Archive | Kentucky Tales RSS feed for this section

FYI: A Few Kentucky Horse-Themed Safety Tips

8 Mar

OK, don’t be fooled by the title of this post. I’m not going to bestow on you any deep knowledge about horses and safety. You want some REAL basic safety tips to keep in mind when you’re going to be around horses? Check out this list of tips from The Horsepedia. They’re serious and very helpful. (Like did you know you shouldn’t stand directly in front of a horse? They have a blind spot and can spook.)

This past weekend, I accompanied the Boyfried on a roadtrip to Cumberland Falls. I visited the lovely water falls, Eagle Falls and even got to see a moon bow! And I only participated in a minor amount of trespassing, which is a major accomplishment. While I’m putting together my thoughts from my most recent trip, and waiting on the Boyfriend to tone his beautiful moon bow pictures, here is a little in between post to hold you over.

Going through some pictures a few days ago, I came across these photos that were taken over the Christmas holiday at a close family friend’s horse farm in Lexington. After our annual Christmas Even brunch, my brother announced to the room that he couldn’t remember the last time he’d touched a horse. Which apparently, given he was from Lexington, was startling to him and half the room’s occupants. So we marched him outside – a few carrots in hand – to a field with a few horses enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. The following occured:

Brian begins feeding horses.

Horses are thankful for the delicious afternoon snack and want to thank Brian for his kindness. Brian is overly pleased with himself.

Horses are still hungry. Brian tries to turn them down, informing them they’ve had enough. Horses do not take well to Brian’s superior attitude. Horses turn Brian into snack.

Horses swallow him whole. Christmas is ruined.

OK, well the last part isn’t true. But here’s your horse safety tip for the day: When feeding a horse, let him tell you when he’s finished. And definitely don’t give him the impression that you are calling the shots. He’s bigger than you are (ahem, Brian).

So glad you’re educated now.

Kentucky (Tall) Tales: Oddly-Named Kentucky Towns

16 Feb

I spent one summer a few years ago working for a daily newspaper in Hopkinsville in Christian County, Kentucky. Even though my grandparents have lived in a town not too far from Hopkinsville my whole life, I wasn’t very familiar with the area but trusted my GPS to take care of me. My new co-workers laughed at me when I began dutifully punching in addresses to Garmin.

“That’s not going to help you,” my boss said. “That GPS isn’t going to be able to get you to Possum Trot.”

To where?

“Possum Trot.”

Now, if I thought Hopkinsville’s nickname, “Hop-Town,” was strange …

Monkeys Eyebrow, Kentucky

Possum Trot is an actual town. It’s a dot on the map in Marshall County, Kentucky, east of Paducah. On the western side of that western Kentucky town, you’ll find Monkeys Eyebrow – note, that is not a possessive monkey’s – in Ballard County (Garmin, however, will pretend the place doesn’t exist, despite the signs that say it is so). Officially, it isn’t actually a town because it has never had a post office. But don’t say that to the locals.

Here are more of Kentucky’s oddly-named towns:

Rabbit Hash – really just a general store in Boone County on Highway 536 just southwest of Cincinnati. Supposedly, the name comes from the recipe that helped the town residents survive a harsh flood in 1816.

Mud Lick – there are actually 9 towns with this name in Kentucky. You’ll find them in Anderson, Elliott, Greenup, Knox, Lewis, Robertson, Russell, Perry and Pike counties.

Paint Lick – this seems more dangerous than the above. You’ll find this town on Highway 52 in Garrard County. It’s named for a salt lick marked for prime hunting by Native Americans in the area.

88 – yes, it’s a Kentucky town. In Barren County on Highway 90, 7 miles south of Glasgow. It is rumored to get it’s name because one of the town’s founders had 88 cents in his pocket when they were trying to pick a name. Talk about running out of ideas. Other rumors say the local postmaster had such terrible handwriting that he picked the name because he was sure everyone could read those two numerals.

Future City – in Ballard County. This town reportedly got its name from the developer who put up a sign at the edge of the land where he intended to build a town that read: “Future City.” And then he never got around to building anything.

Lamb – there are two of these, one in Kenton County and the other in Monroe County.

Typo – in Perry County, you can make up a good story for that one.

Bush – in Laurel County. This town was named after George Bush. No, not THAT George Bush. No, not that one either. This George Bush founded the town in 1840 when he opened the post office and the general store. The first President Bush did campaign there in 1988, and newspaper headlines read: “Bush Returns to Bush”

The Beverly Hillbillies Bugtussle, Kentucky

Bugtussle – on Highway 87 south of Tompkinsville in Monroe County. This is popular with fans of the Beverly Hillbillies, who may remember that the Clampetts were from Bugtussle … only they were from Bugtussle, Tennessee. Well, Monroe County IS near the Tennessee border. Bugtussele is another word for a backwater town.

Black Gnat – in Taylor County

Black Snake – in Bell County

Co-operative – in McCreary County

Crummies – in Harlan County

Hi Hat – (as in ‘hello’ and not way up in the sky) in Floyd County

Quality – in Butler County

Subtle – in Metcalfe County

Susie – in Wayne County

Whoopee Hill – (not cushion) in Ohio County

Wild Cat – (Go Big Blue?) in Clay County

Kentucky (Tall) Tales: Kentucky’s Many State Slogans

15 Feb

Kentucky License Plate

As seen on TV our state license plates, Kentucky is known as the Bluegrass State – despite the fact that few people outside of the state have any idea what bluegrass is, or that it isn’t always blue (In all seriousness, I was watching a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field once, and the little boy was reading in his program that the field was sodded with Kentucky bluegrass. He looks up to his father with a terribly confused face and says, “But it’s green grass, Daddy. It’s green grass!”). I’ll refrain from getting into the debate that the grass really does have a blue tint to it in the early dawn hours when the day’s first sunlight hits the dew resting on top of the blades of grass … we can discuss the color wheel and how it relates to agriculture later.

Moving on …

Kentucky is truly a land of strange curiosities, and there are a number of things we could slap on our license plates as the state slogan. Here are a few of them:

Gateway to the Wild West – Judge Roy Bean, Jim Bowie and Kit Carson were all born in Kentucky.

The Post Office State – Kentucky has more post offices per capita than any other state.

The Governor State – More than 100 native Kentuckians have been elected governors of OTHER states.

The Volunteer State – OK, so technically this one belongs to Tennessee (though what exactly is a Tennessee Volunteer and why do they insist on sporting that awful shade of orange? Bleh.), but in the War of 1812, more than half of all Americans killed in action were Kentuckians.

The Game Show State – Famous game show hosts Jack Narz (CBS’s quiz show Dotto … and he was also a narrator of ‘The Adventures of Superman’), and Chuck Woolery (the original host of Wheel of Fortune) were born in Kentucky.

Just something to think about. Kentucky’s been known to have some strange license plates before (who remembers the smiling sun that even Jay Leno made cracks about). Who knows what the boys in LaGrange will  be banging out next? … did you know all Kentucky license plates are made at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange?

Kentucky (Tall) Tales: Lexington’s Narcotic Farm

10 Oct

Photo courtesy of Scientific American from photographer Arthur Rothstein and the Lexington Narcotics Farm Collection

If you’ve ever driven out U.S. Highway 421 — or Leestown Road for the locals — headed north and away from Lexington, you’ve passed what used to be the U.S. Public Service Hospital in Bracktown. It sits back away from the road on the right, just past Masterson Station Park. Today, it’s the Federal Correction Institute, but it used to be a hospital for prisoners who were being treated for drug addiction.

Between 1935 and 1975, most everyone sent to prison for drugs in the U.S. was sent to the United States Narcotic Farm located at this prison hospital. And from 1953 to 1962, government doctors tested LSD on 300 human patients at the public service hospital. Because there was no money to pay the prisoners for their participation, they were given a choice of time off their sentences or the drug of their choice. Most chose the drugs.

Despite the controversy of these experiments, the filmmakers of The Narcotic Farm — a documentary made in 2008 about this Lexington experiment station — note accomplishments at the institution remain milestones in addiction science and treatment. Its most important contribution might be how it transformed the way society views addicts.

Check out this chilling photo slideshow from Scientific American of Lexington’s Narcotic Farm.

Kentucky (Tall) Tales: The Real Mr. Peterman

26 Sep

“But Mr. Peterman …”

When you hear the name ‘J. Peterman,’ most people think of John O’Hurley’s eccentric character who was Elaine’s boss on “Seinfeld.” But before Thursday May 18, 1995, J. Peterman was just a second fiddle men’s clothing catalog in the market dominated by companies like Banana Republic, L.L. Bean and J. Crew.

The real J. Peterman isn’t a Manhattan company, but a small Lexington firm. The real Mr. Peterman isn’t a bombastic boss, just a sensible businessman. Seinfeld creators Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld were fans of the catalog and created a character based on what they thought the voice of the catalog would be. At first, no one informed the real John Peterman that his company was about to be satirized on the nation’s number one television program in 1995. But eventually folks made contact and began sending advance scripts to the Kentucky businessman for approval — which he always gave.

John Peterman tried a rapid expansion when the series brought national attention to his brand with retail stores, but that venture landed him in bankruptcy. So he started over and went back to what he did best: periodic catalogs — and a website — full of men’s and women’s clothing, luggage and novelty gifts. The J. Peterman Company offices are still located in Lexington on Old Vine Street.

Kentucky (Tall) Tales: The Versailles Road Castle

20 Sep

Note: We’ve been collecting stories — curiosities really — about Kentucky. The things not found in history books or in visitors’ guides. The things that are rumored, whispered about and told as (sometimes) far-fetching tales by locals. Sometimes they’re totally true. Sometimes they have to be taken with a grain of salt … making them all the more fun.

These (tall) tales are easily some of our favorite things we’ve discovered along the way. We’ll share them with you as we find them so you can enjoy the hidden stories of Kentucky between our trip posts. These are different from our “Kentucky Stories,” which highlight notable people and events in the state’s history.  Here is the first of many tales.

Everything But the Moat

Every time I return to Lexington, I exit Bluegrass Parkway onto Versailles Road and head into town. Without fail, traffic noticeably slows as I top the last hill before I enter Fayette County and the stone turrets come into view. If the Bluegrass region’s rolling green hills don’t already resemble the landscapes of the United Kingdom, the stone walls, turrets and draw bridge of the Versailles Road Castle make you feel like you’ve traveled across the Atlantic — or maybe even back in time.

As far as I can tell, the castle is void of any knights in shining armor and the clusters of people standing outside its gates are awed tourists — not bands of disgruntled villagers with torches and demands for lower taxes (they can be found downtown outside the Mayor’s office). But there have been rumors aplenty that I’ve heard over the years living in Lexington as to the origins of the royal-looking structure. It’s not a modern-day fairy-tale home and the owners didn’t move out because it is haunted.

Here’s the real story: Rex and Caroline Martin got the idea for a castle during a European vacation in 1968. They purchased 53 acres on U.S. 60 outside of Lexington and broke ground in 1969. The Martins’ finished estate was to have seven bedrooms, fifteen baths, four corner towers, a dozen turrets, 12-foot-high walls, a drawbridge, an Italian fountain in the courtyard and tennis courts in back. But before the castle could be completed, the couple divorced leaving the place unfinished an empty.

In 1988, Rex put the castle on the market with a FOR SALE sign posted on the castle’s gates that announced showings were by appointment only and listed a phone number. Many who tried to call the number to inquire about a price claim no one ever answered or returned phone calls. Rex died in 2003 without ever selling the castle. His estate sold it to a Florida couple who began renovations to convert the property into a bed and breakfast. But in 2004 the house caught fire, burning many parts of the main building to the ground. Naturally, rumors circled surrounding the cause of the fire. Lightning, arson, ignited on purpose to gain insurance money because renovation costs were turning out to be pricier than expected. But no charges ever came about.


After the fire, the Florida couple rebounded and the destroyed building was rebuilt. The Castle Post opened a few years ago as a luxury hotel and venue. Room rates range from $355 to $455 per night; suites go for between $500 and $800 to stay in the turret suites. The castle host weddings, corporate events and dinners as well. Find photos of the renovated castle here. The Castle Post is located on Versailles Road (U.S. 60) west of Keeneland Race Course near the Woodford County line.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.