I know this will probably come as a complete surprise to many of you, but I actually spend days researching for each of these articles. Or at least the better part of an afternoon (extra points here if you can identify the Game of Thrones reference. Yes, Covid has given me the opportunity to re-watch the entire series way too often).
So, in researching Kentucky, I learned two amazing facts right off. Did you know that Kentucky actually exists outside of the first weekend in May when it serves as the worldwide inspiration to wear funny hats when not attending a royal wedding? Even odder, Kentucky exists as more than a couple of initials to appear under Mitch McConnell’s name on the news.
So, welcome to the rolling hills of Kentucky, the 15th State to join the Union, arriving on June 1, 1792. As might be expected, the name Kentucky is a bastardization of some Indian word. There is debate amongst scholars though as to which word(s) was used, not to mention which Indian tribes we stole the word from. Front runners include the Iroquois word ken-ta-wen, which means “land of tomorrow”. Personally, I discount this theory as it has been pretty well established that Tomorrowland was not opened until Walt Disney opened Disneyland in 1955. Other Indian words meaning meadow, prairie, river of blood, and Harcourt Fenton Mudd have also been suggested. Okay, I made up the last one, but I am re-watching Star Trek now for a change of pace.
The area now known as Kentucky was originally a county in the colony, and then the State, of Virginia, but by 1792 they decided that Richmond was not paying sufficient attention to them, so Kentucky became a State. The first non-native settlement in Kentucky was established in 1774. Originally named Harrodstown, it was established by James Harrod who led the team of surveyors that looked the area over. A year later Daniel Boone (King of the Wild Frontier) established Fort Boonesboro as the second non-native settlement. I have no idea where they got the name.
Kentucky is probably best known for the Kentucky Derby, bourbon, bluegrass, and having an extremely fertile county named as the best place to live in the rural United States by Progressive Farmer’s magazine. Oddly enough, that county is named Barren County.
Bourbon the drink got its name from Bourbon the county who stole it from the Bourbon family in France. Oh, and Bourbon County is NOT one of Kentucky’s 37 dry counties, that’s just an urban legend. There are also around 7.5 million barrels of bourbon in the State at any one time. There are only 4.5 million people, even at the height of the tourist season.
Kentucky is known as the bluegrass state. The grass is not actually blue there, but the grass flowers in the spring appear blue, hence the name bluegrass. I am sure that has been keeping people up at night.
Churchill Downs in Louisville Kentucky is the home to the Kentucky Derby. For those that have been living under a rock since the 1700s, the Kentucky Derby is an annual horse race that features lots of women pretending they are in a production of “My Fair Lady”, people drinking 120,000 mint juleps and about 7,000 liters of bourbon. In one day. There have been horses in the Derby with many colourful names over the years, but none of them has had a name that begins with the letter “X”. There is a lot of horse breeding and training in Kentucky, the thoroughbred is the State horse (I wonder if any other states actually have an official state horse?), but Man o’ War, one of the most famous horses to ever come out of the State, never ran a race inside of Kentucky!
More than half of the State is covered in forests, which is probably why Kentucky is one of the Nation’s largest producers of hardwoods. It might also have something to do with the fact that Kentucky boasts the largest elk population in the Eastern United States. With all those majestic elk around, why did they chose the eastern grey squirrel as the official state wild game animal? Does anyone really go out and hunt squirrel? Why?
Kentucky also has a sense of humor, why else would they designate goldenrod, a weed, as the official state flower? Like at least three other states out there, Kentucky claims that the cheeseburger was invented there. While that may be in dispute, there is no doubt that Harlan Sanders really did create and perfect his fried chicken recipe in Corbin, Kentucky. Bibb lettuce was also developed in Kentucky, but I have no idea why. I do not think the world is a significantly better place for it. Mother’s Day was also created in Henderson, Kentucky by a schoolteacher, Mary Towles Sasseen. There is no truth to the rumor that she then sold the idea to Hallmark. The first enamel bathtub was made in Kentucky. The world’s largest peanut butter manufacturing plant is the Jif plant in Lexington, Kentucky. Besides making 15 different types of peanut butter, the plant also produces many specialty nut butters.
Our nation’s gold depository is in Fort Knox, which is in Kentucky. Only one US President has ever visited the vault. Oddly enough it was our least ambulatory President, FDR. There has also only ever been one Congressional delegation to see all the shiny stuff. They went in 1974.
There are some unique things to see in Kentucky. Want to see the world’s smallest professional baseball stadium? Head on over to Federal Park. The stadium there was built in just 24 days for the Covington Blue Sox. If you have never heard of the Covington Blue Sox, you are not alone. They lasted only 2 months in 1913 as part of the Federal League of Baseball Clubs, a third major league. It didn’t really catch on (who wants to watch a round robin world series?). But they were a professional team, so it qualifies. If you are into ventriloquist dummies (and who isn’t? besides me?) – the Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell has the world’s largest collection of the little darlings. I do not know if Mr. Doody is there.
One thing in Kentucky I would really like to see is the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A giant sundial’s shadow touches the name of each veteran on the anniversary of his death. I think this is a beautiful tribute to those that served and sacrificed for our country.
And going from the sublime, to the ridiculous, I close with the usual smattering of odd laws from Kentucky.
A woman is not allowed to marry the same man more than three times. Frankly, any woman that tries should probably have her competency seriously questioned.
It is illegal to hunt fish with a bow and arrow.
It is illegal to shoot game out of the window of a moving vehicle. There is one exception though, you are permitted to shoot whales from out of the window of a moving vehicle. I doubt this comes up much as Kentucky is land locked.
No woman shall appear on any highway in Kentucky wearing a bikini unless she is either accompanied by at least two police officers, or is armed with a club.
Every citizen is required to shower once a year. This includes teenaged boys.
Anyone is considered sober as long as they can hold on to the ground. I have found no mention of their sobriety if the ground lets go first.
In London, Kentucky, it is illegal to have sex on a parked motorcycle. The motorcycle needs to be moving. Not just rocking.