I spent my first day with The Daily Independent bumbling around downtown Ashland looking for the county courthouse. I assumed Ashland was the county seat.
That was 25 years ago. I lived in Ohio and had been working for the Ironton Tribune, so I didn’t know much about Kentucky except something something bourbon horses.
This is my last day at The Daily Independent because I am retiring. I still live in Ohio, but having crossed the river to get to the Independent newsroom some 20,000 times, if you include the days I went home for lunch, I know a bit more about the Bluegrass State.
I know you take your horses seriously. How seriously was brought home the day I opened another Kentucky newspaper and saw an obituary for an Arab sheikh, and it made the front page because he was a Thoroughbred horse owner with a presence in the state.
Or maybe it was an obituary for the horse and it mentioned the sheikh in passing. It was a long time ago. Point is, the horse was important, the sheikh not so much.
I know you take your bourbon seriously, too. You frequent bourbon bars. You collect bourbon bottles. You append its name on some varieties of beer, which by itself is God’s own beverage in the eyes of us Ohioans and doesn’t need any association with harder liquors other than as the better half of a boilermaker.
Then there’s your state song. Ours is “Beautiful Ohio,” and if you played it to a gathering of Ohioans we would look at each other in bemusement, knowing we’d heard the tune before but not exactly where — maybe as the theme of an old sitcom or something.
But “My Old Kentucky Home” gets you out of your seats and the hats off your heads every time, as quickly if not quicker than the national anthem.
And I know the Boyd County seat is Catlettsburg. I know there is a courthouse in Ashland, but it is a federal courthouse, and is not named after the rockabilly legend Carl Perkins as I mistakenly assumed in 1996 but for a venerated Kentucky congressman.
I know what a judge-executive is and what is meant by “homeplace.” I know the definition of “burley,” and it is not a synonym for “husky.”
Schools were my beat for most of my time here. It wasn’t my first choice, but looking back, it was the right one and I’m glad it happened that way. If there is a class of workers I respect as much, if not more, than my fellow journalists, it is teachers.
They are better educated than me, most of them with graduate degrees, but receive modest salaries which many are quick to begrudge them, and significant portions of which they plow, unsolicited, back into their classrooms in the form of supplies their districts can’t afford and the state refuses to pay for.
They don’t just say they care about kids; they live it.
So thanks to all of them.
Anyway, I’m tired. Writing is hard work and I’ve done enough, I think.
So I will impose on some of my favorite writers to finish up for me.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s Bilbo Baggins: “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: "There ain’t nothing more to write about, and I am rotten glad of it."
William Makepeace Thackeray in Vanity Fair: “Come, children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out."
Douglas Adams’ dolphins: “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”