Whitesburg KY
Partly cloudy
Partly cloudy

Why do I stay in ol’ ‘Kentuck’?

Why do I stay in ol’ “Kentuck” where winter winds are cold?

Why don’t I find a place down South where skies are always gold?

What makes me stay way up here amid the ice and snow,

When sand and sea bid, “Come to me; just pack your things and go.”

Is it pretty crocus face apeepin’ through the snow,

Or grass in spring so thick and green, you ‘most can see it grow?

Perhaps it’s those darn daffodils with perky yellow heads,

While tulips fend, “Don’t look at them; here, look at us instead.”

Is it trumpet call to post, first Saturday in May,

When horses hooves are heard by all across the USA?

Where julep cups are raised in toast and tears and bourbon flow

The moment when we stand to sing that song that warms our soul.

Or could it be that lure to fish on sunny summer days, To lie back on the riverbank and smell the fresh-cut hay? Well, maybe it’s that pair of wrens afixin’ up their nest,

Or wildflowers blooming everywhere and I an ugly guest.

Could it just be those dogwood trees, abloomin’ pink and white,

And mountain laurel in the woods and whippoorwills at night? Or maybe it’s that little bird that stays with us all year;

So pretty red, ‘gainst winter’s dread, reminds us he’s still here.

How could I leave that old bullfrog who lives down by the pond?

Who would he sing to sleep at night if all of us were gone? Who’d listen to the hound dogs bay, achasin’ down the coon, Or hear that lonesome woodland owl ahootin’ at the moon?

Is it the way our grandma fries that chicken in the pan, Or everything a cook could want from farmers’ market stands?

And in the fall, it’s basketball, played on hardwood floor,

When blue and white fill up the night and Wildcats start to roar.

Where old men chew a cud or two from “baccker” in the barn,

And then they spit on courthouse steps, and spin a doubtful yarn.

There’s talk about the “guvnor’s” race and wonder who will win.

“Let’s hope it’s not the one we got; we can’t stand him again.”

“Nay, nay,” I say, it’s none of this, though all these things are grand,

But rather where my grandpa’s dad said we would make our stand.

Our pioneer seed, he planted deep; it quickly took ahold, And wrapped our roots around a vein of black Kentucky gold.

There’s something to be said for Dead, alyin’ in one spot — Tucked under snug beneath the ground, just kinfolk in a plot. “Here lies our pa and his pa too, and over there is Clem, And Mom will sleep by Baby Will and you will be by him.”

Yes, even then, we stay with kin, for that’s Kentucky’s way, And ol’ limestone will tend our bones until we’re called away.

Who’s not to say, upon that day, He’ll whisper in my ear,

“Well, you’re in luck, you ol’ Kentuck’; we’re gonna stay right here.”

So when I look outside my door, and see that redbud tree, I understand why grandpa’s dad chose all this for me. And even though we didn’t reap too much in fame or gold,

To be “Kentuck” is good enough, so I don’t mind the cold.

Sharon Craig Tolliver is a parasitologist at the Department of Veterinary Science in the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky. She is a member of the Kentucky Poetry Society.

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