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Kentucky by Heart: Sampling small town newspapers shows lots of good things going on around the state

By Steve Flairty
NKyTribune columnist

Part of the fun of traveling around Kentucky is to sample small-town newspapers along the way. I always enjoy reading about the life of communities in our state, both close and not geographically close to mine.

Despite the fact that there is always some bad news, too, it’s interesting to discover the bountiful and varying kinds of positive news items that appear in them, a sort of primary source sociology lesson for me.

Mostly, it’s a source of pride for the kind of quality people we have around us.

And when not traveling the state, I have a friend, Roger Kehrt, who does tax auditing at county courthouses in varied places around Kentucky and graciously picks up copies of the usually smallish newspapers for me. In that regard, here’s what I found in a stash of print he and others brought me this summer.

Steve in his study

Hear me well now…there’s a wealth of good things going on in the Commonwealth, often seemingly small, but they add up to show the state’s good character in a big way.

From The Ohio County Times-News, serving small western Kentucky towns such as Beaver Dam and Hartford, I read about Hartford’s first “Back to School Fashion Show,” held at the Ohio County Courthouse. Organizers of the event, said the paper, “wanted a way to help students have clothes to go back to school in.”

Checking out the sports page, I saw a picture of the “Bluegrass Fast Draw Club” hobbyist members posing with their pistols holstered and learned that they recently competed in a contest in Virginia. Among other items, I noticed an editorial about the benefits of the Farm-to-Table program (emphasizing local produce raising and commerce) and saw that an art gallery program was hosted by the residents of the local Signature Healthcare location, showing their personal art pieces to a public audience.

Down in the southeastern part of the state, in Knox County, The Mountain Advocate placed on the first page an article about children ages 9-13 engaging in a woodworking workshop giving each the option of making a stepstool or a toolbox.

The event happened at the Knox County Cooperative Extension Office. And, for the second year, a summer program focusing on school readiness for young children, called “Kindercamp,” was announced to be held in the Knox County elementary schools. Another nice event mentioned was a celebration of nearly six decades of the Lend-a-Hand Center programs in the Stinking Creek area, started by Irma Gall and Peggy Kemner in 1958.

Examples of their work of accomplishment are midwifery, healthcare in schools, medical transportation, hot meals programs, Sunday School programs and summer Bible schools. I found, too, that their story was the subject of an article in USA Today, as well as was written about in John Fetterman’s 1967 book, Stinking Creek: The Portrait of a Small Mountain Community in Appalachia.

Along the Ohio River in Henderson, The Gleaner did a upbeat front-page story on the local fair, where the children owners of the goats on display decided to sleep overnight with their animals. Someone remarked about the important “bonding” that takes place by doing so. Forgive my punning, but I can’t resist saying that all who were on the overnight stay were “good kids.”

Not far from Henderson, Owensboro’s Messenger-Inquirer reported on an inspiring religious message presented at the Convention Center by former Major League baseball great Daryl Strawberry, who overcame a drug problem that ended his sports career and landed him in prison. He is now an evangelist and founded a drug rehabilitation center in 2014.

Also in the paper is a feature article about a local church that’s “introducing homeless and displaced men and women to skills required for careers in top kitchens.”

I’ve passed through the community of Liberty many times and have profiled residents Russell Vassallo, an amazing animal rescuer, and Jerry and Sandy Tucker, founders of the Galilean Home Ministries.

Looking over The Casey County News, I read that Rusty Joe’s Boutique and Antique Shop is now also going mobile. Michelle Tucker and Stella Beard had a bus retrofitted to do commerce as Rusty Joe’s Traveling Boutique, with, among other items, “attractively displayed antiques, women’s clothing, (and) Kentucky jewelry…”

Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood day trips (and sometimes overnight ones) orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points being in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state now. After teaching 28 years, Steve spends much of his time today writing and reading about the state, and still enjoys doing those one dayers (and sometimes overnighters). “Kentucky by Heart” shares part and parcel of his joy. A little history, much contemporary life, intriguing places, personal experiences, special people, book reviews, quotes, and even a little humor will, hopefully, help readers connect with their own “inner Kentucky.”

In the news, too, the paper told of three local men helping fight forest fires out west in Wyoming and Utah. The “Out of the Past” section included a small piece about a local man named Trey who made a brief return to Casey County as a newly ordained Roman Catholic priest.

A little further down the column, it mentioned that eight retiring educators were honored. In Casey County, as throughout the state, people are valued in their communities.

Down in the Knox, Whitley, and Laurel County area, the Times-Tribune had a feature titled “The Swing of Things.” It told of the Larry Stevens Playground being rebuilt after an inspection caused it to be shut down due to being unsafe. According to the article, London Mayor Willard McBurney said: “It’ll be something we can be proud of. For a playground, it’s really going to be state-of-the-art.”

Perusing the “Calendar” section of the Cynthiana Democrat, in north-central Kentucky, I learn of a host of things going on at the Cynthiana-Harrison County Public Library. There is a “Book Babies” program for up to 18-month-olds, along with one that celebrates penguins, plus a women’s book discussion group will meet.

There’s even an event called “Pancake Supper & Family Game/Puzzle Night.” Many other events at the library I did not even mention.

Also in Harrison County, did you know that the Berry Homemakers meet the first Tuesday of the month, or the Antioch-Robinson Homemaker Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month at the Antioch Mills Christian Church on US 27 N.? I found that out in “the Democrat.”

Finally, Brooksville’s The Bracken County News announced the upcoming “Augusta Rotary Live Duck Race.” Duck trainer Allison Parker mentioned that “’Quacklin’ Rosie’ and ‘Quacker Oats’ currently have pretty good odds…” As for me, I’m hoping both “feather the storm” of pressure and do well.

Feel free to contact me about your small-town good news found in your local newspaper.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Read his KyForward and NKyTribune columns for excerpts from all his books. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared at KyForward September 12, 2017.

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