Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

August 31, 2012

Tim Preston: Taunted by fish talk, T-shirts and Bern’s birthday: 9/2/12

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — I’ve enjoyed a little time on the road in recent days, and the pleasant weather we experienced last week really enhanced the travel time.

The down side, however, is my desire to go fishing has been rekindled in a serious way and I can’t seem to find enough time to do anything but wish about it. There is a business-related point to the following rambling, so bear with me.

Making the situation even tougher, I have randomly encountered people who have been fishing and I can’t get enough talk about which fish are biting on what and where.

Speaking with an angler from Prestonsburg, I enjoyed an update about the river I grew up with. Only a handful of people refer to it by the proper title “Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy,” and (along with the railroad tracks) it was a favorite place for me and my childhood buddies.

We simply called it “The Big Sandy,” although to be correct, the Big Sandy River is the stretch that flows from Louisa toward Ashland and the Ohio River after the Levisa and Tug forks combine in Lawrence County.

The problem with my childhood version of that river was the pollution and litter. Many “straight pipes” directly connected the toilets of riverside homes with the waterway, and there came a time when it was considered common sense to avoid eating any fish caught from there. I remember a friend joking he wouldn’t worry about drowning in that river, but he would be worried about his skin dissolving. So, I couldn’t help smiling when I got a firsthand report about an increasing number of people with canoes and kayaks who are currently rediscovering the Big Sandy as I once knew it.

The increased use of the river is in direct response to water quality improvements during the last 15 years, I was told by a man who admitted he doesn’t want other anglers to find out how good the smallmouth bass are biting in the stretch through Floyd County.

Getting to that point I threatened to make, people with boats strapped to their vehicles are not afraid to drive a couple of hours for a good outdoor adventure, and they tend to buy gas, shop and eat in the areas they visit. There are excellent opportunities from Elkhorn City to Louisa to further develop and promote that kind of tourism, and give us all something to be proud of.

And I have to salute another event that happened along that river this weekend.

For days, I’ve been bumping into people who want to know more about the Hillbilly Arm-Drop Drag Races at the Paintsville-Prestonsburg Combs Field Airport. If the weather held out, organizers expected up to 10,000 from an eight-state radius to participate. The event takes advantage of an existing resource and gives families something to get excited about close to home.

Many mistakenly believe the old airport is now a private runway, but I’m happy to report that is not the case. The drag races are conducted without any “track prep” to increase tire traction so there is no danger of unintended consequences when an aircraft is using the strip for aviation purposes. I’m planning a trip down that way next week for a story about the small airport’s role in modern Appalachia, and with a little luck may even get a chance to do a little flying myself.

Threads being printed

With a nod to the perseverance of the two-person Occupy Ashland team, I grabbed a camera and notebook Thursday to find Tina Webb and Liam Eddy and do a follow-up story about the local effort.

They had vacated by the time I got there, but I did drop in on Kyle Robinson at Print My Threads, who pointed me toward yet another great fishing-related story.

While Print My Threads specializes in screen printing, Robinson said he is pleased with the results of a new digital print machine in the shop that produces really snappy color for things like portraits. There was a small stack of shirts there for customer Ali Shuff, and the quality was apparent at a glance.

Dedicated to the needs of small business as well as several community organizations I also believe in, Robinson has proven himself to be an excellent member of the local small-business scene. He plans to launch a new website soon and I asked him to pass that information along when it happens. In the meantime, if you need something printed on a top-quality T-shirt, call Print My Threads at (606) 571-0297.

Bern’s birthday

I had to admire the effort that went into a local birthday greeting last week. I stopped by Chick-fil-A for lunch and looked out the window to see a large banner that appeared to be mounted in the sheer rock wall across the road above U.S. 23, reading “Thanks Bern. You rock!!!”

About the time I noticed the sign, I also saw Bern Orthmeyer hard at work tending to his duties as dining room host. Explaining he does not have a Facebook page, Bern said a loyal customer had started a birthday campaign on his behalf in celebration of his 61st birthday. Going a step further, he said one of the restaurant’s regulars surprised everyone with the banner on the rock wall. The sign, he said, was nailed directly into the rock after the customer used a ladder to get it as far up there as he could during a late-night stop beside the road.

“He wanted to surprise me and he certainly did,” Orthmeyer said.

I don’t plan to get into the birthday business in this column, but wanted to do a little something extra for Bern. He has brightened my day with his personable service on more than one occasion and I’m sure I’m not the only one who appreciates him — even if we didn’t climb a rock wall and hang a banner for him.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.