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Back page reflections

Looking back on 12 years

AS KENTUCKY LIVING REFLECTS on 75 years of bringing us stories and information, I am thinking back on the more than 12 years I have been writing the back page. 

Following legendary journalist David Dick onto this page after his passing was a daunting assignment. David had treated us to great reading for 21 years, and he was a friend for whom I had great respect, both as a writer and a network news correspondent. My hope was to continue with subjects worthy of his legacy. 

He would likely have approved of one of my earliest columns about the disappearance of country stores—which Don Carter of Jessamine County poetically described as once being “the cultural hitching posts of many communities.” 

Of the stories since then, those passed along by readers have been the heart and soul of the back page. 

Remember the Spencer County couple, Raymond and Virginia Thomas, who met in 1925 after Virginia—who worked at a pants factory in Missouri—slipped her name and address into the pocket of a pair of riding pants that wound up with Raymond in Kentucky? The two married in 1928 and spent the rest of their lives on a farm in Spencer County. 

Then there was “Love in a bottle,” passed along by Sharon Rowlett of Henry County. Her grandfather, Creed Rowlett, and grandmother, Cynthia Barnes Rowlett, met and married after Cynthia, of Harrison County, put her name and address in a bottle that she tossed into the Ohio River more than 100 miles upstream, near Maysville. Creed’s brother found the bottle while fishing near the Trimble County shoreline and passed Cynthia’s address on to Creed, who had lost his wife in an accident. 

We told the story of the lone cedar tree on the Bluegrass Parkway right-of-way in Nelson County, which a passerby secretly decorated with Christmas ornaments every year, and we remembered a clothesline in western Kentucky’s Calloway County, a mountain cemetery in Pike, a rattlesnake crossing in Pulaski, a retirement home for race horses in Scott, the annual fall migration of monarch butterflies and the return of purple martins each spring. We waxed sentimental about roadside daffodils, dinner bells, the gift of imagination, my old ’57 Chevy and covered bridges. And we pondered that strange notch in the western Kentucky/Tennessee state line, the result of a faulty survey that may have given Tennessee a big chunk of what should be in Kentucky. 

We celebrated the Medal of Honor that was presented many years too late to the family of the late Lt. Garland M. Conner of Clinton County, and we recounted some last words that Fleming County Marine Pfc. Franklin Sousley wrote to his mother after helping raise the flag on Iwo Jima a few days before he was killed: “Watch the papers mom. They took a picture of us.” 

Thanks to all our readers, and especially those of you who share your stories with us each month on the back page. 

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