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On the Road
Road trip! This special edition of Kentucky Life is an odyssey around the Commonwealth, featuring a treasure trove of history, scenery, and fascinating people and places.
To begin at a beginning, host Byron Crawford stops off at the Hensley Settlement in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, the first part of Kentucky to be settled by European pioneers. This collection of log cabins on a 500-acre plantation straddling the Kentucky-Virginia border flourished as a community for more than five decades, then was restored as a living museum of self-sufficient pioneer life.
Next, meet a less welcome homesteader: kudzu. “The plant that ate Georgia” seems to have acquired a taste for Kentucky, but Kentucky is fighting back. Byron talks with Whitley County “kudzu warrior” Robert Hendrickson about how humans can slow down the invasion.
Our next stop is a tiny community named Mousie—an appropriate place to meet up with Robert Rennick, author of From Red Hot to Monkey’s Eyebrow, for a chat about Kentucky’s unusual place names.
Two Boyd County community landmarks are next on the itinerary. In Catlettsburg, Jim Shivil shows off the riverfront park he built for the town. And in Ashland, we tour the ornate Paramount Theater, built in 1930 using the art deco design of a model theater constructed by Paramount Pictures for the Chicago World’s Fair of 1932. The plan was to build one in each of the 48 states, but only three were actually constructed—and Ashland’s is believed to be the sole survivor of those three. Today it houses the Paramount Arts Center.
For a little natural beauty, stroll down a short section of the Sheltowee Trace, a 267-mile National Recreation Trail that begins near Morehead and ends 10 miles into Tennessee at Pickett State Park. Along the way, it meanders through some of Kentucky’s most beautiful scenery, including the Red River Gorge and Big South Fork.
Rivers and river towns are the focus of the next three segments. First, American Movie Classics host Nick Clooney and his wife, Nina, show us around their hometown of Augusta—and talk about famous relatives George and Rosemary. Then Jim Reis of the Kentucky Post shows us the historical statues on the Covington Riverwalk. And finally, historian George Yater shares pictures and memories of Louisville’s historic Fourth Street.
Things are still a little watery on the next stop, as Byron takes a canoe trip on the Green River in Kentucky’s cave country. Ed Councill of Canoe Kentucky is the tour guide this time, and he tells Byron a little about the incredible biological diversity found in this relatively unspoiled freshwater ecosystem. Then it’s on to the Intertribal Pow Wow at Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville to learn about Kentucky’s role in the infamous removal of the Cherokees from their Eastern lands.
In Muhlenberg County, set a spell with the thumbpickers, guitar players who carry on the traditions of the “Muhlenberg sound” pioneered by Merle Travis. They jam every Friday night at the courthouse in Greenville and on the second Saturday of each month in Drakesboro. And in August, they are joined by like-minded pickers from around the world for the annual International Thumbpicking Competition.
Having rested, we visit the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society in Paducah (since renamed the National Quilt Museum) for some stunning examples of a down-home craft turned international art form. Then we meet Marshall County teenager Craig Tynes, then the newly named president of the High School Rodeo Association. He and his mother, Carol, live in Fairdealing—a name that also expresses pretty well the values promoted by the association itself. Next, Byron travels on to Mayfield to freshen up with a haircut from barber Tom Jackson, whose shop has been a community gathering place for more than 50 years.
For our last stop, what could be more appropriate than a cemetery? The Maplewood Cemetery in Mayfield is a little unusual, though. It’s the home of the “Strange Procession Which Never Moves,” a series of statues of people and animals representing the family and pets of one “Uncle” Henry Wooldridge. As local historian Lon Carter Barton explains, Henry commissioned and put up all the statues, apparently just to keep himself company—because he’s the only one buried in the lot.
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