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Louisa-Lawrence Co, KY

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March 17, 2018

Growing up in Louisa –Big Freeze!

 Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn

I’ve noticed that our local trees think it must be nearing spring. The pear trees, the cherry trees, forsythia and daffodils are doing all they can to burst into majestic bloom. The days are getting longer but the long-awaited spring has failed to arrive. Like waiting for a rarely late train, we anticipate a flowery Easter and a switch to thoughts of spring training. But wait!

The mid to upper Atlantic coast has just ‘weathered’ their 3rd Nor’easter. Now I’m told another one will form south of Virginia and move up the coast with yet more snow! We are well past ground-hog day so what happened here? Global warming? Huh, more like another ‘ice age.’ Maybe like the giant woolly mammoth, we’ll freeze to be found by some explorer centuries from now. I guess that’s one way of getting famous, but I don’t much like the role but we don’t even get to vote. Even so, maybe some far-off country would interfere and we’d lose either way. Airports will lock up and the whole nation will feel the effects to the national economy.     

 gas stove gas stove When I was growing up in that iconic little town, the house I lived in had no insulation. Maybe that was because we hadn’t heard about it and the house construction easily predated that practice. I know folks who pasted newspapers on the walls to knock down the wind. We had never seen storm windows and real insulation. Therefore, winters took it out on us. Winter meant little personal comfort, especially for cold-natured fellows like me. I remember crowding with others in hope of catching a bit of heat from a small gas stove that was installed in a fireplace in my living room. Each room had a gas hearth heater, but none of them were much help. They simply just never heated the whole room. A person standing with their back in front of the stove could get temporary relief from the cold if only on one side at a time. I remember turning like a pig on a spit to assure the front got its’ fair share. That side of my body got very hot, but I worried about the safety of the gas fumes.

I remember head-aches from the fumes. There were also regular warnings of the dangers of having a robe catch fire if we backed a little too close. Every winter we heard of stories of local ladies who died from severe burns when their nightgowns ignited. Newer fabrics finally underwent some chemical treatments to make them ‘fire resistant,’ and the newer synthetic materials tended to melt if gotten hot. Those still burned the skin. People who had working fireplaces ran a greater risk of fire. So whether gas, wood or coal, fires were necessary to survive, but potentially a source of much sorrow. Only a very few had ‘space heaters,’ or floor furnaces that had large grates usually in a central hallway. Almost no one had ‘forced air,’ like we have today.

I remember a dairy farmer that had natural gas on his property. The gas company ran underground lines but allowed him to tie into the line without charge. I’m sure he was paid for the product, but free heat was wonderful when I visited. He had a floor furnace in his home, but also a heater in his workshop, the main barn, the ‘milk room’ and the parlor. The cows found themselves listening to classical music in a warm parlor and buckets of feed while they were being milked. Life was good for them, I’d think.

jack frostjack frost I clearly remember seeing icy designs on our living room windows. Mom told me it was the work of Jack Frost. He was good with his designs. Jack would paint a new picture again the next evening. . Sometimes, no amount of sun would help because the wind would continue to whip arctic air against the house. I recall curtains standing out as the wind pushed the cold into the room. Even to have had rolls of plastic in those days would have helped, but I think the product was only becoming available. We didn’t have any.

Our house didn’t have gutters, so rain came off the metal roof and created a ‘drip line’ in the soil around the foundations. In fact, small gravel tracks existed where one there may have been soil. My point is that during the winter it was very common to have rolls of ice-sickles hanging along the roof’s edge. I used to try and find the longest ones, or the widest chunks, but the real trick was to watch them fall like some soldiers spear. Normally, these shattered when they hit the ground, but a few would spike in an upright position. Ice-sickles also lined the porch roof, so I could reach these. As a dumb kid I’d break one off and use it as a sucker, much the same as an unflavored Popsicle. I know that wasn’t necessarily the cleanest thing to do, but ‘hey,’ I was just a kid.

I remember spending the night with a classmate who lived at Fallsburg. I didn’t know until I got there that he lived in a real log cabin in the woods. We fished that night, catching mostly water-dogs, but enough perch for breakfast. When we crawled into the shared bed, I found it heavy with quilts. There was to be very little tossing and turning that night. At daybreak my friend shook me and said he’d build a fire and cook breakfast. I could stay in bed until he got the cabin warm. The single room wasn’t that big, so the ‘pot-belly’ stove did the trick. There was a layer of snow on the top quilt that had come through the chinking. He told me it was a normal occurrence and I should not worry. That advice became useful many times in my life when things went south, but would work out. I was a bit ashamed when I realized that two or three generations back, everyone in Kentucky lived in log cabins. Daniel Boone and Abe Lincoln are two that come to mind.

Back then the only solution was to dress warmly. We wore long johns, layers of sweaters and even coats and wrapped in a blanket. We had those granny-made quilts and Afghans. Granny always wore a shawl, but I wore everything I could find and cuddled in a warm spot usually in a corner. It was a good thing if you had a buddy to share the warmth. The bed coverings grew heavy at night so it was hard to get up for nature’s calls. Those were cold days, for sure. I remember a few times when I had to go outside and actually found it was warmer outside than inside. What a discouragement. It would be many years later when I looked back and understood the name of a famous rock band, ‘Three Dog Night.’

The weather gave me excuse to visit friends and perhaps to stay a little longer. I was always friendly in those cold days. I also remember going to school, even if it was officially closed, because the classrooms were warm. I enjoyed sitting and talking with friends when school work was not required. I practiced with band instruments and actually studied a few times. Then it was time to go back into the cold.

ice fishing ice fishing  For the one winter I lived in Detroit I got to see people going ice fishing. They would put up their sheds out on the ice, usually on a lake, and could actually drive their car out to the shed. The younger kids would drive out and spin in circles, having fun. I know a few that went into the water when they ventured too far. I guess some fine old cars are laying on the bottom of some of those northern lakes.

It’s times like these that I have dreams of revisiting the Caribbean. Those tropical breezes, the green vegetation, and the warm sun hitting the beaches are the kinds of cool I like. Meanwhile, I think a cup of steaming coffee might just the take the edge off the chill. Be grateful for today’s advances, my friends, and stay warm! This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


March 10, 2018

Traveling Kentucky-Specific Vietnam Wall replica to debut at State Capitol Rotunda March 12

Traveling Wall 2018Traveling Wall 2018

A Kentucky-specific replica of the Vietnam Wall will begin its traveling career at the State Capitol Rotunda Monday, March 12 at 2 p.m.

The Traveling Kentucky Vietnam Wall displays the names of Kentuckians killed in the Vietnam War, taken prisoner or still missing. There are 1,105 names on the Traveling Kentucky Vietnam Wall. It is 9 feet tall and 18 feet long. Special guests for the unveiling ceremony are Lt. Governor Jenean Hampton, Attorney General Andy Beshear, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA) Commissioner Benjamin Adams and KDVA Deputy Commissioner Heather French Henry.

The Traveling Kentucky Vietnam Wall will have no permanent home but will travel throughout the Commonwealth, visiting every county.

“Our intent is to take it to the communities and the public who may not have the opportunity to visit the Wall in Washington, D.C., or one of the large Traveling Walls,” said Jack Mattingly, State Council President of the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans of America. “This Wall is dedicated to all Kentuckians and will provide all Kentuckians an opportunity to remember and pay homage to those who gave their all.”

Several veteran groups joined forces to raise the funds to build the Wall two years ago. The Kentucky Veterans Trust Fund granted $21,000 of the $29,000 total, and other funding sponsors include Eastern Kentucky Power Company, Humana, Marine Corp League Det. 858, Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Kentucky State Council, VVA Chapter 1050, VVA Chapter 1051 and VVA Chapter 1104.

To schedule an appearance or event with the Wall, call or write to Jack Mattingly (P.O. Box 675, Harrodsburg, KY, 40330 / 859-734-0217 /

From Department of Veterans Affairs


March 10, 2018



Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn


So why am I a week early writing about Saint Patrick’s Day?

What I remember most about the Irish holiday was the preparation. Teachers and parents would start us off with the making of giant shamrocks, painting the wee people and their ‘pot of gold,’ and the like. One year when I was in grade school the teacher played a record of Irish jigs, the singing of ‘Danny Boy,’ and read us stories describing the antics and rowdy play of this special day. So I’m inserting this one early that you may prepare and get the others ready to ‘dance in the streets,’ or whatever may come to mind. Making green cupcakes, and dressing up like a leprechaun and there’s always the playing of the pipes, fiddles, and other Irish instruments. Even a week’s notice is barely enough to make ready. I remember the song, Loch Lomond that we sang in class. “Oh ye take the high road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland afore ye.” I remember my thoughts about the ‘bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.’ Of course, as a growing boy, I was less concerned with meeting the lassie than whether there were fish to be caught in this famous lake.

In checking the web on the subject, I see that Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations happens all around the world on or around March 17. I’ve also heard rumors that the events are better attended in the United States than those in Ireland itself. This traditional date is set on St Patrick’s death. That was way back in the Fifth century. He is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland, driving out the snakes, and is still busy interceding for his Celtic even now. Some Irish Catholics pray to him and carry the signs of a shamrock in celebration of an almost purely secular excuse to party. If the seventeenth falls during lent, those who practice Christian religion, especially Catholic, would not be able to drink to the good Saint’s memory except that in remembrance him they are allowed a day off from those restrictions to honor the fellow. In fact, from my point of view, this day is the day many remember their ancestral homeland.

I’m told that the Irish do enjoy a good toast and a swig of alcoholic nectar. Places like New York has their big parade on the 17th, but Chicago has chosen the 18th. Chicago once turned the river green and served green beer all around. Whenever it is celebrated, the middle of March is the approximation of the day of parades and feasting, imbibing, and maybe a prayer or two by those of Irish decent. Conjecture as to whether Shakespeare chose to kill off Caesar on a similar date in his play could be debated by those with little else to do. The phrase ‘Beware of the Ides of March, may be a forewarning of tragedy, but it is likely a mere coincident that the date is so close to the day so cherished highly by the Irish heart.

In all my years of growing up in Louisa I don’t recall once seeing anyone parading around in green costumes and proclaiming the name of the famous Irish Saint. Given that Lawrence County was dry in those days I’m sure ‘green beer’ would have been out of compliance. Sheriff Jordan and Bernard Nelson would have swept down on any offenders and found them a place to play near the Courthouse ‘green.’

 I recall that my grade school teachers had students cut out tons of shamrocks from green paper to hang around our classroom and the halls thereabout. The educators read us stories about those ‘little people,’ that might be hiding under the mushrooms and casting their magic spells. There was a story about a ‘pot of gold,’ at the end of the rainbows. Little green Leprechauns appeared in our children’s movies, but we never took them seriously. They were ‘make believe.’ I do think we were reminded at school the day before St. Patrick’s Day to remember to wear green. It would be years later that I heard that if you didn’t wear green on that day your classmates could pinch you. Back then, I recall only a few people who claimed to have Irish blood, but if we’d had back then more would have known the truth. The hills were heavily populated by folks from the ‘Emerald Isle.’

For most of my life I’ve cared very little about the wearing of the green because I saw myself as being purely English, perhaps Scottish with a possible mix of Native American. Alas, those days are over! I sent my DNA to to find out that I am 23 percent Irish! What a shocker. I had no idea I was even partly Irish. After all, I don’t root for Notre Dame and I don’t speak Gaelic. I did have an opportunity once as an adult while visiting in Busch Gardens to dance with a wee lassie from Dublin. My darling wife, Susie, stood by and watched closely to guarantee my good behavior. All I remember is that she was a good and forgiving dancer. I seriously doubt I held up my end when it came to dancing.

 I would like to learn to play an Irish jig on a fiddle or pipe, but without some magic, or formal training, that won’t happen. I don’t use blarney and have no desire to ‘kiss the blarney stone.’ I’ve seen it on TV, but it looked dangerous to me. You must lean backwards over a high wall to reach the stone. I don’t like high places, so that isn’t going to happen with me. I barely know any Irish history since it wasn’t taught in school. What I do know came from TV documentaries. I know some about the wars for independence from England, and the wars of terrorism between Northern Ireland vs Southern Ireland, Catholic or Protestant, but I really don’t see the reasoning for taking lives over one’s faith. I guess I’ve lived too long enjoying ecumenical tolerance and freedom of religion here in the good old USA. Given the history around religion over there, it’s more understandable that our forefathers focused on writing our constitution to keep the state out of the church’s business.   

My DNA test also showed I had an almost equal amount (22 percent) of Scottish and British ancestry. I had smaller amounts from countries along western European coast, from the far north (perhaps a Viking raid?) down to the Iberian Peninsula including Spain and Portugal. I was told by some that the missing American Indian my grandmother told me about could have been interpreted as Spanish.

Now that I know these facts what will I do differently? I think it gives me a little more identity with the Irish including Saint Patrick’s Day. I am more likely now to break out the green and wear a shamrock on my hat or lapel. I won’t hop on a plane to join in a march, or raise a toast to everyone I meet. But such a move now has a little more legitimacy, don’t you think? On Saturday, March 17, I just might choose to wear shirt that’s a wee bit green. About 23% green would be enough. I might also turn to write an article about Saint Patrick’s Day. Meanwhile, watching a parade is different than marching in one. I know this from experience, so you won’t see me there. I can’t play a tune, or dance, and I’m not big on drinking either. Maybe having checked my DNA was wasted.      

I remember when I was a senior at good old LHS, I had to write a paper about the heritage of the mountain folk found in eastern Kentucky. I researched it for quite some time looking in places that even surprised me. For example, as a music student and member of the LHS band, I had long been exposed to music of many classes. I was not immune to the old-time country music that was practiced on the porches, temporary stages, and court-house steps. I think the restored bandstand that was a fixture on the courthouse lawn was put there to encourage our citizens to pick and sing, although maybe it was first made for concerts by a band of past generations. I remember when the old wooden structure was torn down and replaced by a new, larger bandstand made from concrete. I was young, but I saw it happen.

When writing my paper, I studied the sounds of old-time county music. I immediately saw a similarity between mountain music and Scottish/Irish jigs. The sounds directly imitated its Irish and highlander roots. The Celtic compositions I heard were very like the echoes of our beloved mountain music. I also saw a direct link between the dialects of the old world to that ‘Kentucky twang’ and the word usage I heard everyday while I was growing up. My research also told me that Scott and Irish people had come from a land of highlands and rolling hills. It made sense that upon arriving in America, they moved from the eastern lowlands to build their new homesteads in the mountains. Their language and the music they played supported the idea that the hills of Kentucky were populated with our Irish and Scottish ancestors. Knowing this, we can legitimately fondly think of the emerald isle and appreciate its people.

Here’s a link of a lad and three lassies playing an Irish jig. If you ever had doubt about the connection between Ireland and Appalachia, click on the link:


Back then, I got an ‘A’ on that paper, which was a very rare thing for me since I was usually more into fun than writing. Besides, in those days we had no computers, word processing, spellcheck, printers, or much of anything but a fountain pen and a big rubber eraser to wear a hole in the paper when you made a mistake. No white out was invented just yet. They did have typewriters in the high school, but those weren’t for us to use on class projects. We had to write by hand and hope our spelling, punctuation, and penmanship was good. Mine usually wasn’t.

To close this off I thought I might add some limericks I’ve taken from several websites. Enjoy.

What would you get if you crossed Christmas with St. Patrick's Day? 
St. O'Claus

Why don't you iron 4-Leaf clovers? 
Because you don't want to press your luck.

When is an Irish Potato not an Irish Potato? 
When it's a French fry. 

What would you get if you crossed Quasimodo with an Irish football player? 
The Halfback of Notre Dame. 

How did the Irish Jig get started?
Too much to drink and not enough restrooms!

“I was going to give him an ugly look but he already had one.”

My dear Suzie told me that this article proves I’m full of blarney… After all, what would you expect from someone who’s 23% Irish?

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