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July 26, 2018

Group has funded 59 scholarships to 26 scholars since 1999

Joe Damron Memorial Golf Tournament August 31

 

The Fort Gay High School Alumni Association will host the 6th annual Joe Damron Memorial Golf Tournament on Friday, August 31, 2018, at Eagle Ridge Golf Course at Yatesville Lake State Park in Louisa, KY.

The best ball tournament begins at 9:00 a.m. and is open to the public. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m. “The golf course is in excellent condition again this year,” said Paul Salmons, the tournament chairman.

The Alumni Association hosts the tournament to raise money to support an endowed scholarship it established through the Marshall University Foundation Inc. Each year, a senior at Tolsia High School, Fort Gay, WV, is awarded a four-year academic scholarship to Marshall University. This year’s award winner will share $12,000 for the 2018-19 school year with three previous Tolsia graduates, all of whom are designated by Marshall as “Fort Gay Scholars”. The alumni group has funded 59 scholarships to 26 scholars since the initial grant in 1999.

The entry fee is $50 per person, or $200 to sponsor a team of four persons. The fee includes the cost for cart, green fees, a continental breakfast, snacks, beverages, and lunch. There also will be prizes and awards.

“If you are unable to play, you can still help us raise money for the scholarship by sponsoring a golf hole for $100,” added Salmons.

Please contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or (606) 652-4048, if you wish to play in the tournament or want additional details about hole sponsorship.

 

 

July 20, 2018

Town Hill; My Playground

I remember a lazy summer pastime I had throughout my ‘growing up’ years. When my friends were busy and I was a bit lonely, I would visit a favorite spot that gave me some solitude. It was restful enough that I could have easily napped, but at the same time there was so much to see. My spot overlooked my quaint little town so it was as if I could see the busy people going about their business, yet they had no idea they were being watched. I have no doubt that nearly everyone has a place that was a special retreat, whether a barn loft, a cave, a large smooth rock next to a running creek, or even a riverbank. Mine was only three blocks from my home on a rising piece of land we all lovingly called ‘town hill.’ There was a place that was about three quarters of the way to the top and devoid of grass that I frequented. Some reddish clay was exposed that I assumed was result of blood left from the civil war or perhaps Indian fights. Otherwise, the clay was a tan color.

This place was a perfect perch for me to look back and survey the town below. It happened that the slope at that point allowed me to sit down without the fear of sliding back down a way, or feel an urge to grab at some tuffs of grass to insure that I was safe. It was here that I liked to lay back and see portions of the town between my feet. When I allowed my head to lay back against the hill I automatically saw the clouds reflecting imaginary images of fluffy elephants, bears, or whatever else my racing mind conjured up. It was here that I often closed my eyes and fantasized about this new world and thought about the history this valley had seen in the past centuries. Here, on this mount, I was totally alone and happy.

Often, because of the freedom I enjoyed when I was a child, I knew there was plenty of time for me to climb higher to reach the summit. That place had an entirely different presence because of the mysteries that confused my thinking. It was there that I would often see the remains of a serious structure with thick cement walls. They were mostly below ground level by a few feet, but it was easy to climb down into the ruins. Some of those were slightly askew as if they had been torn asunder by an unknown hand. Perhaps nature had been busy reclaiming the abandoned area for its own? When I asked grownups about the place I was told that the thick walls were leftovers from a hill-top water reservoir. I looked at the layout and wondered. Later I saw some old civil war drawings for Fort Bishop that had been built at that very site by union forces. It, too, was made with concrete ramparts and was designed in sections that resembled the ruins on town hill. There is no doubt this was a better, more exciting explanation for a kid, but I was still left wondering about the conflict of stories. I wonder to this day about the truth of that playground wherein I often ran, jumped, and took aim at enemy soldiers of my imagination. To complicate matters my mother had once told me that a woman had thrown her baby into the waters of the reservoir to drown. That was a horrible image, but if true, it fit the reservoir story but contradicts the ruins as part of the fort. It would have been a good place to set off fireworks on the 4th. The whole valley could see the display.

As I recall some of my trips up town hill, I remember the times when some friends and I climbed that steep slope on ‘all fours.’ We likely looked like animals as we breathlessly panted while using our hands to help pull us forward. Going down the hill, on the other hand, was relatively easy, if sometimes a little painful. If we chose to run or hop downhill, we lost the ability to make a quick, controlled stop. That meant if once committed then we had to go the whole way. If we chose to roll, then it was harder to stay on path, which could be troublesome, too. For the cowardly, slowly scooting on bottoms was the safest way to descend, but it was ever so slow. It also announced to the world that we were fearful of a disastrous decent. A slow, careful walk was the mature method and worked unless you slipped on loose gravel, or tripped. If that happened, your descent changed and you’d understand my description of the other methods. My favorite method was to hop, landing only every few feet and then to use it to push off again. The problem was stopping. I’ve run into saplings that way and ripped them out by the roots as I continued down the hill. It was after finally reaching the bottom I would discover I was bleeding from a cut or two.

When we were in high school, a friend of mine, Johnny Justice, had taken it upon himself to skip school one day. He was by himself as he climbed the hill. Upon reaching the top there was a group of wild, young men up there drinking and hollering. When they spotted Johnny, they caught him and beat him badly. I remember visiting him just after the event. He had been admitted at the old Louisa General Hospital in serious condition. We boys gathered at his bedside and prayed that he would live. The prayers were answered. The offending young men were caught and arrested. They were assigned to jail on assault charges. Johnny’s friends were pleased to know that justice would be served. Johnny was a bit wild sometimes during his high school days, but his friends knew him as having a good heart and being a true friend.

Town hill was said to be full of caves, but I have only seen one. It was near the old grade school building just above where Madison now continues. I recall that the cave had a low mouth, maybe three feet high, but it never opened high enough to allow a boy to stand or sit up inside. I crawled several times on my belly into the cave, but could only get in a few feet because it slanted down and was full of water. In a way it reminds me of the team of boys that were trapped beyond the water as described in the news this week. The difference was that I was on the right side of the water. I was only in the cave three or four times, but I never managed to get past that water barrier. Maybe it was a good thing that I couldn’t.

I remember that I was with several of my friends when we were at the top of town hill looking down on our town. One of the boys spoke up and said that he had heard that the young, pretty wife of the department store owner next to Dee’s had a habit of sunbathing on the flat roof of the store. We looked and saw indeed did see someone stretched out on a towel. She was so far away we couldn’t make out much more than a figure that occasionally moved about. We assumed she was putting lotion on her legs, arms and back, but alas, the distance was too great. Our imaginations filled in what we couldn’t see. Otherwise, we saw nothing untoward from that high vantage point.

One time when I was smaller, I recall when the fire alarm rang out and the firetruck raced up toward the home of His honor, Eldred Adams. From there, Chief Compton led his men to the part of town hill that had the waterworks ground storage tank. I was too young to help, but I remained excited to stand below and watch the men douse and beat down the fire. Some of the flames worked over toward the hill above ‘dead man’s curve,’ but it was all soon under control. The whole neighborhood was out watching, but as the smoke died down and some of the men were descending the hill, we lost interest and turned to go home. I considered it might be a good career to grow up and become a forest ranger. Mom soon turned my focus to becoming a cowboy. It was safer…. Well, maybe. That would depend upon how many bad guys with black hats were around.

During some winter snows we kids could sometimes drag our sleds up town hill about a quarter of the way.  Riding them down was far faster than we thought it might be. Sometimes it jarred us seriously or like riding a bronco, we were thrown off the sled. The new grade school building had not been built yet, so we could coast nearly to the street if we steered away from the bumps. There were a few spots where you could become airborne and that could result in broken bones upon landing. I don’t remember anyone being hurt badly, but regardless, this was by far the best site we ‘town kids’ had for sledding. There was even a slightly level area near the bottom that gave a shorter, safer ride for the smaller kids. One year, after one particular big snow event, we built two snow-forts facing each other on the grade school grounds. One bunch took over one fort while another occupied the opposing one. It was only after we ducked behind our forts that the snow balls began to fly. It was fun until I got hit in the side of the face with what seemed to be an ‘ice’ ball. I ran home in hopes of finding some maternal sympathy and seeking a warm spot in front of the stove. I think it was then when I determined that summer was much more fun.

It was during warmer times when I tried riding my bike down the lower portion of town hill. I learned I didn’t want to do that again. It, too, jarred me so badly that my arms were numb and I was in danger of losing the fillings out of my teeth. With saucer-shaped eyes and rigid arms, I held on for life. I lived. Amazingly, the bike survived, too, but if I had wrecked, my writing this column would have been made impossible. I suppose it would have been a nice funeral and a few of my friends would have attended and learned a lesson at my expense.

When I was older I went to town hill and used the concrete walls as a safety stop for bullets that we fired for target practice. As I’ve pointed out before, we often shot rats in the dump, we also used the ‘Fort Bishop’ ruins for a safety backdrop for shooting. We would set up targets, perhaps tin cans, or other trash we’d find lying around, and take turns shooting. I recall one time when I was a senior in high school that I had my cousin’s .44 magnum pistol to test fire. I shot at a full tar-bucket we had found and placed on a rock just in front of the concrete wall. Not only was the shot itself loud, but the recoil was severe enough that I didn’t want to fire it twice. That would have been pure punishment. As it happened I had hit the tar bucket. It put a small hole in the front, but completely blew out the back. I had been told this gun would fire through an engine block. My experiment that morning made me a believer. I had meant to look for damage to the wall, but forgot to look. For all I know the bucket still sits there in front of a cracked cement wall.

With the newer roads cut into the face of that town hill the old path I’ve written about is simply no longer accessible. Still, I have the memories. There were dangers, for sure, but back in my day, it was a great playground for a growing boy.                     

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July 19, 2018

Press Release

Lawrence County author John H. Butch Preston will be having a book signing at the Lawrence County Library on Saturday July 21, 2018 from 11 A.M. to 1 P.M.

On hand will be his novel Where Everything Important Happens on a Hillside, a work depicting contemporary eastern Kentucky. A collection of short stories entitled Ten Miles from Clay City and Other Stories. And in its second printing The History and Tales of the Paintsville Stockyard.

Also available will be manuscript copies of his stage play Kentucky’s Richest Man, the story of John C. C. Mayo, which premiered at the Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg this past April.

Preston offers ten percent off on all purchases to encourage summer reading.

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