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A Lick And A Promise

Before David Dick died July 16 he left us with three columns. I debated the propriety of printing them posthumously, finally deciding it would be a disservice not to print them: to David, since he wrote them to be published; and to readers like you, who have admired and encouraged him over the past 21 years.—Paul Wesslund

Every now and then I’m asked what “lick” means, and I scratch my noggin and say, “Well, it’s a small amount of something or other”—anything from a “cowlick”—a child’s stubborn lock of hair—to a trickle of water, to a spark of electric juice. Doesn’t take much to make a lick.

As for “Plum Lick,” there’s a legend that Native American hunters carried plums for snacking in pouches and spit out the seeds, creating plum trees along what would become the Bourbon-Montgomery County line. Couldn’t prove it by me, but I like the sound of it. They probably licked their chops while doing it.

Then there’s the local saying, “He hasn’t hit a lick of work since Hector was a pup.” Why Hector and not Joe, John, Charles, or David is not clear.

“Lick a calf over again” suggests the job wasn’t done right the first time. Might’ve licked your wounds on the rebound.

“Lick and a promise” falls in the same slapdash category as dribs and drabs.

And how about a lick log—a log with holes cut in it to hold salt for cattle. And if you want to come to an agreement or settle an account with somebody, you “lick thumbs,” as long as you didn’t lick their boots in the process.

In DeLorme’s Kentucky Atlas & Gazetteer, there are more licks from the Big Sandy to the Mississippi than an undoctored dog has fleas.

Some are Big Bone Lick, Buck Lick, Bullitt’s Lick, Red Lick Creek, Flat Lick and Old Flat Lick (communities), Clay Lick, Deer Lick, Deer Lick Creek, Grassy Lick, Paint Lick, Big Fork of Rock Lick, Salt Lick (community), Snake Lick Creek, Lick Branch of Difficult Creek, Lick Branch of Rock House Fork of Pawpaw Creek, Lick Branch of Troublesome Creek, Lick Branch of Stinking Creek, Lick Creek (community), Lickskillet (community), Peyton’s Lick (church), and Cow Branch of Ash Lick Fork of Smith Fork of Right Fork of Peter Creek. No telling how many licks I’ve left out. If yours is missing, drop me a short note and let me know. If you know the origin of your lick, all the better.

What’s the moral of this search for truth? We here on Plum Lick believe all our rivulets of life-sustaining water, in all our place of places, have an important story to tell and should not be forgotten or ignored in the mad rush of civilization.

The smallest creature has a right to be recognized. Rhode Island has its place in the sun as much as Texas. Of the 50 states, only Alaska has more stream shoreline than Kentucky. As for the goodness of people, our state of so many licks is unexcelled.

When it rains we rejoice, in times of August drought, we wait for the licks to awaken. They always have. Probably always will.

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