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Sentimental Treasures

Somewhere among the curious artifacts I have accumulated during nearly three and a half decades of wandering around Kentucky, there is a small swatch of fabric from one of actress Vivien Leigh’s dresses in the film Gone with the Wind.

It would be a great conversation piece—if only I could find it.

Before spring arrives, I may begin a search for many of the missing bits of treasured insignifica I have stashed in drawers, boxes, and who knows where else.

The scraps of Miss Leigh’s lavender calico, which she wore as Scarlett O’Hara in many scenes of Gone with the Wind, were given to me in 1980 by the late John Friedmann Jr. of Owensboro, who was an assistant to the film’s costume designer. Friedmann saved pieces of each star’s costume and sent them home to his mother in Daviess County, who made a Gone with the Wind quilt.

He insisted that I take a piece of “Scarlett’s dress” when I finished an interview with him. I later gave a few scraps to friends and family, and stored the last small swatch someplace for safekeeping. So safe that not even I know its whereabouts.

Somewhere, there is a piece of paling fence that once skirted the log home of the late novelist Janice Holt Giles in rural Adair County. When I visited her home to write of the need to preserve it, the fence was falling down and I picked up part of a broken slat. It may be right at home with a door latch from the corncrib of a long-vanished stock barn on the farm where I was raised.

There is an intricate, tiny chain, carved from a matchstick by a man in Taylor County who left the unstruck match head intact; a copy of a cryptic treasure map famous in eastern Kentucky folkore; a photo of an alleged ghost on the stairs of a Frankfort mansion; and a few frames of 16 mm film shot inside the gold vault at Fort Knox in 1974, when I was among a group of reporters allowed inside the vault to prove that the gold was still there. When the story was edited for a TV newscast, I kept a few frames of the outtakes.

One Easter Sunday long ago, while shooting a TV story about a flood in Bell County, I found in the mud a little girl’s new, red Easter slipper with the price tag still attached.

Not wanting to leave it stuck in the mud with the other flood debris, I brought it home and placed it in a box or a drawer where it is still hiding.

Someday when my children sort through my possessions, one of them will likely say, “Why on Earth would Dad keep this?”

One of two reasons, my child: either I could not part with it…or I couldn’t find it.

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