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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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June 23, 2018

A news announcement about flooding that included the loss of lives in far-away Kenya, was followed by the horrors the tropical depression brought to many from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Michigan. Because the storm was broad there were lives lost eastwardly in North Carolina. Homes and businesses were washed away with the resulting flash floods in Tennessee and Kentucky.

As we enter into the hurricane season, there’s always a chance of more trauma and damage, not only along the coasts, but inland, as well. For many years I worked for the government and was assigned to ‘command posts’ for the purpose of maintaining logistical supplies for the agencies working the storm, including the responders, and in some cases the general public. My family had to ride out the storms, sometimes in dangerous conditions, without my help or assistance. This happened later in life and was a ‘growing up’ experience even if not experienced in my hometown.   

I learned about the idea that ‘Mother Nature’ was a force not to shuck off. My mother first told me about storms, fires, floods, and other natural events. That’s because, after all, natural disasters have always been about. Mankind has suffered with volcanic eruptions, and the devastation of communities, towns, and cities from earthquakes and mudslides. We are reminded daily of how fragile lives are. Putting our trust in the idea that ‘it won’t affect me,’ is just plain foolish. I just read of two grandparents whose car was washed away when they crossed a piece of flooded roadway. Only the car has been found, so far. Even today, my area is under a flood watch.    

I was still a child when twenty-seven people died when the school bus went into the Levisa fork in the Prestonsburg/Paintsville area. I was one of many who hung on to the news giving us details of the recovery operation that sought to bring the bus and the now deceased victims out of the cold waters of the Big Sandy. While this one wasn’t a natural occurrence, it did happen when the river was out of its banks, an all too common occurrence in those hills.

 When I was a tender young man, my first exposure to the results of high water happened when I was visiting a playmate whose parents owned a funeral home. When I was left alone outside for a few minutes I decided to go into the home to find my friend, Jimmy Young, who had gone in and said he’d be right back. He had been gone a long time. Upon entering the first floor (a ‘no-no’ since the family lived on the second floor), I went into the nicely appointed room and discovered a young girl lying peacefully in a casket. I had never seen a dead person before, or at least that I remembered. She was so young and pretty, and seemed so at peace that I wasn’t scared. My friend later told me that she had drowned when she fell from a footbridge into a swollen creek.

Our little town sat well above the river so even in the worst of times water had never gotten into the streets. I had seen the river swell, but rarely more than halfway out of its normal banks. Granted, there were other towns and villages along the branches of the Big Sandy, the Levisa, or Tug forks, which suffered with regular loss of lives, or property. Not Louisa. My granny who used to live on Water Street near the high school, told me of times when she watched houses float by her backyard in the swift, rising waters. When the structure hit the Louisa/Fort Gay bridge, it was the houses that broke up into pieces. I know enough engineering today to suspect that the bridges may have suffered damages, too. That bridge has been replaced with a modern, wider, cement structure.

 I remember on trips my mother and I took, that Huntington and Ashland had built moveable ‘flood-walls.’ They were meant to keep a flooding Ohio River away from the streets, homes, highways, and businesses. I remember hearing about the Guyandotte flooding between Charleston and Huntington. At the time that seemed so far away. No doubt the creeks from Blaine to Bear Creek flooded from time to time, but during most of these times I was busy doing things kids would do, to take notice. I was never one to get near a river in flood stage.

I do remember once when I was roaming about the lower end of town next to the Riverview hospital, that the river was very high. I walked out a few feet on the then, wooden pedestrian section of the bridge, and saw that the water was nearly touching the bottom of the steel grid structure. There was a lot of debris floating including big piles of logs, lumber, and maybe a roof from some building. I even saw livestock, err, maybe deadstock, floating away downriver. I backed away from this threat as pictures formed in my mind. I knew it wouldn’t take much more rain upstream to potentially raise the water level high enough to enter the town.

It was a few years after I had grown up and left town when another flood occurred and washed away a good portion of the land down near the locks. Between accusations and counter-accusations that I read about in a paper in Virginia, it was decided it was time to repair the dam and the locks to prevent, or control potential floods. Later, I read that it was done and a visit confirmed the fact. I had never seen it operational so this was new to me.

 Now that we are entering another ‘hurricane season,’ we’ve already seen deaths from flooding and falling trees. While the wind, high surf, and surges can affect me and my family, it can mean ‘flash-flooding’ in the mountains. Some of the Caribbean Islands not only suffered from the high winds and rising tides, but also from flash-flooding and landslides. People’s lives were snuffed-out in seconds. Some people never were to be found. Power is yet to be restored to some even a year later. Nature’s fury reminds us of the brevity of life and the temporary things we build. Such is the world today and such it will always be.

My feeling about floods was a foreboding that I could be drowned. It didn’t make me want to run down to the river, stand on a slick bank and watch. Rather, I chose to stay away. I never understood the people who built places on flood plains, and then rebuilt time again after spring floods had their way. I have read of places that moved their whole towns further uphill, and built their roads away from harm. Even with this the best we can do is try because nature does what it likes.

Floods come from melting snow, heavy rains, hurricanes, and poorly engineered dams. The disaster called the ‘Johnstown Flood,’ happened in central Pennsylvania when an earthen dam was topped and gave way. An entire town that was downstream was wiped out while the people slept. The dam had been built to create a hunting and fishing reserve for the wealthy, but warning about the dam’s integrity were ignored. Sometimes we learn, too late.

 Nature has many ways to bring on traumatic events. History tells us about earthquakes, and those continue along faults around the world. California is always expecting the ‘big one.’ Hawaii is experiencing an eruption. Archeologists are still digging out artifacts and remains from Pompeii near Mount Vesuvius.

Anyone who thinks nature is their friend, my advice is to keep nature at arm’s length, or even further if possible. Meanwhile, we have little choice but to use our heads and work with what we have. Nature’s power should never be underestimated. Whether wind, rain, lightning, snow, and hot or cold, nature will do as it wills. So ,with storm season here, please use caution my friends, and respect the watches and warnings. Life is fragile and our best defenses sometimes cannot cope.  Be alert, my friends. 

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June 20, 2018

Kentucky explorer Daniel Boone's artifacts being collected


Thousands of years ago, humans set up camp in the Daniel Boone National Forest. They made fires, cooked meals and made tools — then they left. Now, EKU students, in collaboration with the U.S. Forest Service, are retracing their steps.

ANGELA GERVASI Ashley Williams, a student at Eastern Kentucky University, digs through an archaeological site as part of a six-week intensive course.ANGELA GERVASI This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Ashley Williams, a student at Eastern Kentucky University, digs through an archaeological site as part of a six-week intensive course.


Dr. Jon Endonino and his Archaeological Field Methods students are working on their excavation of a Jackson County site inside the forest that contains artifacts up to 5,000 years old as part of a five-year agreement between the school and the Forest Service to survey the land.

“It serves EKU’s needs in terms of our mission of regional stewardship, it serves educational needs of students, but it also helps the U.S. forest service and their mission to preserve and protect historical resources,” Endonino said.

The class, which has been in the field every weekday for four weeks as part of the six-week intensive course, expected to find artifacts up to 3,000 years old, but started uncovering late prehistoric arrowheads.

“Pretty much everything we found here is exactly the opposite of what we expected,” he said.

The surprising finds mirrored Endonino’s experience in 2016 with a nearby prehistoric rock shelter that had been damaged by illegal digging.

The site was written off by evaluators before Endonino’s team got to it, but the students discovered evidence of the earliest plant cultivation in eastern North America, with traces of pumpkins, squash and a relative of quinoa.

The team also found a spear point carbon dated to 9,000 years old, much older than anyone had anticipated. Now the site is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s nationally important,” Endonino said. “We thought that it was going to be a late prehistoric site with shell-tempered pottery and little arrowheads, and within 20 minutes we were completely proven wrong when we found a 9,000 year old spear point, and that was pretty stunning.”

The rock shelter had holes in the back wall as a result of looting, which Daniel Boone Forest archaeologist Wayna Adams stressed is illegal and damages the environment.

“We don’t just go in and dig wherever we feel like it,” she said. “Nobody learns from that.”

In order to dig, Endonino and his team were required to submit a request for an ARPA permit, or Archaeological Resources Protection Act, create a research design plan and confer with the state.

Excavators who don’t follow protocol often dig for personal collections or to sell artifacts for profit, but it harms the site and its history, he said.

“It’s just piles of dirt and a hole,” he said. “That’s what you end up with.”

But for professional archaeologists like Endonino, safe excavation and discovering ancient remains is always an incredible learning experience.

“Artifacts don’t speak for themselves, so we kind of have to interpret,” he said. “That’s a lot of fun, trying to piece together the clues to tell the story of a site.”

From 8:30 am-3 pm, students inspect one-meter by one-meter squares in a larger pit and dig in 10-centimeter increments, running loose dirt through a screen to find rocks and possible artifacts until the site is “culturally sterile.”

So far, they have found mostly debitage, or flint chips leftover from making tools, but have also unearthed intact arrowheads, along with a .45 Colt shell. Many artifacts come from the Middle Archaic Period, 3,000 to 5,000 years ago.

For the students, archaeology is a door that leads to other possibilities.

Emmett Fields, a 21-year-old student, hopes to use his experience to study ancient burial rituals and mortuary goods, as well as gender relations and identity in the ancient world. “I want gender nonconforming people to see they came from something,” he said.

Twenty-five-year-old Ashley Williams describes her study as “biomolecular archaeology.” She hoped to use archaeology to explore the possibility of a third, unknown strand of DNA created by interbreeding between early humans and another undiscovered hominid.

After students complete the half-semester course, students will be qualified for entry-level jobs in the private sector of archaeology, which Endonino said makes up a large percentage of archaeological jobs.

“Most people don’t know this, but there is a multi-billion dollar archaeology business that employs 80 percent of archaeologists at least,” he said. “Most archaeologists don’t work at universities. We don’t work in museums. Most archaeologists work in what’s called cultural resource management.”

On July 2, Endonino will demonstrate his flintknapping, or stone tool crafting, skills at Blue Stallion Brewing as part of a fundraiser for the annual Living Archaeology Weekend, which showcases eastern Kentucky landscapes as well as Native American technologies. Other ancient skills, such as spear throwing, cane weaving, and grinding corn will be demonstrated at the brewery as well, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the Living Archaeology Weekend.

After the students complete their work with the site, the artifacts will be cleaned, weighed, and recorded. They will then be sent to UK, which acts as a curator, for carbon dating.

Although the collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and EKU ends in 2020, Endonino hopes to extend it until 2025, training more student archaeologists.

By Chris Mura
Lexington Herald-Leader

June 16, 2018


 Pranks at Summer Camp!


The arrival of summer reminds me of the special times I spent at some summer camps. With school out, and it so hot, it was a good thing to have something scheduled to look forward to. Going to camp meant that I would take a trip out of my comfort zone to whichever place was holding the week-long event. While part of me counted the days for that to occur, I was also a bit insecure about the whole thing. Despite attending several camps over the years, I usually dreaded going even if I knew the people going to camp with me. The comfort of friends only goes so far. I mean everyone on the Titanic had family and friends aboard, but what good did that do? I think we all had a level of anxiety in the beginning and a heartfelt disappointment when it was over.

The first week-long camp I attended was when I was around ten years old. My church, the big Methodist Church downtown on Madison and Main Cross, joined with other churches to sponsor a Christian church camp for kids. It was held at Cabwaylingo State Park in W.Va. I don’t recall exactly how to get there, but I seem to remember that we drove through Fort Gay, and then took a road that parallels the railroad and the east side of Tug fork. We travelled south for nearly an hour into some high, mountainous country. A recent google makes me think the buildings may have since been replaced. The park seems to focus on renting cabins more than having organized camps. Even so, it would be something to visit it again after all these years.

At the church camp our pastor and a group of other clergies from up and down the Big Sandy, managed to have us kids (boys and girls) attend camp for a week for what amounted to a kind of ‘sleep-over’ Vacation Bible School. The experience exposed us to games, fun, food, bible stories, and regular evening church services. It was, in effect, a big week-long revival for kids. We swam at the pool, hiked further up the mountain to the fire tower, and generally enjoyed the remoteness of the site. It was an adventure. The last night a final altar call was given at the end of the service. Many kids prayed the prayer of salvation and encouraged others to join them. I recall an attractive older couple from another community that were apparently deeply in love. They may have been at least sixteen years old. The handsome young man was struggling with the decision to accept Christ. The rest of us prayed that he would follow his sweet girlfriend in a confession of faith. Everyone was praying and giving him encouragement. Tears flowed when he finally gave his heart to the Lord. The camp went wild with joy and the satisfaction that prayers were answered. The young man was saved.

 Cabwaylingo Pool Cabwaylingo Pool Not all camps I attended were church camps because the school system found it to be a good way to prepare for the new school year. Students who played sports or played in the band would learn their formations and bond with each other at camp. When I joined the LHS band, I attended those annual band camps. Again, Cabwaylingo was the perfect fit.

I remember we had a tough schedule that filled most of our day/evenings. After breakfast we would have marching practice on the big field between the barracks complex and the swimming pool. Later, we met in the mess hall annex for concert band practice. This enabled us to work on serious music while the other helped us practice marching and playing parade music. We also practiced various groups, such as a wind ensemble, or persons that wanted a little extra instruction in this or that. The marching band played the National Anthem and the old LHS fight song to the place where it was committed to memory. We practiced Souza marches, and took what seemed like hours of marching practice. The army had nothing on us. Batons twirled and knees were lifted as we paraded around the large drill field.

I cannot forget one year when some of us guys were playing a fast game of touch football. As it happened, a fellow and I hit heads at top speed. (Can’t tell you who the other guy was, but his initials are Herb Rice) For me, everything suddenly went black. I had been knocked out. Still unconscious, I was carried to my bed where they applied wet wash cloths. Someone used smelling salts from an emergency kit that finally brought me into consciousness. Others, arriving late, brought some ice from the kitchen. There was a crowd of kids looking down at me as I laid there. Maybe they thought I was going to die. As I began to feel a little better some friends showed me my image in a mirror. I was swollen beyond recognition. I didn’t even know who I was. As the swelling went down and I felt more normal, I became proud of my war wounds. Knowing what I know now, I suspect it likely that I suffered a concussion, but in those days who knew?

I remember another dangerous game a few of us played one time. Those who did not go to the pool for a cold swim, gathered on the parade/practice field. This remnant stayed behind and joined in a fun fight to the finish. The boys each lifted one of the girls onto their shoulders, then stood up lifting the girl high. We held her legs to protect her from falling. Then the battle began. The boys galloped around the field as if they were horses while the girls hung on to the boy’s heads for dear life. Girls riding their trusted steeds pushed and pulled the other girls in hope of making them fall. We learned this game at the pool but the life guards there wouldn’t allow it on their ‘turf.’ I remember that once or twice as many as six couples at a time tried to ‘de-horse’ other riders. A small crowd watched, perhaps being smarter than the rest of us. It’s a wonder, but no one was hurt.

We played other games like horse-shoe, badminton, and softball, too. Chaperones were usually about and sometimes joined in the games. With a little of the spare time, some of us went for walks and explored the banks of the little creek that ran nearby. We had to cross over that creek in one spot to go to the pool. It was here that the WVA Forest Service had put in a water fountain. Yuck! The water had more than its share of sulfur that made my teeth feel nasty. I literally thought they would turn green. No thank you. I would take my drinking water from the camp spigots. Good water was available at the dining hall and in the respective bathrooms in each barrack. While it still had a slight touch of sulfur, it was nothing like the awful elixir from the water-fountain.    

Except for the pictures I saw later in the school annual, The Scarlack, I have no idea what went on in the girl’s dorm, night or day. The girls put up heavy curtains, but one or two would teasingly pull one slightly askew if they thought boys might be looking that way. From some of the published snapshots, I know that some (Kay Varney (later Maynard)), Claudia Wilson, and others went around spraying shaving cream on each other, including the band director and chaperones. I could easily deduce that some of the girls had nightly pillow fights. At least once a pillow was broken open and feathers flew about. We could hear their laughter and screams until finally the School Superintendent Bill Cheek, went through with a big flashlight to quiet them down. He always shouted “Man on the floor,” as a warning before he dared enter that open-bay barrack. My classmate, Betty Hager Cooke told me on a recent visit that the superintendent got a big surprise one night when one of the girls was in her pajamas swinging on the open rafters. As fate would have it she didn’t see him and ‘bam’ they collided! If anyone could handle such a delicate situation it was him, so all survived the incident without harm.   

 We boys had pillow fights, too, and may have tossed a kid or two into a cold shower while they were still dressed. No intent on bullying, we were quick to hand them towels and allowing them to join us to wet down the next guy. All throughout the week we posed for pictures for those smart enough to bring cameras. I have one favorite snapshot taken there that was given to me a few years ago by Joan Carol that I’ve scanned in here. The shot was taken from the doorway of the girl’s barracks of the two of us standing in front of the camp flag pole. You will see how pitifully skinny I was at the time. Joan looks good, but she always did.

The boy’s and girl’s barracks faced each other with the dining hall located at the center, making a ‘U’ shape. The dining hall included a side room where the concert band could set up and practice. At night, movies were played in the main dining hall once dishes were done and the tables cleaned. Many times, we would see a musical that was full of rich, spirit-encompassing melodies. To our surprise, the next morning we’d find the sheet music on our stands. It turned out that the selection of the movie was to introduce the music we’d soon be playing! I remember Brigadoon, South Pacific, and some other great movies of the day. I’m sure fellow band-members will remember more. The approach gave everyone great enthusiasm to learn and play the tunes that were still ringing in our minds from the movie seen the night before.   

Nature, being what it is, led to many individuals becoming couples during these camps. They sometimes agreed to meet up and sit together to watch the evening movie. Sitting in the dark, CabwaylingoCabwaylingowe were watched closely by roving chaperones that assured our behavior was suitable, because I know that some couples found ways to avoid detection of minor breaches of conduct. I know more than one kiss was stolen on those special warm evenings, especially when the boy would walk the girl to her dorm. We didn’t get away with much, or at least not that I knew about. Later, after growing older and having kids of my own, I found out how hard being a chaperone can be. Teens have lots of energy and lots of good imaginations, like a good challenge, and have tons of hormones. That’s a recipe for disaster. It was tough for the chaperones, but it was every bit as tough for those trying to circumvent camp rules.

Cabwaylingo was also the venue for the LHS Football camp. It was there that the coaches taught the plays that would be used and the team would learn or relearn the basics of the game. While I wasn’t on the team (I always wanted to be) I helped Superintendant Bill Cheek transport and unload groceries from his red jeep, to the mess hall. This would be consumed by the hungry team, the coaches and staff. I remember eating the wonderful cobblers the cooks put together in those large, deep stainless pans. Man! That was good! A couple of band members also played football, so they were in band camp for a week then the next for football. It was a major deal to get to do both, and it didn’t happen without person risk and sacrifice. With the warring factions between band directors and coaches, it wasn’t worth the fight for me, but a couple of my friends survived to do both.

Morehead Morehead  During my senior year I was lucky enough to be selected to attend a state band camp at Morehead State College. The boys slept on beds assembled in the hallways of the (then) new gym. We practiced on the lawn in front of the music building in chairs, and stands, set out in concert style. With the top musicians from all around the state we had an outstanding band. We played some terrific music that we otherwise would not likely have ever experienced. I recall one number we learned was from Jacques Offenbach’s Ballet Parisienne. One movement from that piece is known by most people as the ‘Cancan’ used by naughty, high-kicking dancing girls in ruffled dresses. By playing this vigorously and enthusiastically, I met my temporary ruin. I blew out a filling on a front tooth so I had to quickly find a dentist in Morehead. Finding one that took credit was only accomplished after much help and considerable worry. Finally, we got that taken care of and I rejoined the band. That didn’t help my relationship with that cute girl from Harlan County. I never saw her again.

 While at Morehead, I got to see my first college football game. The crowd was way larger than the ones I was used to at old LHS. The game was held during daylight hours, which was new to me, also. Today, I have no clue whether Morehead won, or lost, or even who they were playing. Memory has a habit of hiding the details stored for so many years. I do remember that the girl cheerleaders were cute. I was told later by a friend that the boy cheerleaders looked good, too. Boys? Well, apparently, she saw something I didn’t even notice.   

During our stay at the Morehead band camp some of us boys had a brilliant idea of a trick we’d play on one of our favorite counselors. It involved disassembling our beds that had been set up in the outer-hallways of the new basketball gym. We then moved the counselor’s little sports car into the building. (I can’t be sure if it was a Renault, or a MG, or maybe an Austin Healy) We were able to roll it except for the front steps. We had to gather enough lifting power to make it work. It took maybe 8-10 good sized boys. After we got the little car in our sleeping area, which was well down the hall, we put the beds back together so it couldn’t be easily gotten out. The counselor was upset that someone had stolen his car but once he finally found it he saw the humor in it. Some took lots of pictures of the weird sight, but I guess those were lost over time. We helped him get the car back out. It was the least we could do.

I’m certain that many readers, whether at one of the aforementioned camps, or at others, will recall getting away from home and experiencing dormitory life with friends. Water-fights, whipped cream anointments, water balloons, sharing different kinds of foods (often tasty, sometimes not), falling in love, and other precious memories come to our minds through the fog of time.

As I mentioned earlier, I never went to a camp that I didn’t have anxiety in the beginning and a heavy, sad feeling when it was over. Saying goodbye to new friends, or just having to go back to life’s routines had to be faced. The fun would be missed, but that’s life. Ups and downs are the very substance that make up the richness of life. For kids, camps are often both a blessing and a curse, but they can play an important role in our growing up. Besides, they make great memories!

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