Kentucky by Heart: Change in location means gardening — and a surprising interest in the weather

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Starting as a toddler, and for most of my youth, hearing my parents talk about the weather seldom interested me. It didn’t seem to matter to me then that the produce we grew in our gardens and the tobacco crops we raised were so dependent upon cooperating weather. It didn’t dawn on me that our small farm’s bountiful production could someday lead to a college...

Kentucky by Heart: Historic Keene community might not be fancy, but it’s home … and always will be

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist For nice rides in the country, I often take Highway 169 in the central Kentucky part of the Bluegrass area from my home in Woodford County to Jessamine County. The grassy and rolling terrain of the area is one of my favorite scenic tours. Small farms with grazing Thoroughbred horses and cattle, an abundance of pretty homes, and historical stone walls along the...

Kentucky by Heart: Multi-talented Skeeter Davis — a true story about a Kentucky girl making good

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Stripping tobacco as a young boy back in the 1960s was never something that excited me, but I had to get used to the fact that we, as a family, would be doing just that every fall in an especially built room inside the outside car garage. I also didn’t get excited about my parents’ choice of music on the radio —- country, and it was the twangy type. But frequently...

Kentucky by Heart: Temporary jobs help build character while preparing us for our roles in life

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist On the way to enjoying my careers in teaching and now writing, I held many temporary jobs. All were important transitional moves in my life course that led where I wanted to be, but invariably I was thankful that the temporary tag was on each. Those jobs gave me valuable life experiences as well as needed financial support; looking from my current perspective,...

Kentucky by Heart: New book ‘Battletown Witch’ explores witchcraft and how we respond to fear

By Steve Flairty KyFoward columnist In the woods near the small rural community of Battletown, in Meade County, many people say they have seen a ghost. The ghost, they claim, is Leah Smock keeping an eye on things around the place where she was burned as a witch in 1840. She seems to be in full control these days, as her gravestone is hidden way off back in the woods, guarded by poisonous snakes....

Kentucky by Heart: Sweet clover became a savior, not a scourge, for bees and Pendleton County farmers

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Years ago, I remember reading something about my mother’s native Pendleton County that spoke of “clover” as a significant part of the county’s heritage. Recently, I did a little more research; my connection to the area’s history is strong, mostly because Mom and her twin sister were raised in Butler’s noted Fryer House, which today houses the Pendleton...

Kentucky by Heart: The Squire’s Sketches of Lexington flames interest in city’s most noted fires

By Steve Flairty KyForeward columnist I recently picked up a copy of noted Lexington historian J. Winston Coleman Jr.’s book, The Squire’s Sketches of Lexington (Henry Clay Press, 1972). After reading through about a third of the text, I was struck by the frequent mention of large fires in the city happening during the time period starting in the late 1700s, resulting in the loss of many well-known...

Kentucky by Heart: The day Thomas Clark helped my son with a social studies question and other tidbits

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist During my years teaching fourth grade, students knew that whatever social studies lessons I taught, I would make direct connections to the state of Kentucky. Not only did I see the practice as educationally sound, but it was also a good opportunity to indulge my Bluegrass passion. When I taught a six-week unit on Kentucky, it often was the highlight of the year...

Kentucky by Heart: Following the Reds through the years is more about family than baseball

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Note: This column originally appeared on March 29, 2016 It’s major league baseball time again, and as the Cincinnati Reds get their season underway, my thoughts drift to years past as a fan of the team while growing up about 25 miles from home field. I count over a half-century as being a Reds fan. Looking back at my staying power, the number of wins are only...

Kentucky by Heart: Bad boy Peter Cartwright was the Commonwealth’s own circuit rider extraordinaire

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist The Methodist Church leadership called them “traveling” clergy. They traveled on horseback, usually with a simple handbag and of course, a well-used Bible. They often navigated rough terrain, both hilly and over creeks and valleys with thick undergrowth, as well as less challenging landscapes as they moved from area to area. They were popularly called “circuit...

Kentucky by Heart: Veteran outdoorsman Caudill teaches survival … and appreciation for things green

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Nature Reliance School founder and chief instructor Craig Caudill calls wilderness survival “a lazy man’s game.” In what must seem counter-intuitive to many, he explained it this way. “The game of survival is nothing more than ‘calories in, water in…calories out, water out,’’ he said. “You’ve got to make sure you are conserving as much energy...

Kentucky by Heart: When it comes to having pun in Kentucky, there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Note: This column originally appeared in KyForward on April 5, 2016 I have always enjoyed playing with words, and mostly in a fun sort of way. Call me corny, silly, or otherwise, but I consider myself a “pun guy.” (Some would say “fungi,” but I’m not sure how to take that.) Until recently, it didn’t dawn on me that my own state of Kentucky’s geography...

Kentucky by Heart: For Kentuckians, memories of state tournament are all part of our social fabric

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist One of the first times I heard the phrase “Greatest Show on Earth” was at the Kentucky High School Basketball Tournament. The announcer expressed that hyperbole during the introduction, but for me way back in the 1970s, awash with rural state culture and the popularity of hoops, I didn’t consider it as hyperbole. It WAS the greatest show, and the district...

Kentucky by Heart: Spunky youth overcomes physical limits through positive approach to life

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When ten-year-old Maddie Blankenship talks about being a leader, as she did recently as a guest speaker for Grace Gorrell and her leadership studies class at the University of Kentucky, she is quite eloquent. “My friends and I say we are ‘Team Maddie’ and we make it matter,” she said on that day. “Making it matter means helping others, doing random nice...

Kentucky by Heart: Diverse sampling of stories best illustrate, explain life in the Blue Grass state

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist In last week’s Kentucky by Heart, I shared a virtual tour of Kentucky via the books I have on the shelves in The Kentucky Room, which is another name for my personal writing room at my home in Versailles. My focus was on some noted authors from the state, and for whom their books are ones I most aggressively collect, including: Wendell Berry, David Dick, Thomas...

Kentucky by Heart: Writing room provides many opportunities for virtual trips, enriching experiences

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist My sweet spot for leisurely travel destinations is almost always centered within the state of Kentucky. I don’t feel deprived at all in saying so about what might seem to be such modest expectations; Kentucky is a special place that I can both enjoy and feel a sense of pride as I travel it. Call me simple in tastes, but it won’t matter a bit to me. There’s...

Kentucky by Heart: For many kids across the state, Summer Food Service Program is literally a lifesaver

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Valerie Knight is a big supporter of a government program that she believes is well worth the expenditures. At her position as Director of Food Services for Webster County Schools in western Kentucky, she sees poor children receive a dose of love and kindness outside the scope of the regular school year, during the summer, and it starts with nourishing food from...

Kentucky by Heart: Refugee couple from war-torn Bosnia adds to richness of life in Bardstown

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist Ed. Note: This story is reprinted from the 2008 first volume of Steve Flairty’s Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes book series and appeared previously in KyForward. The couple lived a charmed life. Dzevad won renown as a member of both the Bosnian national soccer team and later as a professional player. Living in a place where a fledgling democracy had many economic...

Kentucky by Heart: Hofferts’ historic home renovations lead to some remarkable discoveries

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist When John Hoffert and his wife, Kim, left Roanoke, Virginia, and located back to the their native northern Kentucky area in 2011, they looked to buy a house within a 15-minute commute of John’s new job in Cincinnati. The prospect of finding an older home with character, then rehabbing it, sounded awfully good to them. Besides, they had a good experience while...

Kentucky by Heart: Schuhmanns one example of retired folks giving back to their communities

By Steve Flairty KyForward columnist I was thrilled to see that two friends from Campbellsville, Fred and Betty Sue Schuhmann, were honored recently by their local Kiwanis Club with the 2016 “Santa’s Helpers” award, according to an article in the Central Kentucky News-Journal. In the article, their friend and the one who nominated the retired couple, Sara Cobb, said: “They are the kind of people...