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Kentucky by Heart: Overcoming writer’s block by getting back to the basics… with a Kentucky twist

By Steve Flairty
KyForward columnist

I normally start writing the weekly Kentucky by Heart columns on Monday. That usually gives sufficient time to meet my Sunday deadline for the following Tuesday’s publication date. This past Wednesday, I sat at my computer having not written a word on KBH and with little idea what my topic for the week would be.

Frustrated, I decided to go back to the ABC basics.

Translated, that meant I’d note something with a Kentucky connection for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. So here’s what I came up with… heavily weighted toward MY heart connection to the state. After getting into a flow, it became a fun activity.

Here it is. Let me suggest you try it sometime!

A barn quilt in Nonesuch (From Woodfordcountyquilttrail.com)

A for Alexandria… It’s the closest town of significant size to where I was raised, in Grant’s Lick and later Claryville. It’s the longtime home of the Alexandria Fair, an event of which my dad served as a board member for years. I graduated from high school in Alexandria, too, though Campbell County High School moved to Claryville a few years back.

B for Butler… The town where my mother, Alma Faye (Fryer) Flairty, and her twin sister, Alta May (Fryer) Johnston, were raised in The Fryer House, now home of the Pendleton County Historical and Genealogical Society.

C for Claryville and Campbell County High School… See “A” above.

D for Danville… Danville is one of the most attractive towns in Kentucky. It has a pretty downtown, an acclaimed hospital, and good employment opportunities. Plus, Centre College is a great educational institution with a beautiful campus. I once considered living in the area.

E for Eastern Kentucky University… I bleed maroon (school colors) and possess three degrees from this school. I could go on all day about the positive difference it’s made in my life.

F for friendliness… Kentucky, I’ve found, is generally a friendly state. Having traveled to nearly all counties, I believe the western part tends to be the most openly hospitable, but all regions, when approached respectfully, show a “good people” mentality.

G is for goldenrod… The goldenrod is a good choice for Kentucky’s state flower, though a friendly discussion about the recognition of the symbol is healthy (previously, bluegrass and trumpet vine were state flowers before 1926). The yellowish-gold plant blooms from July through October all around the state.

Winchester Sign (Winchesterky.com)

H for Harrodsburg… The city is generally considered the oldest in Kentucky, and I still remember going as a student on a fifth-grade school field trip to Ft. Harrod in the mid-1960s. Visiting the site many years later as an adult, the smell of old wood in the structures immediately took me back to the original experience.

I for Island… Island is a community of several hundred in McLean County. According to George and Mary Jo Phillips, a married couple I profiled in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes book series, their church ministry decades ago helped encourage many young, poor individuals to aspire to and then go on to college. It was one of their proudest achievements, along with Mary Jo’s founding of the Mary Jo Phillips Methodist Daycare Center of Asuncion, in the South American country of Paraguay.

J for Justice Bill Cunningham… Bill is from Kuttawa, in Lyon County. He recently retired from his term as a justice on the Kentucky Supreme Court after a 40-year career in law. Bill has a son, Joe Cunningham, who is a congressman representing South Carolina. I count myself a friend of BIll, a great public servant and a good man.

K for Kentucky Derby or KFC… Take your pick: a great horse race or great tasting fried chicken.

L for Lucy Lou… Lucy Lou was the first female mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky—a Border Collie—who died in 2018.

M for Madison County… Home of EKU and Berea College, it is also home of a half dozen individuals recognized in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes book series.

N for Nonesuch… There is such a place as Nonesuch, a small community in Woodford County. It has two noted destination places of commerce: Irish Acres Gallery of Antiques and the Glitz restaurant. Reportedly gets its name from being a good place for agriculture…“there was no such place that grew so well.”

O for Oddville… The people who live in this small Harrison County community don’t see the place as odd, but rather, as home.

P for prayin’ people… Something Wildcat basketball fans do extra hard when they play Duke.

Q for barn quilts… Particular counties in Kentucky have been proactively adorning their rural areas with these framed and colorful likenesses of quilts; Harrison and Woodford come to my mind quickly.

R for Raintree County… This is the name of a big-budgeted 1957 movie shot partly in Danville and Frankfort starring Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.

S for SCAPA… The School for the Creative and Performing Arts, in Lexington, is a wonderful public institution of learning where I taught fourth grade for the last eight years of my full-time teaching career.

for Zachary Taylor… Taylor was the twelfth president of the United States. He was born in Virginia but at an early age to Kentucky to live. He defeated fellow Kentuckian Henry Clay to win the US presidency in 1848.

Steve’s step-granddaughter, Lily, playing xylophone for the Louisville Leopard Percussionists

U for Underground Railroad… The stealth way of moving American slaves northward to freedom saw Kentucky as a significant player. According to a link on Louisville.edu (The Underground Railroad): “Given the geography of American slavery, Kentucky became central to the Underground Railroad as the key border state in the trans-Appalachian west,–and the Ohio River became a veritable ‘River Jordan’ for black freedom fighters.”

V for Versailles… A nice central Kentucky community with small town charm, yet close to both Lexington and Frankfort. My wife and I moved here three years ago and have not regretted it. We love living near horse farms and have a one-acre lot to engage in the hobby of gardening.

W for Winchester… Winchester was a place I called home for twenty years; I taught in the Clark County Schools. I was fortunate to gain lifetime friends and never regretted the decision to settle in the town directly after graduating from college. The school system taught me how to teach!

X for xylophone… Xylophone is the instrument that my step-granddaughter, Lily, plays in the Louisville Leopard Percussionists, a popular youth percussion group in Jefferson County. Check them out!

Z for zest. . .It’s what I feel when I share about my wonderful state of Kentucky!

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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 KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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