harold Johnson also agreed.

“Our country was founded on Christian values,” he said. “This was taking our Christian values away from us.”

As a paper copy of the Ten Commandments was placed carefully back in their frame, the crowd spontaneously broke into God Bless America, and Amazing Grace. Afterwards, everyone crowded around a big sheet cake emblazoned with an American flag.

The fight may not be completely over.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, who represented two county residents seeking to remove the display, said they are reviewing whether to appeal the decision. Judge Karen Nelson Moore strongly dissented from the other judges on the appeals court.

For instance, the motion to approve the display was that the county “place the Ten Commandments in the courthouse along with the historical documents,” Moore said in her dissent.

“The county’s asserted purpose here — that the display was posted for educational or historical reasons — is a sham and should be rejected,” Moore wrote.

The other two judges disagreed.

The available evidence did not support a finding that promoting religion was the main reason for approving the display, the majority opinion said.

The officials didn’t pass any resolutions stating a clear religious purpose and had little official involvement in the display, the opinion said.

Kentucky has been a key battleground on the issue of the Ten Commandments, with some of the most prominent cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court originating here.

The ACLU and residents have sued a number of counties in the last decade over posting of the Ten Commandments, including Pulaski, McCreary, Harlan, Mercer, Rowan, Garrard and Jackson.

In his remarks Monday, Logsdon noted that Grayson County has no costs in the case, as they are being picked up by the Liberty Counsel, a conservative non-profit based in Virginia and Florida.

A federal judge ordered the Grayson commandments taken down in May 2002 as part of the challenge by the ACLU and local residents.

Yesterday’s ceremony ended with a prayer by Clearview Baptist Church minister Chester Shartzer.

“I’m so proud of the Christian leadership we’ve had in Grayson County,” he said.

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