Spring is just around the corner. Soon, the daffodils and cherry blossoms will bloom and young men’s thoughts will turn to love. Some, though, will think of poke.  I’m one not of them, but I’m sure some people are ready to pick poke or whatever it is you do to harvest it.

Some of you ask: What the cuss is he talking about it? What is poke? I’ve written about it before. Read this. It will tell you all you need to know.

If you’ve read this blog before, you know that I grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky–the very heart of Appalachia. We like poke so much that we have an annual festival in its honor.

When I originally wrote about poke, I drew some mild rebukes for my perceived criticism. Well-meaning folks told me that I was misguided. It has caused me to reconsider my views.

My mother was a home economics teacher, and she taught me more than a little bit about cooking. I have now applied these skills to the issue of poke. Rather than dismiss this weed as foul and unpalatable, perhaps I should find a way to create my own culinary masterpiece. Thus, I present the perfect poke recipe.

First, you’ll need a mess of poke. How much is a mess? One pokeful should be sufficient. You’ll also need a pot of water, a raw onion and vinegar.  A double sink would also be helpful.

Thoroughly wash poke in cold water-or don’t. It doesn’t really matter.

Much like marijuana, remove all stems. In fact, smoking some of it while you cook may not be a bad idea.

Bring water to boil.

Place poke in boiling water.  You may also place poke in which poke is gathered into boiling water for added flavor.

Boil poke.

When poke reaches a consistency somewhere between algae and human baby excrement, it may be done. The smell should also approximate algae and/or fecal matter.

Drain poke in colander.

Look at poke.  Vomit in poke-tainted side of sink (This is where the double sink is important.  You do not want poke vomit in part of sink where dishes may be placed).


Open window and throw poke water into yard.  WARNING:  Poke water may contaminate ground water supplies or result in the actual growing of poke.  The author disclaims any responsibility for roaming hill jacks picking poke in your yard.  

Place prepared poke in toilet.  Flush repeatedly until all contents are expelled.  In cooking, this is known as “eliminating the middle man.”  In this case, the “middle man” is your digestive system.

Eat raw onion washed down with tall glass of vinegar in effort to erase memory of poke cooking.

So, there you have it. Bon apetit!


Here’s Something Funny: How I Talk

I talk funny.  No, I don’t have a speech impediment.  If I did, it’s likely that very few people would mention it.  Then again, maybe they would.  Still, I talk funny, and I know it.

I didn’t always know it.  For 18 years, I thought I sounded just fine, better than most, in fact.  I grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky, the very heart of Eastern Kentucky.  Harlan is Appalachia at its finest.  We’re proud of our heritage.  We’ll tell anyone who’ll listen.  Unfortunately, many times those people won’t understand a damn word we say.

When I was 18, I went to college but not very far from home.  I attended the University of Kentucky, a mere 3 hours (at most) from Harlan County.  There were a lot of Eastern Kentuckians at U.K., and those folks became my friends.  As one friend from Bell County (Harlan’s next door neighbor) told me “We’re like Indians.  We’re lost when we leave the reservation, so we have to hang together.” So we did.

I met people from different places, and they talked funny.  They had accents.  We did, too, but not so bad.  I knew plenty of people in Harlan with accents, heavy mountain accents.  They were hard to understand even for a native.  I didn’t sound like that.  Or so I thought.

When I was 19, I met a girl from Louisville–Kentucky’s big city.  She broke the news to me about my accent. For example, I pronounced the word “light” all wrong.  It has a short “i”, not the long, flat “eyyyyyye” I used.  In fact, I was practically saying “lat” instead of “light.”  Damnation.  Who knew?  She complained about my mumbling.  Little did she know, that she should been have happy that she couldn’t understand everything I was saying.

Once someone talks about your accent, the relationship is doomed, I suppose.  Nevertheless, I realized that I did have an accent.  I’ve been cognizant of it ever since.  You can’t tell I have an accent by reading this, but I do.  It’s a pretty thick one, too.  You know what?  I don’t give a fat damn about it.  [“Fat damn” sounds really good with my accent, by the way.]

What kind do I have?  Appalachian.  That’s not southern.  I don’t sound like Foghorn Leghorn, although folks in the Northeast will ask me if I’m “from the South.”  I’m not from the South.  I’m from the Mountains.

Our accents are a mountain drawl combined with a distinct mumble.  Our words run together but kind of slowly.  We aren’t fast talkers.  Go to Michigan if you want to hear that.  Our accents have so butchered the English language over time that translation is often required:

You from upair? Translation:  Are you from up there? [Up where, you ask?  Upair.]

Them yor people?  Translation:  Are you related to those people? 

He done got farred.  Translation:  That fellow was discharged from his employment.

Gimme em warcutters.  Translation:  Please hand me those wire cutters.

He thoed that out the winder.  Translation:  He threw that item out of the window.

I et a mater sammich yesterdee.  Translation:  I dined on a tomato sandwich yesterday.

Them fellers fit upair.  Translation:  Two gentlemen from up there engaged in fisticuffs.

He clum upair and worked on the chimley.  Translation:  He climbed up on the house to repair the chimney.

These are but a few examples, extreme though they may be.  We’ll say “tar” instead of “tire.” Someone may be “lexicuted” rather than electrocuted.  We fish with “minners,”not minnows.  People live in hollers or they may holler at you.  We’ll even “GARNT-tee” something for you.  We can do all of this but you won’t have a damn clue if we explain it to you.

So, you’re thinking:  “You people are ignorant hill jacks.”  No, we’re not.  That’s just how we talk.  I guess we have our fair shares of idiots, but almost all of us have accents which render us, to some extent, incomprehensible.

Now, not all mountain people have accents.  Some work very hard to get rid of them or to never have them.  I’m cool with that.  That’s not how I was raised, though.  We just talked how we talked.  We didn’t really think about it much, except for my mother who was a stickler for correct grammar.  She pointed out to me on many occasions that only the lowest of trash used double negatives.  “Ain’t” made her practically shriek, but not as much as “hain’t” did.

I do feel a bit bad for the folks who lose their accents.  They become sort of like people from Nebraska.  Try to say something and sound like someone from Nebraska.  You can’t, because no one knows what they sound like.  I can identify an Appalachian accent in about 5 seconds.

One group I don’t care about is those who shed their accents because of their shame of coming from the mountains.  They don’t want to sound like us.  It’s embarrassing.  They’re above that.  They are the same folks who pontificate about people in the mountains need, when in truth they wouldn’t care if the place was used for nuclear waste disposal.

So, how thick is my accent?  I was eating at my neighborhood Waffle House recently, when the waitress asked where I was from.  When I said Harlan, she said “I thought so.”  Oh, she then added:  “Half my family is from Harlan–the half we don’t speak to.”

Recently, I was in Las Vegas and struck up a conversation with a couple of strippers on the street.  One asked:  “Where are you from?  Your accent is so cute.”  I gave her five dollars.  I also met aspiring rapper, Young Cheese.  Even he asked me where I was from.

These ladies like my accent.  That's not so bad, is it?

These ladies like my accent. That’s not so bad, is it?

The obvious downside to my accent is that I am often incomprehensible to the untrained ear.  I once ordered lunch in a restaurant in Gloucester, Massachusetts.  The waitress couldn’t understand me nor could I her, yet we were both speaking English.  My lunch companions worked as translators.

My own wife struggles to understand me, and we have lived together for over half our lives.  Here is a typical exchange:

ME:  What’s for dinner?

HER:  What?

ME:  What’s for dinner?

HER: Huh?


HER: Don’t yell at me!

ME:  I have to yell.  You can’t hear.

HER:  What?


HER:  I am not! You mumble!

…and so on and so on. It always ends with my wife pointing out that her friend Lisa can’t understand me, either.  Maybe I do mumble, but you’d think 26 years would be enough time for someone to get used to it.

 [In my defense, I would note that my father often accused my mother of mumbling.  He was almost completely deaf, yet never conceded that his lack of hearing was an issue.]

As a lawyer, my accent comes in handy.  I handle many cases in Eastern Kentucky and sound the part with no real effort.  Occasionally, it’s a hindrance.  I recently tried a case in Illinois, and explained to the court reporter that she may have problems understanding me.  She did.

Mountain accents help in other ways, too.  They are really good when you threaten someone.  If someone with Locust Valley Lockjaw says he’ll kick your ass, you’ll laugh in his face.  When someone from Harlan says it–male or female–it has a ring of truth to it.  “I’ll whup your aaasss” just sounds serious.  It also makes curse words sound better. “Hell” comes out like “Haaaiiil.” Shit becomes “I don’t give a shiiiiiit.”  It creates an emphasis that others lack.  There are many more examples that good taste prevents me from discussing here.

The only time my accent bothers me is when I hear it.  I’ll hear myself on video and think “Man, oh man, I sound like a weed bender.”  I guess I do.

Naturally, many folks hear us talk and think we’re dumb. Many of these people are, in fact, dumb people with different accents. Sure, if we’re interviewed on TV, there may be subtitles, but we’re not dumb–at least not all of us. If you ARE dumb, a mountain accent won’t help. Nevertheless, it won’t actually make you dumb.

Of course, we aren’t the only people who sound funny.  New Englanders sound funny, too.  So do folks from Wisconsin.  New Yorkers are hard to understand, just like people from the deep south.  Appalachians just have the disadvantage of being in perhaps the last remaining group of people who can be openly derided with no repercussions.

Now, read this again in your best Appalachian accent. If you still don’t get it, watch the TV show Justified. It’s set in Harlan County, and they do a good job with the accents. Maybe you’ve seen the Patrick Swayze classic, Next of Kin. There are some good accents in that one, with the exception of Liam Neeson. I’m not sure what he was doing, but I’ve never heard anyone sound like that.

Aint’ got nuthin left to say about this hyere–nary a word.  I’m still upair in Lexington, but I’ve still got people in Harlan.  Reckon I’ll stay hyere, unless I end up somewheres else.  Proud to know you uns.  Holler at me if you get up this way.

© 2014

The Harlan County Way


I grew up in Eastern Kentucky–born and raised as we say. What is Eastern Kentucky? I guess you’d call it a region or sub-region of Central Appalachia. It is not, as you might think, simply the eastern half of the great Commonwealth of Kentucky. Here’s my personal map of the area:


This seemingly random boundary results in some folks calling it Southeastern Kentucky which, geographically speaking, is more accurate. A few notes:

  • We can’t include any counties on the Ohio River. They aren’t isolated enough. This excludes Boyd, Greenup, Lewis, etc.
  • I-64 runs through Montgomery, Bath, Rowan and Carter Counties. Again, they are excluded because of lack of isolation. Elliott County is an exception because–well–you just have to visit there to see.
  • Once you push too far north, you get out of the mountains, and we have to exclude you. Goodbye Fleming, Nicholas and Robertson Counties. Robertson County is the toughest to exclude. It definitely has an Eastern Kentucky feel to it, but it’s out.

The qualifications for Eastern Kentucky status include:

  • Mountains. You have to have mountains, not hills. Fleming County has beautiful, rolling hills, but they aren’t mountains.
  • Isolation. It has to be kind of tough to get there or at the very least it’s just on the way to somewhere else. Rarely is an Eastern Kentucky county a destination. On this criterion, Robertson County would qualify, but again, it’s just too far north.
  • Coal Mining. You need some coal mines, either now or in the past. We’re from coal mining stock.
  • Accents. You have to sound like us. Now, people in Carter County pretty much sound like us, but they have that Interstate.

I hail from Harlan County, the Eastern Kentuckiest of all counties. We’re isolated. Very isolated. Harlan County is not on the way to anywhere. If you need to go someplace that can be accessed through Harlan County, I guarantee that there’s an easier, quicker way to get there. Harlan–that’s what we call it–isn’t a destination, either. There aren’t any hotels to speak of, really. No Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn, etc. There are a couple of places to stay, and they’re okay. If you’re spending the night in Harlan, you probably have family there anyway.

We have mountains all around us.  We’re hemmed in.  We mine coal and have for over 100 years.  We also have accents, heavy mountain accents–the kind that can be indecipherable even to natives of the area.

I don’t live in Harlan now, but I’m still a Harlan Countian. Always.  So, I speak of how it was 30 years ago.  One of the great things about Harlan is that changes very little.  It’s still pretty much the same.

Now, don’t confuse Harlan County with the town of Harlan, our county seat. If someone tells you that he or she is from Harlan, they could mean any town from Pathfork to Holmes Mill to Cumberland to Cranks. Only if we’re talking to another Harlan Countian would we narrow the description to the town. Myself, I’m from Loyall which is three miles from the town of Harlan.


I’ll say I’m from Harlan, but don’t get confused. I’m from Loyall.

Unless you lived in the town of Harlan, you don’t go to the “city” schools–Harlan High Elementary and Harlan High School. I attended Loyall Elementary and Junior High and James A. Cawood High School. Cawood was named after James A. Cawood, long time Superintendent of the Harlan County Schools. None of my schools still exist. Now kids go to Harlan County High School which consumed Cawood, Evarts and Cumberland High Schools. We used to be territorial based on our schools. When we went to high school, we identified as being from Loyall or Hall or Wallins. We rarely hung out with anyone from Evarts or Cumberland–in those days, they had their own high schools. They might as well have been in different states.


The vast majority of Harlan Countians are proud to be from Harlan. We are our own world. We like that it’s called Bloody Harlan by some folks even though that name is based upon events which occurred 70 years ago. Bloody Harlan is just badass. We like being the badasses of Eastern Kentucky.


Your author proudly claims his heritage.

Many people watch the FX series Justified. Justified portrays Harlan as a lawless frontier of wanton violence. Harlan Countians like Justified. We like people to think we’d kill them for some trivial reason.

Before Justified, many people got their image of Harlan from the award-winning documentary Harlan County USA which followed the Eastover coal mine strike at Brookside, Kentucky. Harlan County USA divides us into two groups: Those that love it and those that hate it. The ones who love it love the depiction of rough and ready union brothers and sisters ready to wage war with the coal company thugs. The rest of us (that includes me) hate the image of Harlan Countians as violent, uneducated hooligans. They point to the many fine folks in the county who were (and still are) horrified by the goings on at Eastover. The truth, of course, probably lies somewhere in the middle. The folks in Brookside were surely Harlan Countians as was the chief gun “thug,” Basil Collins. Basil was a neighbor of ours when I was a kid, so I know he was real. My mother drove through Brookside to go to work every day, so I also know the strike was real.  Harlan has always been divided into pro- and anti-union.  It still is in some ways, although it has been many years since the United Mine Workers Association held great sway.

That bastion of journalism, Hustler Magazine, once listed Harlan (the town) as one the three meanest towns in America. It was described as a place where people only smiled when they heard that someone had died. Harlan Countians did not like that. Not at all. I suspect it’s mostly because they didn’t care much for Hustler, at least not publicly.

Overall, we like the stereotypical portrayal of Harlan. Harlan is tough. Harlan is mean. Harlan is total badass.

Growing up, I didn’t feel particularly tough. Then, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky and found out that I was pretty tough by Lexington standards. For instance, threats didn’t faze me. I knew that truly dangerous people don’t threaten much. They just inflict harm. Of course, there’s a downside.  A mouthy little man like me finds out the hard way that bad is good, but big is better.  Bad and small isn’t a recipe for success.


Who are the Harlan Countians? Besides the accident of birth, we have certain commonalities:

  • We know that houses have winders and chimleys
  • We mispronounce light, fight, white and night.
  • We all know someone named Lonzo.
  • We have accents which are obscured by our penchant for mumbling.
  • We know at least one person who has been shot with a gun by someone else or by themselves accidentally.
  • We own guns.
  • We are related to at least one coal miner.
  • We say Papaw and Mamaw.
  • We know trash when we see it, and I’m not talking about garbage pick up.
  • We know at least one person whose mother was really their grandmother, and sister was their mother. Trust me on this one.

Harlan Countians can be found everywhere. Who are we?

  • The Stalwarts

These are the folks who stayed in Harlan. They are either Harlan by birth or moved there at a young age. They might have gone to college or joined the military. Regardless, they came back. Maybe they never left.

These are small town people just like in every small town. Small town life can be hard or easy. If it’s hard, it’s hopeless. If it’s easy, there’s nothing better. In that regard, Harlan is Small Town, USA. There are doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, coaches, laborers, deadbeats and criminals. There are good people and bad people. Like anywhere else, you have to hope to you don’t cross paths with the bad ones at the wrong time.

Among this crowd are those that my father called “off the grid.” He said we had a sub-culture of people “so far off the creek” that they weren’t plugged in to the modern world. That is certainly true, but I must say that those unfortunates (if that’s what they are) are the in minority.. They may be from such places as Shields, Jones Creek, Smith, Cranks, Punkin Center or Happy Top, although I can name you folks from all those places who have done quite well for themselves.

Harlan is no more defined by any subculture than Chicago should be defined by its sad history of public housing or New York by the worst of its slums. Yes, we have folks living in poverty–too many (as though there is an acceptable level of suffering) but most folks live just fine.

My parents were stalwarts. My Dad was born in Evarts and–expect for military service and college–never lived anywhere else. My mother moved to Harlan County from Pike County at around age 12 and never left except to attend college. They had no desire to ever live anywhere else. And they didn’t.

  • The Outlanders

I am an outlander. An outlander is someone who used to live in Harlan. We’re still Harlan Countians. We just live somewhere else. There are a lot of us spread over the country, but we still think of ourselves as being from Harlan. I haven’t lived in Harlan in 30 year, but if someone asks where I’m from, “Harlan” is the immediate response.

Some are like me. I went to college and had personal and professional opportunities that pulled me away. Others leave to find better opportunities.

We outlanders like our Harlan roots. It’s a kind of mountain street cred. If we meet anyone else from Eastern Kentucky, we can get instant acceptance with a simple “I grew up in Harlan.” Translation: “Despite appearances, I will kill you if necessary. So, watch your step.  I’d hate to have to kill you.  Just kidding–about the ‘hate’ part. I am a badass.”

  • The Pretenders

There are people who will pretend to be from Harlan or any place else in Eastern Kentucky. That’s right–they’ll pretend. They have cousins or in-laws or remote ancestors who hailed from the mountains. This, so they say, makes them mountain people. Of course, it doesn’t. We laugh at them but let them have their fun. They’re usually the folks who dream of turning all of Eastern Kentucky into a massive tourist destination by having all the people who live there pack up and move. Then, they can come back and pay admission to see where they used to live.

Sometimes, these people would show up to help us.  We were always suspicious of outsiders, especially those offering “help.”  We could tell if you were from Ohio or Michigan or some other exotic place.  You talked funny.  You weren’t one of us.  Go help someone else.

  • The Loathers

These folks are Harlan Countians, but they don’t like it. They might even live in Harlan, but it doesn’t suit them. It’s too dull. It’s boring. There’s nothing to do. There’s no future. It’s bleak. But they don’t always leave. They just hang around and complain.  Most of us pass through this phase at some point.  Many never leave it.

Some of these folks do leave Harlan–a lot of them, in fact. They go to other parts of the state or country and live as ex-Harlan Countians. They don’t like being from Harlan. They don’t want to sound like Harlan or look like Harlan. They pity Harlan. They know what’s best for Harlan, though, and won’t hesitate to tell you. Even though they know what’s best for Harlan, we don’t really like them.


My children are fascinated and perhaps slightly horrified that I grew up in Harlan. Even though they have visited my homeland many times, they remain baffled by it.

Even though I haven’t lived there in many years, I still visit.  I’m fortunate that my job regularly takes me to Eastern Kentucky. Harlan is quiet, unless you grew up near the railroad tracks like I did. Then it was quiet except when the trains ran, which seemed like every 15 minutes or so.

Loyall had a school, a railroad yard, one stop light, a movie theater (at one time), the Corner Store (a genuine soda shop), a gas station, a barber and a couple of stores. A convenient store replaced the gas station and stores.  The school closed. All that’s left is the yard and that light.   We had our own post office, City Hall and fire station. They’re still there.   About 1,000 people lived there when I was a kid.  Maybe 700 or so now.  It was quiet then.  It’s quiet now.

We once had a train full of nerve gas pass through Loyall.  People gathered at the railroad tracks to watch it.  Why?  I don’t know.  Maybe they were hoping to see (or experience) some kind of catastrophe. Maybe they just didn’t have much else to do.

Sometimes you hear gun fire in the distance, but that’s in the woods. There aren’t running gun battles anymore like the famed Battle of Evarts many decades ago.  Oh, people still get shot occasionally but at much lower rate than we’d like you to believe.

The county is big, about 50 miles across, but sparsely populated. Like much of Eastern Kentucky, the population has declined for decades.  One can argue that it’s always been over-populated what with the chronic high unemployment and high poverty rate.

The “first of the month” is a big time in Harlan. That’s when people get their checks. Government checks. Disability checks. Welfare checks. Food stamps, too. Town is flooded with people. When I was young, the Government Cheese truck looked like a scene from an African relief mission. People were practically hanging on it. Although we certainly weren’t poor, Government Cheese is excellent, and my Dad would get us a block whenever he could. I miss Government Cheese.

We only periodically had a movie theater, the fabulous Margie Grand in Harlan. It would occasionally be condemned but re-open at some point. It was an old theater whose best days had long past. Plaster would fall from the ceiling and you could throw popcorn on the stage in front of the screen and watch the rats scurry out to eat. It was tough to find two functioning seats together. It reeked of Pine Sol. It was a movie experience like no other. Sometimes, the film would jam and you could watch it melt.  It even had an old balcony where–rumor had it–black folks used to be seated. Loyall also had a theater–the Roaden–until I was about 6 years old. For many years now, Harlan has had a multi-screen cinema. Sweet.

Mostly, we didn’t do much, because there wasn’t much to do. Oh, you might go to Gary’s Lounge and Roller Rink sometimes. Gary’s was a fun place. One side was a roller rink. The other side was the Lounge, a long, narrow open room with a dance floor. A friend of mine once drank a beer from a girl’s cowboy boot at the Lounge. You don’t see that every day.

Mostly, we just hung out. Funny thing is, that’s what my kids do, even though they live in a small city with a million things to do. I guess teenagers everywhere just hang out. Oh, and we moaned and complained about not having anything to do. My kids do that, too.


When I went to college, I befriended other Eastern Kentuckians. One guy said we were like Indians who left the reservation. Even though I had been lots of places, leaving Harlan took me out of my comfort zone. Honestly, it took me years to adapt. I went from a county of about 35,000 people spread over 1,000 square miles to a campus of 20,000 + crammed into a few blocks. No wonder I was overwhelmed.

Since I’ve been gone, Harlan–like all of Eastern Kentucky–has been devastated by prescription drug abuse. We didn’t have that problem when I lived there. If we had a problem like that today in my slice of Suburbia, there would be a full-blown panic. Now, sadly, it’s a way of life in the mountains.

Coal mining runs in cycles.  Right now, it’s in a big down turn.  That hurts everyone.

There is a bleak side to Harlan, as anywhere else. Like inner cities, there are generations locked into a poverty cycle. Some escape, but most don’t. There has always been tension between those who work and those who don’t or won’t. Nothing will get a hard-working coal miner or school teacher fired up like a discussion about those “drawing a check.”  That’s how it was when I was a kid, and it hasn’t changed.

We also suffer from stereotyping.  Our teeth aren’t all that bad, although mine aren’t great.  We didn’t all drink Mountain Dew as babies.  I’ve never known anyone who didn’t wear shoes–and I knew some pretty rough characters.  I knew no one married to his own sister and just a handful married to their cousins.

We’re also the last of a breed–and this applies to all of Appalachia. We’re the last group that can openly derided.  We can be called ignorant, inbred, genetically inferior, toothless, shoeless–you name it.  If you do so, you won’t be called a bigot or a phobe of any type.  You might even become a best-selling author or reality TV producer.

My life is very much divided into two parts–before and after Harlan.  Now, far in the past, at least until I visit.  Give me about 30 minutes, and it’s like I never left.  That’s pretty cool.

If you live in Harlan, I can’t say that I blame you. If you don’t, I can’t fault you for that, either. It’s a nice place. Different, but nice. If you don’t believe me, I just might have to kill you.

© 2013

Why I Loved Carnivals

Last night, I saw a lady at the store who looked like a carnival performer I once saw.  When I was young, I loved carnivals.  REAL carnivals.  I’m not talking about something your church does as a fundraiser and calls it a carnival.  I’m also not talking about a circus.  A circus is a completely different thing.  A carnival is, well, a carnival.  Cotton candy; funnel cakes; rickety dangerous rides; sketchy employees; rigged games; cheap prizes; rough, flinty women; side shows; and a land armada of trailers where the workers live.  A carnival rolls from town to town spreading joy and not a small amount of trepidation when it arrives.

I grew up in Harlan County, Kentucky.  We had carnivals, usually at least once a year.  The Guthrie Shows was the big one.  The Shriners sponsored it.  It would set up in the parking lot of one of the local high schools for a week.  Ray Guthrie was from Middlesboro, Kentucky and would roll his carnival all around Southeastern Kentucky.  We loved it.  There was also Myers Midway–excellent, too.

I’ve written before about how wrestling brought out the real Harlan Countians.  The carnival brought our everyone.  It created a vast melting pot of our small corner of Kentucky.  You could see people from Holmes Mill to Pathfork at the carnival.  When I was in high school, some friends and I stood in line for a ride behind some stereotypical Harlan Countians.  Trying to get a rise out of them, we began to complain loudly about how bored we were and shouldn’t have vacationed in Harlan.  A woman turned around, cigarette in the corner of her mouth, and said:  “Who sent you here fer a vacation?  All we have here are back stabbins, back shootins and cooooold-blooded killins!”  She wasn’t from the Chamber of Commerce.

When I went to college, I would still go to carnivals, albeit not quite the same as in Harlan.  Lexington, Kentucky has the yearly Lions Bluegrass Fair.  It has evolved into more of a state fair atmosphere over the years, but–in the 1980’s–it was pure carnival.  It was the Guthrie Shows on steroids.  Good stuff.

Why the love of carnivals?  Let’s see…


As most folks know, carnival workers are called carnies.  They are a singular subculture.  They have a grizzled, dangerous look about them.  They set up the carnival, operate the rides and run the games.  It’s not a carnival without the carnies.

They often have missing digits or limbs.  This doesn’t stop them from doing their jobs, of course.  They’ll pull the lever to start the Tilt-A-Whirl with that one good arm with a smoke dangling from their lips.  Sometimes, they’ll have an eye missing.  Do they wear patches or buy glass eyes?  Of course, not.  They just leave a gaping hole or simply sew the eye shut.  They’re carnies.  I saw a carny with a lame arm.  He just had it strapped to his side.  You don’t see that outside the midway.

Carnies fascinate me.  What is life like for them?  They live in their trailers at the carnival.   I imagine them drinking rot gut whiskey and playing cards far into the night, perhaps stabbing someone.  The romance of it all is intriguing, but it probably sucks..


My Dad’s Uncle Jay was a carny for many years.  Jay’s wife, Aunt Ruth, was a fortune teller.  They were true carnies. I believe they may even have lived in Gibsonton, Florida at one point.  Gibsonton is famed as the Winter home of carnies and sideshow performers.  Such luminaries as Lobster Boy and Percilla the Monkey Girl called it home.

Jay was a barker.  The barker is the guy who yells at you when you walk across the midway trying to get you to waste your money on something.  After he retired, Jay came back to Harlan for a visit.  As luck would have it, a carnival was in town.  Jay went to the carnival and ended up staying there a week.  Carnies all know each other.

My parents once visited Jay and Ruth in Florida.  They were told that Jay’s house had a “big palm” in the front yard, as one might expect in Florida.  As my parents drove down the street, they spotted it.  Yes, it was big palm–a hand identifying the home of Madame Ruth, Fortune Teller.  True carnies.

Once Ruth was trying to find Jay who was, apparently, wont to disappear on occasion.  She came to my Granny’s house demanding to know his whereabouts.  Granny responded with:  “Why don’t you look in your crystal ball?!?!”  Granny wasn’t impressed with carnies.


I grew up in Loyall, Kentucky, which had a bit of a carny flavor to it.  No, it’s not because the residents looked like carnies, although a few surely did.  It’s because there was a family in town that owned and repaired carnival rides.  One member of that family was my younger brother’s baby sitter.

The patriarch of the clan was “Hoss,” a man whose girth no doubt led to his nickname.  He had rides and parts of rides all over his yard.  For a brief time, he even had a small Ferris Wheel.  My little brother loved that house.  The best days at the baby sitter were when he would come home and say “I played with Hoss today.”  Hoss also had an even more imposing son called “Mighty Moe,” but that’s a story for another time.

When I was small, that house was a wonder to me.  Why did they have all those rides in their yard?  I thought they were part of a carnival.  I was a tad disappointed when I found out they were just regular people.


Real carnivals had side shows or, as they were called in less politically correct times, Freak Shows.  I know that we’re not supposed to call people freaks.  It’s just not good form anymore.  That is, however, what they were called.  I didn’t come up with the term, so don’t assail me for using it here.


You don’t see this much anymore

Sonograms and evolving human decency have largely destroyed the Freak Show as an art form.  Modern medicine has also played a part in limiting the numbers of qualified entertainers.  Surely, the Elephant Man and the Mule-Faced Woman would receive at least some rudimentary medical care before their conditions became acute.  In days past, these unfortunate folks had little else to do but turn to the world of side shows.  It’s not like they could work in service industries.

If you want a good look at this bygone world, rent Tod Browning’s classic film, Freaks, made in 1932.  It stars real sideshow performers such as Prince Randian The Living Torso, Johnny Eck The Half Boy, Josephine Joseph and Zip The Pinhead.  It was so disturbing at the time that Browning had difficulty even finding theaters to show it.  It was banned entirely in England.


Prince Randian and Johnny Eck, stars of Tod Browning’s Freaks

I will confess that I have attended several freak shows.  This is nothing of which to be proud, but it’s true.  I’ve seen many of the typical freaks, such as Blockheads.  A Blockhead is a person who will push a nail straight into his face just beneath his nostril.  It’s gross, but anyone can do it if he or she is will to poke a hole in their face.  It’s more of trick than it is pure freakiness.


Typical Human Blockhead in Action

Here are my personal Freak Show highlights:

Helga The German Giantess

I saw Helga at a carnival in Lexington, Kentucky.  She was billed as The World’s Largest Woman.  The sign claimed that she was OVER 7 FEET TALL!!  I was with a couple of friends, and we were intrigued.  We paid our money and were led to a dingy tent where Helga sat on a shabby throne.  She wore a long, black dress and a tiara.  I’m not sure how old she was, but I would have put her in her late fifties.  It’s really hard to say what with her being a giantess and all.

She held court and prattled on about her adventures.   Then, she stood up.  I don’t know if she was really seven feet tall (they cleverly had her sit on an elevated stage), but she was big.  REALLY big.  Maybe 6’8″ and a good three bills.  She asked for a volunteer from the audience.  There were 6 or 7 people in the tent and some young fellow raised his hand.

The volunteer made her look even bigger, because she was about a foot taller than he was.  She held out one of her gargantuan hands and ask him to hold it.  My friends and I squirmed at the thought of it.  On her hand, she had a ring with a large fake diamond (I say fake, because if it had been real, I doubt she would have been toiling in a Freak Show).  He took her hand with all the enthusiasm of someone meeting a leper.  Helga then boomed:  “MAKE A WISH!!”  Then, she took a step back and hiked her dress up to her navel.  The giantess wore not a stitch of under-clothing.  She dropped her dress and said “DID YOUR WISH COME TRUE?!?!”  For some reason, this terrified us, and my friends and I fled from the tent.

More disturbing was that one of my friends kept saying we should go look for her trailer.  We said “no” and slowly backed away from him.


I saw her in Harlan when I was a kid.  She sat on the floor of a tent, chained to a post.  She held a baby doll in one hand and drooled.   The story was that she had been a normal college girl until a “bad trip” turned her into the LSD Freak.  Now, she was a dangerous lunatic who had to be chained up.  The barker said that if she escaped she would kill everyone.  I didn’t believe that, because her condition appeared more catatonic than psychotic.

Now, she wasn’t a real freak, not in the classic sense.  She was probably the wife or daughter of one of the carnies, but she disturbed me.  Why?  Because I wondered–even as a kid–about what kind of bad turn one’s life could take for that to be your job.  The Elephant Man had little choice in regard to his profession, but this was something else entirely.

I felt sorry for her and the whole lot of them.  But, I never forgot it.  So, it must have been a good show.


As noted above, Blockheads aren’t really freaks.  They’re just people willing to do something weird.  Like a sword swallower (which I’ve also seen, by the way).  I’ve seen several Blockheads, but one stands out.

Again, I was kid, maybe 10 or 11.  This guy was billed as “The Human Blockhead.”  He came through the back of the tent and was an unimpressive sight.  He might have weighed 130 pounds.  He was pale and somewhat unhealthy-looking, perhaps the pallor of someone who lives in a trailer behind a carnival.

The Blockhead disinterestedly pushed a nail into his face.  People gasped.  Then, he breathed some fire.  Ho hum.  He walked in box of broken glass with an apathy that made me think he really wouldn’t care if his feet got shredded.  He laid on a bed of nails.  Yawn.  Then, he did it.

A couple of guys set up two folding chairs while The Blockhead lay in the dirty floor. The two men picked him up.  He was stiff as a board.  They placed the back of his head on one chair and his heels on the other.  He was still perfectly straight.  A cinder block was placed on his stomach.  He didn’t budge.  This was an impressive feat of strength.  THEN, one of the guys picked up a sledgehammer and–BOOM!–smashed the block!  The Blockhead just bounced up and back down like a steel beam. He was still perfectly balanced on the two chairs.  The guys picked him up and laid him back in the floor.  He stood up, took a bow and left with the same apparent ennui with which he entered.

I was there, and I saw it.  It wasn’t a trick.  They smashed a freakin’ cinder block with a sledgehammer on his stomach! I don’t know how he did it, but he did.  I hope The Blockhead went on to bigger and better things.  I doubt it, but I hope so.


I can’t discuss carnivals without mentioning the food.  Corndogs, funnel cakes, cotton candy, snow cones and all manner of other food you wouldn’t eat anywhere else.  Everything that can be deep-fried is deep-fried.  And it’s all good.

There are still carnivals, although they are somewhat sanitized now.  Oh, you’ll still see a two-headed calf or dwarf on occasion.  There might even be babies in jars somewhere out there (Truthfully, I hope this one has been permanently eliminated).  You might even see a blockhead.  They still have all the crooked games on the midway, but I was never a fan of the games, anyway.  Some folks still have freak shows, like The Jim Rose Circus.  For the most part, though, the carnivals have lost their flavor.

Carnies remain the same–sketchy, dangerous and forbidding, but the rides seem safer.  I guess decades of litigation took care of that.  I haven’t been to a carnival in years, but I don’t think I can top what I’ve already seen.  Why try?

© 2013

Festival of the Poke

Poke in its natural state.

It’s that time of year in Harlan County, Kentucky. Time for the Poke Sallet Festival. It’s been many years since I attended the Festival, but I have many memories of it.

“What is poke?” you ask. It’s a weed. It grows out in the woods. It doesn’t look like anything you’d eat. It also doesn’t taste like anything you’d eat. Legend has it that folks would go into the woods, pick it and put it in bags. Bags of course were–and still are–called “pokes.” You cook it down–often boiled–and slop it onto a plate. A green onion and cornbread usually completes the presentation.

The foul weed prepared for eating.

I’ll admit that I’ve only eaten poke a couple of times. It’s foul. It smells bad when it cooks and on your plate. I think it is served with an onion to give the diner something to kill the taste. It’s kinda like kale, only more pungent and weedier tasting. Like all greens, it also has a violent laxative effect when eaten in large quantities.

I don’t know what in the world “sallet” is, except a mispronounced word.  Sallet isn’t any easier to say than “salad,” but I guess that doesn’t matter, does it?  Besides, poke isn’t eaten in a salad, as far as I know.  It’s just cooked down into a slimy, nauseating mess.

Why am I writing about poke? Because I enjoyed the Festival when I was a kid. For several years, my father was the chairman of the Poke Sallet Festival. I was a little kid, and that impressed me. Dad seemed like a big deal. I liked that.

I don’t know why Harlan County chooses to honor poke. Seems like every Kentucky county has a festival for something. I guess Harlan wanted something, too. Coal was probably too obvious a choice.  We don’t have much else.

There are a lot of things from childhood that I don’t remember well. But I remember the Poke Sallet Festival.  What do I remember?

Gladys Hoskins: She was the long time boss of the Harlan Chamber of Commerce and lived across the street from us. I don’t know if she was Chairperson or President or what, but she was the boss. She and Dad worked every year to bring it all together. I can still see Mrs. Hoskins smoking a cigarette and–always–dressed to the nines.

Stone Mountain Park: It might have been Stone Creek, but it’s where the Festival was held when I was a kid. It was somewhere up around Smith. It was a couple of shelters but pretty nice–or I thought so. Eventually, things moved to downtown Harlan which makes more sense. Plus, there’s slightly less chance of getting killed in town.

The Red, White and Blue Band: There was always music at the festival. One year, The RWBB played. Never heard of them? They were, as Dad said, “a bunch of hippies.” It was the late 1960’s/1970’s early and that’s what they were, I guess. Actually, they were from Clover Fork in Harlan County. The lead singer was Merle English, one of my Mom’s students at Evarts High School.  Someone told me they played Acid Rock. An old man said they looked like “dope fiends.”  I loved them. I’m pretty sure no one else did. As you might imagine, the bands were usually country or bluegrass.  Years later, English became Max English and a successful lounge singer.  True story.

Jimmy Skidmore: Jimmy liked to dance. He danced to whatever the band played. He could dance the hell out of any song. No partner required. He was a nice guy and had a helluva good time. I’m sure today’s more politically correct world would frown on this. That’s a shame. He had fun and everyone enjoyed it.

Alfred: I don’t his last name, but he could sing. He also didn’t have front teeth, leaving him with prominent fang-like canines. But, like I said, he could sing. He would usually sing Six Days on the Road or Okie From Muskogee.He would belt them out. Good stuff.

The Governor: Governors Louie Nunn and Wendell Ford would come to the festival. Ford was great. He would eat poke, shake hands and pose for pictures with everybody. Nunn was good, too. One time they presented Nunn with a portrait painted by a local artist. It was pretty good, but for some reason Louie’s face was painted with a scowl. When it was unveiled, his reaction was roughly the same look. Even as a small child, I knew it was funny. Dad laughed himself silly.

Steve Lyon: He was Mrs. Hoskins’s son-in-law. He was a hippie–or at least I thought he was. He had LONG hair and a beard. In case you haven’t noticed, I was a bit fascinated by hippies. By “a bit,” I mean a lot. We didn’t have hippies in Harlan, but I’d seen them when we went on vacation. Steve was definitely a hippie. Anyway, he was also a musician. A pretty good one, too. He played at the Festival one year. He played the electric organ and sang a song about throwing his mother down the stairs. Even my Dad was impressed. Much like the Red, White and Blue Band, he wasn’t the audience’s idea of entertainment, but he was good.

Virgil Q. Wacks:  Virgil Q came to the Festival to film highlights for his weekly show Virgil Q. Wacks Variety Time. His show was part advertising, part travelogue.  He filmed around Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee.  He used an old-fashioned, windup camera with no sound.  He would narrate the film on his show.  His trademark was the extreme close up where he would zoom in on his subject until the picture blurred out. He would also refer to most people as “smiling” and “genial,” regardless of how unfriendly or even dangerous looking his subject was. Virgil Q always excited the crowd, because you knew you might be on television.  It’s hard to describe Virgil Q’s show, but we loved it. Any time I hear the old song Happy Days Are Here Again, I think of Virgil Q.  By the way, I don’t hear that song all that often.

The Melting Pot:  The Festival was a true Harlan County melting pot.  People from all over the county came to it:  Loyall, Harlan, Wallins, Evarts, Cumberland, Benham, Lynch, Chevrolet, Cawood, Cranks, Smith, Punkin Center, Ages, Verda, Lejunior, Lenarue, Catrons Creek, Pathfork, River Ridge, Holmes Mill, Baxter, Keith–every town, community, camp and holler was represented.  Harlan County is sparsely populated but 50 miles wide.  You can live your whole life in the county and never see some parts of it.  The Festival was where everyone gathered.

It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been to the Festival.  By then, it was already firmly established in downtown Harlan. The poke dinners were served at Jay’s Restaurant.  I took a friend of mine with me.  He was running for some office and wanted to go to Harlan to meet people.  This was during the last gasps of the United Mine Workers Union in Harlan, and the UMW was out in force.  A lot of union folks were dressed in camouflage and fatigues like some militia.  My most notable encounter was with local character and raconteur, Rubber Duck.  I introduced him to my friend, whereupon The Duck said:  “Buddy, can you believe  I got run over by truck?”  My friend looked at The Duck’s scarred up face and said:  “Well, yeah…I can believe it.”  The Duck responded:  “It takes more than a truck to kill The Duck!”  That’s about all I remember, but, man oh man, did that make me laugh.

Back to the poke.  I don’t recommend it.  I think it’s something people ate back when there wasn’t much food.  You’d find something growing and eat it.  If it didn’t kill you, it was food.  My Dad said he used to eat mush, which he described as “not fit to eat, but that’s all we had.”  Poke is like that.  Now, I know people who eat poke and claim to like it.  Maybe they do.  I’ve known people who ate souse and other vile foods and claimed to like them, too.

I’m sure poke has all sorts of nutritional value–antioxidants and whatnot.  I’ve heard people say that it can cure various ailments.  That may well be true.  If you say it is, I really have neither the knowledge nor the energy to argue with you about it.  I still don’t like it.  Nevertheless, it makes for a helluva festival.  Corbin, Kentucky has a Nibroc Festival, which is just “Corbin” spelled backwards.  I guess Harlan could have the Nalrah Festival, but that sounds like some Middle Eastern deal.  Poke it is and should forever remain.

Based on the photos I see of the modern Poke Sallet Festival, it doesn’t resemble the one of my youth.  There are bands with real stages and sound equipment.  Sometimes, all we had was a guy with a banjo.  Honestly, it’s probably much more entertaining now.  Plus, you don’t have to drive all the way out to Smith.  It looks like there are multiple venues for entertainment, too.  Of course, there’s still the poke, but I bet you can get lots of other stuff to eat now, too.  Progress is a good thing.

There a lot of things I don’t remember about my childhood–birthdays, school events, holidays.  I remember a lot about the Poke Sallet Festival, so it must have been pretty good–all except the poke part, I guess.

© 2012

Love and the Color TV

Your author pictured in the middle being forced to watch black and white TV. I can’t even look directly at it. December 1962.

“This is the happiest day of my life.”  Thus I spoke one day in 1967.  I was 4 years old and talking to a television salesman.  Why was I so happy?  My family had just purchased its first color television.  Color TV, my friends.  It was that simple.  I had seen Batman and Get Smart with their tantalizing “In Color” graphics at the bottom.  Until that day, I could only dream of what that really meant.  Lost in Space, too was in color, as were many other TV shows.  Even at 4 years old, I knew that a life-changing event was unfolding.

My first color TV. No, it wasn’t crooked. That’s the photo–I think.

I think the TV was an RCA.  Could have been a Philco or Zenith.  Of course, it had a round screen.  No remote control, either.  The only remote control I had ever seen was on an episode of Dennis the Menace.  It was roughly the size of a brick.  No, our new TV had a dial.  That was okay, because I liked to sit so close to it that I could just reach up and turn the channels as needed.  My mother told me that sitting close to the TV would cause me to die of radiation poisoning, but I was willing to risk it.  (As a side note, she said standing beside the TV would give one a mega-dose of deadly radiation waves.  I never bothered to find out if any of that was true. After all, you couldn’t see the screen).

TVs used to be complex.  They were called TV “sets,” for some reason.  If you removed the back, the cabinet was full of vacuum tubes of every size imaginable.  Those tubes held all the magic, especially the big one–the picture tube.  I was never allowed behind the TV.  My mother made it clear that to venture to the back of the TV was almost sure to result in sudden and fatal electrocution injuries.  I did, however, have occasion to watch the TV repairman work on it.

Oh, yes, there were TV repairmen.  They would come to your house and work on the TV.  They carried large cases full of vacuum tubes.  Once, I mistook the Jewel Tea Man for Mr. Simms, the TV repairman.  I furiously castigated him for being so late to fix the TV.  I think I was 6 years old at the time.  I was serious about the TV.

TVs used to be full of these. They held all the magic.

Remember vertical and horizontal “hold” dials?  If you do, you’re as old as I am.  For the uniformed, these were tuning knobs you could use to adjust the picture if the screen image began rolling or zig zagging. “DON’T TOUCH THOSE DIALS.”  If you messed up the picture, you might never get it right again.

TV was dangerous in those days, too.  If you broke the picture tube, the TV would explode, killing everyone in the house.  “DON’T HIT THE SCREEN WITH ANYTHING.”  There was the poor boy who–for reasons that remained obscure–kissed the screen and died immediately.  My mom never said whether he was related to the boy who died under similar circumstances kissing a toaster, but it seems likely.  Perhaps my unbridled love of the TV made mom concerned that I would get carried away with passion.  At least I understood the toaster story, given that I liked to stare at my reflection in it like a small Narcissus.

TV stations used to go off the air at midnight, some at 11:30.  They’d usually sign off with The Star Spangled Banner.  You’d just have white noise or maybe a test pattern until 6:00 a.m.

Black and White Test Pattern. What this was supposed to test or why it had an Indian on it are beyond me.

I don’t know the purpose of the test pattern, but someone used it to test something every night.  The old TVs were powered by the magic of the cathode ray:

Diagram showing the basic set up of a TV picture tube.

To this day, I don’t understand any of this.  To me, here is how it works:

Your author’s basic understanding of television technology.

We all know the power of television.  Dress up any troglodyte and put him on TV enough, and–PRESTO!–he’ll be elected to public office.  Have you ever been on TV?  Doesn’t it make you feel like you’re just a little better person than you were before?  People will say:  “Hey!  I saw you on TV!”  You could be on TV eating a live squirrel and people would still think:  “Hmmm.  There’s something different about him, now.”  The first time I was on TV, I was probably 8 years old.  It was the Harlan County Poke Sallet Festival Parade.  My brother and I were riding in a convertible.  I think it was John L. Belcher’s car.  If not, it should have been.  It was the kind of car John L would have driven.

Virgil Q. Wacks filmed the parade for his TV show, Virgil Q. Wacks Variety Time.  If you’re not familiar with Virgil Q, I can’t describe his show.  It was a kind of an advertising/travelogue program.  He filmed us in the car and there we were–on TV.  His film collection is archived at East Tennessee State University where we live forever.

There were many disadvantages to growing up in Harlan County, Kentucky, but TV wasn’t one of them.  We had cable.  That’s right–cable TV in the 1960’s  It was the only way to get a TV signal in the mountains.  (As a side note, I am the owner of 1 share of Harlan Community Television, Inc., the longtime local cable company).  In those days, TV channels ranged from 2 through 13, with the little understood UHF channel to boot.  We had signals on all the channels on the dial:  Lexington, Kingsport, Knoxville,  Asheville.  We might have been Ground Zero in the War on Poverty, but by God we won the TV War before it even started.

I loved that color TV.  Eventually, the dial (or channel changer, as I called it)  fell off.  As most families did, we replaced it with a pair of pliers until it could be located, a minor inconvenience.  Sometimes, I would lie on my back and watch the TV upside down just for the hell of it.

I spent many hours in front of that TV. Yes, Batman was in color.  Spectacular color, too.  By the end of the ’60’s, everything was in color! When I was around 8, I started watching sports on that TV.  Hey, kids:  There used to be one Major League Baseball game a week on TV.  It was called, fittingly enough, The Game of the Week.  It came 0n Saturdays, and I always watched.  There was also an NBA Game of the Week.  My earliest sports memory is Wilt Chamberlain and the Lakers vs. Lew Alcindor and the Bucks.   You rarely saw some athletes at all.  The only time you’d see some players would All-Star games or playoffs.  The NFL, being ahead of its time, always had a couple of games on Sundays.

I am part of the TV Generation.  I knew the TV schedule every night of the week.  When I was 3 years old, I surprised my parents by counting to 100 one night.  When my mother asked where I learned that, I could only reply:  “From the TV.”  I was told–and still am–that TV will rot my brain.  Perhaps it has.  I know the lyrics to the theme for Gilligan’s Island, yet I will sometimes forget my children’s birth dates.

One of the calling cards of the intellectual is the refrain that “I don’t watch television.”  I’m not an intellectual, and I do watch TV.  Always have, always will.  I watch sports on TV.  I watch movies on TV.  I watch sitcoms and true crime and reality shows.  I’ll watch anything for a few minutes.  I’ll watch Toddlers & Tiaras just to get outraged.  I’ll watch shows about 900 pound people.  I’ll watch reruns of King of Queens just to marvel at how it could have been on the air for years.  It’s as funny as a truck load of dead babies, but I’ll watch it.  I’ll watch the news, the weather, the History Channel.  I’ll watch Road House for 500th time.  I may know more about the Beverly Hillbillies than any person alive, and I’m proud of it.  TV series, miniseries, short films, previews, reviews–everything.

That first color TV didn’t stay around all that long.  Within a few years, my father enjoyed some financial success, and we had TVs everywhere.  We even got a remote control Zenith.  We had a TV in our bedroom (technically, it was my brother’s).  We had a TV in the kitchen, too. The old TV was relegated to the basement where we continued to use it, but it was now like an old horse put out to pasture.  Like a horse, it sat in that basement for many years after it quit working entirely.

Now, I have monstrous TVs.  46 inch, 60 inch, plasma, LCD, high def–you name it.  Hundreds and hundreds of channels–all at my finger tips.  I not only have a remote control, I have a pillow which doubles as a universal remote. None of them, though, ever thrilled me like the first one.  I’ve loved them all, but none of them–none–ever made me declare that it was the best day of my life.

One day, there may some disaster which destroys society and forces us to start over.  The first thing I’ll do is try to figure out how to build a TV.  TVs–like ships and airplanes–work on some kind of magic, I’m sure.  So, I don’t where I’d start, but I’d get right on it.

Oh, and it would have to be a color TV.

© 2012