Why the name? What’s the name?
Several people claim they know the real story about why Monkey’s Eyebrow has its name. I mention a few of those “real stories” on this page, just below here. Undoubtedly there are some other “real stories” I haven’t heard.
But there’s a perhaps bigger question than why is the name.
What is the name?
I write it as Monkey’s Eyebrow. That makes grammatical sense to me. And I think that’s how I saw it back in the late ’40s or early ’50s when I would visit Pod and Herman for a week or two in the summers.
But others write it as Monkeys Eyebrow, which sounds like more than one monkey. I don’t think monkeys share eyebrows so I don’t believe that could be correct.
And quite a few folks write it, and probably say it, Monkey Eyebrow. That one doesn’t make me feel comfortable. I suppose it could be right but it lacks the rhythm of having an “s” at the end. If I saw a community named Monkey Tail I wouldn’t even blink. There’s no reason I can think of to change it to Monkey’s Tail. Certainly I wouldn’t agree to Monkeys Tail. There is one big difference. A monkey has only one tail. If a monkey has eyebrows, I feel confident they would come in pairs. That may sound like a trivial difference but it shouts out to me that it is a major difference. That leaves out the plural form, as far as I’m concerned.
It’s fascinating that a community could have such an odd name and so many stories about where that name came from. It’s a name that has persisted for more than a hundred years. Well, maybe it’s not a name, but one or more of the three names have persisted for more than a hundred years.
Another interesting aspect to the community is that even though it has no city limits, its boundaries expand regularly as more and more folks from the vicinity say they are from Monkey’s or Monkey or Monkeys Eyebrow. Some of those residents live quite a distance from where the highway marker used to be placed to mark the edge of Monkey’s Eyebrow. We no longer have a highway marker. One reason is that it was something people liked to steal. The other reason is that the business and residential community is no more.
Now, houses are scattered between corn and wheat and soybean fields. We no longer have any dairy farms.
Meanwhile, if you are anywhere in the vicinity – Paducah or St. Louis or Nashville or any other our other suburbs – drive by and maybe even stop and say hello. And be sure to check out the Ballard Wildlife Management Area, and the Barlow House in Barlow, and the Cross at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in Wickliffe, and the Wickliffe Mounds, also in Wickliffe.
All of us would love to see you.
What is Monkey’s Eyebrow?
Many people have asked me how Monkey's Eyebrow, Ky., got its name. My usual reply is there are worse parts of a monkey's anatomy it could have been called.
I’ve heard two or three stories about why it’s named Monkey’s Eyebrow. My favorite is that the western end of Kentucky, bounded by the Ohio River, looks something like the profile of a monkey’s face when you look at a map, and the Monkey’s Eyebrow community is located about where the eyebrows would be. That’s why I’ve chosen the image as the logo for this site. The bold line outlining the monkey's face is the Ohio River. The eyebrow in the logo is where Monkey's Eyebrow is located..
According to an author, another version tells of a store owned by the community's first settlers that sat at the base of a brush-topped ridge – looking like a pair of eyes set under the tufts of a monkey's eyebrows.
One person said a riverboat ran aground and a monkey escaped. It wound up sitting in a tree about where the community is located.
Diana Yancey told me that one of her ancestors was logging in the area. His wagon got stuck and the mules couldn’t pull it out. He had to walk to the almost nearby town of Bandana to get help. (Bandana is big enough that it has stop signs, including four of them at a four-way stop.) When someone asked how deep the wagon wheels were stuck, he said, “About up to a monkey’s eyebrow.”
Bobby Hall, whose family had a farm just down the road, tells a story of an organ grinder, a monkey and a mule that kicked the monkey up around its eyebrow. Like all the others who have a story, he is certain that his is true.
I don’t know which if any of the stories is true but I like the map version.
A lot of people have never been here
You’d probably be surprised how many people haven’t been to Monkey’s Eyebrow. Some people who have driven through didn’t realize they were doing so. It’s hard to tell when you’re in Monkey’s Eyebrow. It’s a lot easier to tell when you’re not.
As far as I can determine, there aren’t any city limits. For one thing, there isn’t any city.
Not a state of mind
Some folks have theorized that Monkey’s Eyebrow is a state of mind. No, that’s not right. A state of mind doesn’t show up on a map. Monkey’s Eyebrow doesn’t show up on all versions of the map of Kentucky, but it’s on many of them, including the state’s general highway map.
It sits here in Ballard County above Bandana and to the side of Oscar, and a few miles this side of Paducah. (Of course, when I say “this side” that really depends on which side you’re sitting at when you determine which side is this side and which side is the other side.)
It’s on Route 473, also known as Monkey’s Eyebrow Road. It's just a little ways east of the Ballard County Wildlife Management Area, a flood plain that holds many beautiful cypress lakes and plenty of wildlife. I recommend you take a look at it next time you’re over this way. Or up this way. Or down this way. I never could figure out which direction “this way” was.
My earliest links to Monkey’s Eyebrow
My mother was one of 10 children of Bob and Lannie Crice. One of her sisters was Pod, who married Herman Tilley, and they had a farm at Monkey’s Eyebrow. Pod wasn’t her real name, and you can find out more about that in the story “A Pod by any other name” in the “Monkey’s Eyebrow and vicinity” section under the “Memories and Stories” category on this site.
When I was a kid I spent occasional weeks in the summer visiting Pod and Herman. For several years until they died, when the Crice family got together, it was at Pod and Herman’s.
Back in those days, the roads were dirt or gravel and there was a store down the road and around the curve. It was a grocery store and gas station, and Ples Arivett who ran it occasionally made boats for people. It wasn’t a big store. Back in those days there weren’t any big stores.
At that time, Monkey’s Eyebrow was considerably bigger than it is now.. It was where the store was.
Today, when there’s no store and the area’s name shows up in atlases of the most unusual town names, the “city limits” have stretched out in all directions, but in an indefinite way. I suppose you live in Monkey’s Eyebrow if you say you do.
Route 473 has been named Monkey’s Eyebrow Road. But there are no markers on the road to suggest that the lost traveler is in Monkey’s Eyebrow. The state used to put up a sign but every time they put up a new one, someone would steal it. Now, they don’t bother.
It was like home, even then
Monkey’s Eyebrow always seemed like home to me. As it neared time for me to retire I got in touch with my cousin Barbara Lynn and her husband Joe, who is now deceased. Barbie is one of Pod and Herman’s two children. She owned the 100-acre farm that sustained the Tilleys for many years.
Barbie agreed to sell me five acres and all the associated buildings, including the house. My little farm includes a tobacco barn and the concrete block structure where Herman milked cows, then later converted into a woodworking shop.
There are no beer joints here. Ballard County is a dry county. You have to go to Paducah or drive across the river to Cairo, Ill., if you want a drink. Plenty of folks do.
I hope you enjoy this site. I’ll update it from time to time with comments from my perspective.
Thanks for visiting the site and if you ever get over/down/up this way, stop in to see me.