Category Archive 'Kentucky'

16 Mar 2016

A Bit of History

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kfc1

Alan Bellows informs us that one American advertising icon had a lot more interesting personal history than anyone would have supposed.

The seventh of May 1931 was a hot, dusty day in the mountain town of Corbin, Kentucky. Alongside a dirt road, a service station manager named Matt Stewart stood on a ladder painting a cement railroad wall. His application of a fresh coat of paint was gradually obscuring the sign that had been painted there previously. Stewart paused when he heard an automobile approaching at high speed—or what counted for high speed in 1931.

It was coming from the north—from the swath of backcountry known among locals as “Hell’s Half-Acre.” The area was so named for its primary exports: bootleg booze, bullets, and bodies. The neighborhood was also commonly referred to as “the asshole of creation.”

Stewart probably squinted through the dust at the approaching car, and he probably wiped sweat from his brow with the back of a paint-flecked wrist. He probably knew that the driver would be armed, angry, and about to skid to a stop nearby. Stewart set down his paint brush and picked up his pistol. The car skidded to a stop nearby. But it was not an armed man that emerged—it was three armed men. “Well, you son of a bitch!” the driver shouted at the painter, “I see you done it again.” The driver of the car had been using this particular railroad wall to advertise his service station in town, and this was not the first time that the painter—the manager of a competing station—had installed an ad blocker.

Stewart leapt from his ladder, firing his pistol wildly as he dove for cover behind the railroad wall. One of the driver’s two companions collapsed to the ground. The driver picked up his fallen comrade’s pistol and returned fire. Amid a hail of bullets from his pair of adversaries, the painter finally shouted, “Don’t shoot, Sanders! You’ve killed me!” The dusty roadside shootout fell silent, and indeed the former painter was bleeding from his shoulder and hip. But he would live, unlike the Shell Oil executive lying nearby with a bullet wound to the chest.

This encounter might have been as commonplace as any other gunfight around Hell’s Half-Acre were it not for the identity of the driver. The “Sanders” who put two bullets in Matt Stewart was none other than Harland Sanders, the man who would go on to become the world-famous Colonel Sanders. He was dark-haired and clean-shaven at the time, but his future likeness would one day appear on Kentucky Fried Chicken billboards, buildings, and buckets worldwide.

02 Jun 2015

Jean Ritchie, 8 December 1922 — 1 June 2015

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jeanritchie

Jean Ritchie, the best singer in the American Appalachian folk tradition, passed away last evening at the age of 92. She was born in Viper, an unincorporated settlement in Eastern Kentucky, and died in Berea, Kentucky.

America Folklife Center announcement. Formal obituaries have yet to appear.

Wikipedia bio.

Here is a good example of her repertoire and voice:

29 May 2012

Melungeon DNA Results Reported

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Some claim that Abraham Lincoln descended from a Melungeon family via his mother, Nancy Hanks.

Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, Ava Gardner, Loretta Lynn and George C. Scott, Tom Hanks and Heather Locklear, and Steve Martin are all alleged by some sources to have Melungeon ancestry.

The Melungeons are an ethnic group, commonly described as a “tri-racial isolate,” resident in the Cumberland Gap neighborhood of Eastern Tennesee, Southwest Virginia, and Eastern Kentucky. The Melungeons’ comparatively dark complexions and other exotic characteristics have been attributed to mixed Amerindian and Spanish or Portuguese descent. Other alleged origins included shipwrecked Turkish slaves or descent from Gypsies. One legendary account claims that they descend from a native people resident before the arrival of European colonists.

Recent research seems to offer a much simpler explanation: descent from African freedmen.

Yahoo:

[A] new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy [Not apparently yet available on-line] attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.

Melungeon DNA Projects

15 Sep 2011

Amish Captured!

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mugshots of the lawbreakers

Several members of the quaint religious minority which shuns modernity ran afoul of the law in Kentucky by refusing to pay fines assessed for refusing to afix orange triangles to the buggies, claiming a religious exemption. They were jailed for contempt of court. Where is the ACLU?

If you can’t see an entire horse and buggy, it’s hard to see that an orange triangle is going to help you.

Via The Smoking Gun.

14 Aug 2007

“You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike”

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If you are old enough to have used a computer in the late 1970s, you must have played Adventure. Who knew that the game’s inventor was Will Crowther, or that Adventure was based upon the real Bedquilt Section of Colossal Cave in Kentucky’s Flint Mammoth Cave System?

Adventure is now a topic for scholarship, see: Dennis Jerz’s study in Digital Humanities Quarterly.

More here.

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Hat tip to Karen L. Myers.


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