My wife Loretta and I went up or down or both to Letcher County last weekend for the first time in more than three years and only the second time since Mr. Parkinson has tried to take over my very being.
My Dad’s set of Adamses had a family reunion in Whitesburg on Saturday, and if you ask any of my kinfolk where I live they’ll tell you “down in Paint Lick” even though my little village is 140 miles northwest of Whitesburg.
Now , if I lived north of the Ohio River, like a lot of Mom’s set of Adamses, I’d be “up in Ohio, Michigan or Indiana” or “out in Illinois or Missouri.” But it doesn’t matter where any of us transplants live, whether it be up-in, down-in or out-in, when we go home everybody says that we’ve “come in.”
When I lived in London, Pikeville and Prestonsburg, my friends and family simply told everybody that I’d “come home” because those places were only, more or less, down the road. But after I moved to Berea and then to Paint Lick, I was no longer close enough to seem neighborly, so instead of simply “coming home” I now “come in.” The point being, that, as far as the home folks are concerned, I might as well be in another state because I’m too far away to come home for supper any time I take a strong notion to do just that.
As far as I know, nobody who lives far away from the home place, like I do, ever says that they are “going in” but when I do go home, my brother Keeter will get on the phone to let somebody know that, “Ike’s come in. You ought to come by and see him.”
Invariably somebody will ask, “Which way did you come?” Because there is a standing argument as to which is the best and quickest way to get there from up here or down here or whichever it is. One side will argue for taking the Mountain Parkway and coming up Highway 15 to Hazard and the other maintains that taking the Daniel Boone straight in is the best route. I much prefer the Daniel Boone, but now that parts of 15 have been pretty much rebuilt, it may in fact be a bit quicker to get back home.
Old habits die hard. About 10 years ago the eastern Kentucky politicians sucked around and renamed the Daniel Boone to Hal Rogers Parkway because they figured The Prince of Pork might send more sausage up their way if they massaged the Congressman’s ego. I’m told now that there is another sneaky movement afoot to rename The Daniel Boone Forest “Hal’s Wood Patch” and yet another bunch of county judges want to call Boone’s Trace, “Rogers’ Footpath” in hopes that he’ll repay them with a mess of baby back ribs.
Personally, I think they should have called the road exactly what they wanted it to be: “Lard Truck Highway.” As the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee in Congress, Hal is generally first in line at the Pork Barrel. What the eastern Kentucky pols don’t seem to understand is that all the good cuts stay in Somerset and London gets most of the sausage and crisp bacon. Still, as one county judge told me a while back, he would “much rather have a good load of lard than not get any pork at all.” He said, “Hal Rogers may call himself a Republican, but he’s really the best placed Democrat we’ve had in Washington since Carl D. Perkins.”
So the road may now be named for yet another egotistical politician, but it will always be the Daniel Boone to me, no matter how many political posters they may put up at every mile marker calling it something else.
Last Saturday it rained for well over half our trip and then stopped right after we crossed the Red Bird River into Leslie County where the hills of home really do start taking shape. Deep hollows line the mountains on both sides of the road from there on into my sweet home. Giant puffs of fog were rising from the little valleys, more picturesque than anything I’d seen since the last time we were up there.
We had two good cameras in the car and Lo’s new cell phone is supposedly equipped with a hot rod camera if either of us could ever learn to use it. Unfortunately we did not have one of the grandkids along to show us how that’s done. I’m told that even some adults have learned to use them even though I haven’t seen anyone over 6 actually pull it off. Anyway, we were too in awe to actually stop the car and take pictures.
So we made it into Whitesburg right on time to eat way too much and get hugged by people who really want to do it. And the first thing my brother, Steve said to me was, “Well, I see you’ve made it in.”
Columnist Ike Adams is a native of Blair Branch at Jeremiah. He now lives at Paint Lick in Garrard County.