A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Kentucky by Heart: Inspired to write, honor everyday people by David and Lalie Dick


 (Photo by David Perry)

Lalie and David Dick have co-authored numerous books through their Plum Lick Publishing Co., which was named after David Dick’s ancestral Plum Lick home in Bourbon County. (Photo by David Perry)


By Steve Flairty
KyForward columnist

I often present the word “inspire” to elementary school students I teach. I’ll usually start by asking if they ever imagine themselves as a certain University of Kentucky basketball player while shooting hoops. Typically, a large number of hands fly upward saying yes to the question. Then, I ask: “Did the player you’re pretending to be tell you to do that?” After most heads shake no, I’ll simply make the point that each was inspired to do so because of their admiration for the UK player. At that point, students have a pretty good idea of the term’s meaning.

Steve Flairty grew up feeling good about Kentucky. He recalls childhood trips orchestrated by his father, with the take-off points in Campbell County. The people and places he encountered then help define his passion about the state. “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.”

David Dick inspired me greatly as a fledgling writer, starting about 12 years ago. David was a long-time print, television and radio journalist with strong roots in Kentucky, though born in Cincinnati. He was a writer at WHAS Television and Radio from 1959 to 1966, and, I remember watching him report news on CBS-TV and on radio broadcasts, as his career stretched from 1966 to 1985 nationally and internationally.

After he retired, he settled with his wife Lalie in his ancestry home at Plum Lick, in Bourbon County, where David was a sixth-generation resident at the location. He enjoyed raising sheep, which he shared in stories written in his first book, View from Plum Lick, in 1992. He would also serve as the director of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and write the back-page magazine column for Kentucky Living. He won a long list of awards for his literary work.

When David left UK in 1996, it was full-speed ahead, along with Lalie, on writing nonfiction books and articles with a definite Kentucky setting. The idea he portrayed, and embraced, was in regard to the virtue of people he called “quiet Kentuckians,” or common folks across the state having not spectacular but often inspiring stories worthy of being shared.

I read David’s stories, and I identified with his subjects. I grew up with people similar in two small towns in southern Campbell County, and I liked how he, as a writer, acknowledged their dignity. I considered David Dick a mentor from afar, and I put him in the category of two other Kentucky writer favorites, the deceased Joe Creason and Byron Crawford, both of whom penned a column for the Courier-Journal for many years. Creason and Crawford gleaned fascinating stories from everyday people, as well, and I loved reading their words.

 (Photo by David Perry)

Author Flairty was greeted as an old friend by David Dick, shown here in his office, and his wife Lalie when Flairty interviewed the couple for a magazine story in the early 2000s. (Photo by David Perry)


But a lucky break put me in a position to get to know David and Lalie in the early 2000s. A greenhorn in published writing (I was still a full-time teacher, too), I was assigned to do a profile of the two for Kentucky Monthly. It was both exciting and a bit scary to think that a novice like me would be interviewing a nationally known, award-winning journalist, along with his also very talented writer wife. Would my inexperience show? Would they respect me enough to sit down and give me the time of day without rolling their eyes or falling over with laughter?

I arrived at the Dick household in Plum Lick on a chilly Sunday afternoon in December, tape recorder in hand and trying not to appear nervous. The couple received me with a gracious spirit, like an old friend visiting them rather than a magazine writer carrying out an assignment. I was offered something to drink and a pastry as we made small talk in their living room, one that featured a rather large, well-stocked book shelf that sheltered many old tomes.

Even with the preliminaries done, I was still nervous. Soon, I explained what I hoped to accomplish by talking with them, then proceeded to turn on my cassette tape recorder to get rolling on the interview. Recording the words by tape would give no compelling reason to take fast and furious notes. I could do that in the privacy of my home later while transcribing the interview. I simply need to ask questions and listen to David and Lalie’s responses.

Four hours later, I left Plum Lick and was feeling pretty good about interviewing a noted journalist, along with his wife, in a historical house I’d heard so much about. A huge bonus was that the couple gifted me with about six or seven of their books, all signed. I couldn’t wait to get back to Lexington and start the writing process for the magazine article.

Arriving home in Lexington over an hour later, a sinking feeling took hold after discovering that I had taped nothing, or very little, of the interview. In my nervousness, I failed to properly check to see if the recorder was, in fact, taping. It wasn’t. Now I had four hours of talk with almost no documentation, except for what was in my head—and I was forgetting it as the hours passed.

I remember an important comment David made during the interview: “Don’t let a story go cold.” That inspired me. I quickly grabbed a paper and pen and wrote everything I could remember that was said that afternoon. By what seems a miracle some dozen years later, I was able to submit to Kentucky Monthly a credible manuscript that appeared as an article several months later. The couple seemed pleased when I talked to them later about it.

I got to know the Dicks pretty well in the ensuing years, usually seeing them at book fairs and other book signings. In 2008, David Dick penned the foreword to the first in my series of Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes books, and it was a marvelous, well-crafted piece. He seemed, by his words, to understand what I tried to accomplish: to give proper tribute to ordinary Kentuckians and their personal stories.

I was in a grocery store while hearing about David’s death in 2010 from prostate cancer. He had courageously fought the disease for many years, and it was a frequent topic of his writing. I shed a few tears on that day, knowing that much of my literary strivings, including the successes, had been inspired by him. In a general way, I model much of the writing I do today after David, and I’ll never let his effect on me “go cold.”

Besides View from Plum Lick, here are other books authored (mostly nonfiction) by David and Lalie through their own Plum Lick Publishing:

By David

-A Journal for Lalie: Living through Prostate Cancer
-Peace at the Center
-A Conversation with Peter P. Pence
-The Quiet Kentuckians
-The Scourages of Heaven
-Follow the Storm: A Long Way Home
-Jesse Stuart: The Heritage

Co-authored with Lalie

-Home Sweet Kentucky
-Rivers of Kentucky
-Kentucky: A State of Mind

Click here for more information about the books.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



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. His new book, “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” has recently been released and is available for purchase here. Flairty is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, as well as a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Read his past columns for excerpts from all his books. him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or friend him on Facebook. (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

To read more of Flairty’s Kentucky by Heart series on KyForward, click here.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment