A chilly, foggy morning view in my yard.

A winter sunset in the Ballard County river bottoms.

The stories and commentaries on this page are, for the most part, the most recent ones. The categories on the left side of the page serve as archives for older stories I have removed from this page.

Baking bacon in lieu of more carbs


April 3, 2020


I cook bacon in the oven. It tastes just as good as skillet-fried bacon, and I avoid the hot grease popping on my hand. I cook it in a baking pan, lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. If I want to make gravy, I will cook it in a cast-iron skillet.

I have observed one phenomenon that I don't understand. Sometimes it cooks just right in 18 minutes at 400 degrees. Sometimes, with what seems to be bacon of the same thickness, it might take 25 minutes, or even longer.

However long it takes, Herman and I like it. I give him about an inch off of each strip of bacon. He would like to have more, but I'm greedy. In case you don’t know him, Herman is my loyal companion, a Chesapeake Bay retriever. We are very compatible, being equally lazy.

I used to cook the expensive Wright bacon, but it began to seem as if the company was pumping water into the meat. After a couple of packages that left more water than grease on the cooking sheet, I started buying bacon at Hughes Market in Grahamville (based on a recommendation from Desireé Owen). It costs less and I'm not buying a lot of water at a high price.

We had bacon this morning, and I had a cup of Honduras San Jacinto coffee.

I cooked only five strips, so Herman was disappointed by his paltry share of so few.

I had thought about having creamed beef on biscuits, but after two bowls of chicken and noodles for dinner last night (recipe below, as seen on the internet), my blood sugar was already much too high. Creamed beef often is served on toast instead of biscuits, and is commonly called shit on a shingle. I find that name to be unappetizing. I don’t think that either shit or shingle belongs on the breakfast table.

I imagine the egg noodles were the primary cause of the high sugar. The reading was 302. It should be about 100.

I don't like high sugar readings but I do like eating, and apparently eating is incompatible with reasonable sugar levels. Especially the things I eat, probably.


Chicken & Noodles Crock Pot

2 can cream of chicken soup
2 can chicken broth (15oz each) (I used one 32oz carton instead of cans)
1 stick butter or margarine (I always use butter)
1 lb chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
1 packages frozen egg noodles (24 oz) (the recipe recommends Reames brand)
In crockpot put chicken on bottom. Pour the chicken broth and soup on top. Then top that with the stick of butter. Put the crockpot on low for 6-7 hours.
Take the chicken out and shred. Put back in crockpot.
Add the frozen noodles and cook for 2 more hours. (the recipe recommends that you stir every 30 minutes until done.)

Coronacare and Monkey’s Eyebrow


March 18, 2020


I’ve been reading about this corona thing and that safety approach they’re calling social distancing, or as we call it, living at Monkey's Eyebrow.

We few people who live here have been practicing social distancing for long before this latest virus viraled its way into our lives.

The powers that be are warning us to avoid large gatherings of people, maybe even gatherings of just 10 folks. Hey, a large gathering here is two people – maybe both of them farmers – talking to each other. We don’t have wooden fences here but if we did, a social gathering would include leaning on the fence.

I’m not panicking over this virus. The way I look at it, the virus probably will be like almost 100 per cent of the world’s population: It won’t be able to find its way here. Even if the virus has a GPS device, it will get lost somewhere around Palmore Road.

I think I read that the coronacare virus can stick to surfaces and stay there for a good while. I just hope it lands on a traffic sign; someone will wind up shooting it. If the Fish and Wildlife folks would declare an open season with no bag limit, Ballard County folks would wipe out that virus in no time at all.

I’ve heard the virus called something besides corona. I can’t remember exactly what that other name is, something like covfefe-19. That sounds more like a secret agent than a virus. I think a virus ought to have a better name than that, maybe something like feverandcough-13 or toiletpapervanisher-number two.

Every once in a while I have to head for the Monkey’s Eyebrow retail suburb that we call Paducah. I have thought about it and reached a conclusion that I have to buy a few things, things like food. My starvation quotient is quite low.

As far as I know, Walmart is the only place to buy a product named Clear Sparkling Water. My favorite flavor is tangerine mango. I drink three or four bottles a day, so I go through them quickly.

After my physical therapy session this morning at Premier Physical Therapy in Kevil, I drove to Paducah, hoping Walmart had a good supply of Clear and a couple of other things I wanted.

I was surprised that the store was generally well stocked with products, including my water. Paper products were mostly gone, ground beef had been raided by panicked hoarders, milk was in short supply, and if you wanted white or rye or sourdough or any other kind of bread, you were in for a disappointment.

Eggs were plentiful, selling for 89 cents for a carton of 18, according to the shopper ahead of me in the check-out line. I didn't look at the egg rack when I went past it because I buy eggs only after the ones I have are a month or two past expiration. I mostly throw eggs out but occasionally I do use one or two, when I make cornbread for instance. I also squeeze a couple of eggs into meatloaf when I cook it.

But you know what they had more than enough of? Things you might call health food. Lettuce, all sorts of vegetables and fruits. I passed by those; I don't eat that kind of stuff.

I also went to Sam's because I wanted some vitamins that the medical folks have told me to take. Guess what? There was a lady employee at the entrance, and she had a spray bottle of disinfectant. When a shopper went for a cart, she would spray the handle and wipe it down. That was a reassuring thing, especially as she wasn't coughing.

Sam's was short on some kinds of meat and was out of bread and toilet paper, and had none of the Deer Park bottled water I keep on hand, but had a decent supply of most things. I was going to get a package of alcohol swabs that I use when I inject insulin, but there was none.

On the way home, I drove past Hughes Market. Usually there are two or three vehicles there, at the most. Today there were around a dozen. I guess people are stocking up on meat. I didn't need to stop because I have a decent supply of their bacon in the refrigerator.

Now I have enough on hand that Herman and I can social distance for a few days. Life at Monkey's Eyebrow is ok.

But all those empty shelves at the stores puzzle me. You’d think folks were expecting some snowflakes.

Dinner of beans, cornbread with butter, and sliced onion.

Beans and cornbread and toilets


February 27, 2020


          Merriam-Webster says a gourmand is “one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking.” I think I qualify. I can look down at my belly and recognize the effects of “excessively fond.”

          I am not, however, a gourmet, described by those good ol’ boys at M-W as “a connoisseur of food and drink.” For a fact, I am not one of those connie sewers. I’ll eat just about anything, Well, I won’t eat a fried egg or a scrambled egg, but that’s sort of beside the point of this discussion.

          One of my favorite meals is beans and cornbread.

          The beans can be pinto beans or great northerns. Both are very good. I think I have a slight preference for the great northern beans, but if so, it’s a very slight preference. Or maybe I prefer pintos. I guess I prefer whichever is in the pot.

          But there is a downside on the inside. A couple of bowls of beans – or bean soup as some people would call it – produces an effect that turns the intestinal tract into something like a can of compressed air. And not the sweet clean air of Monkey’s Eyebrow, but the sulfurous stench of a decaying swamp.

          Now, I don’t know if there’s a correlation between a bean supper and my new toilet, or if it’s just a coincidence, but it makes me wonder.

          I noticed a small leak beneath the bowl of my old toilet, so I called the fine folks at Graves Brothers in La Center. You know La Center, I imagine. It’s one of the suburbs of Monkey’s Eyebrow. It’s where our mail delivery comes from, and it’s where our stores and restaurants are located. Of course, we also have some stores and restaurants in our other suburbs, Barlow and Wickliffe, and even more of them in the Monkey’s Eyebrow Greater Metropolitan Area, which includes Paducah and McCracken County.

          The crew from Graves Brothers came out and discovered that there was a crack in the right-hand side of the toilet, where it bolts to the floor, and also a crack in the water tank.

          I thought about fixing the problem with some duct tape, but eventually decided it was time for a new toilet. Besides, the old toilet sometimes didn’t like to be flushed. I called it a four-flusher. I figured a new toilet, especially a princely one like the American Standard I ordered, would be a royal flush.

          But talking about beans and cornbread. When I cook a pot of beans, I season them with bacon or country ham or salt pork. I’m not sure which of the meats make better seasoning. I wouldn’t be surprised if a scoop of lard wouldn’t be best of all.

          One of the fascinating things about a pot of beans is that the beans taste better the next day when you warm them up for breakfast or lunch, or a between-meal snack. I don’t know why that is.

          I’ll eat any kind of cornbread, even House of Blues Cornbread, which is more like a dessert and shouldn’t be eaten with beans. My favorite, and the kind I always make, is the recipe used by my mother and my aunt Pod Tilley. I’ll post it here for you and I suggest that you try it. Note that some of the comments in this recipe are my own. Try it the next time you have beans.


Sour cream cornbread with comments.


Put a little bit of oil or lard in your cast iron skillet and put the skillet in your oven as it warms to 350. If you don't have a cast iron skillet stop reading right now, pack your belongings, and return to whatever part of "up north" you came from.

While skillet is heating, mix these ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cup self rising cornmeal mix,
1/2 cup vegetable oil,
2 eggs,
1 can creamed corn (8 oz. can),
1 carton sour cream (8 oz.)

Remove skillet from oven. If you don't have enough sense to use some type of oven mitt, stop now and report to the nearest emergency room.

Pour cornbread mixture into heated skillet, put it in the oven and bake for 45 minutes. I think 44 or 46 minutes would be ok if you want to be creative.

I stir the ingredients with a wooden spoon when I mix them. I don't think a wooden spoon is mandatory. You probably can mix them by other means. The mixture doesn't have to be real smooth. If it's not perfectly mixed it will blend during baking.


Playing keep-away with mice


December 27, 2019


I followed a tip on Facebook and put out bars of Irish Spring soap to keep mice out of the house. The mice are nibbling on it.

Someone suggested using clothes dryer sheets to keep the mice away.

I still have mice, but they are the softest, best smelling mice in Monkey's Eyebrow.


Pull it!


November 1, 2019


I was having blood drawn at the VA clinic in Paducah this morning.

The veteran ahead of me had gone to the restroom to leave a urine sample. He had been in there a while.

The phlebotomist was getting ready to stick me when the man said something.

I didn't hear what he said but the phlebotomist answered, "Pull it hard!"

I started laughing. I thought the vet was having some difficulty trying to pee and she was giving him advice.

But she explained that the little door was stuck, the door you have to open to put your cup of urine inside.

I prefer my original misunderstanding.

Suzzanne Kozma and Joe Culver at Lester headstone in Roselawn Cemetery, Bardwell, Ky.

Are you sure you’re who you think you are?


June 11, 2019


          It’s surprising to learn that you are not exactly who you thought you were. Not necessarily a bad surprise or a good surprise, but definitely a surprise.

I lived for almost 75 years proud of the fact that my several times paternal great grandfather came to this continent by boat from England in 1635.

          Because of Ancestry.com, I learned that wasn’t true. If the family tree information shown on Ancestry is correct, my several times paternal great grandmother had been here for 23 years before Edward Culver or Cullver or Collver or Colver the Puritan arrived to be one of the founders of Dedham, Mass.

          I am suspicious of the information about place of birth, but if it is correct my great grandmother times 12 was Anne Lewes, reportedly born in 1613 in James City, Va.

          Submitting DNA to a service such as Ancestry.com can help you learn much about your genetic history. In some cases, what you learn may be shocking. In my case, I learned that my biological father wasn’t who had always been my daddy. I was almost 75 when I learned that. Now, I feel as if the Culver side of me is only a third instead of a half. I have discovered a biological third that I never expected. That third belongs to the Lester family.

          I learned that my maternal biological line is indeed the Crice family through my mother, Jessie Lee Crice Culver. I learned that J.D. Culver was and remains my father in every possible way … except biologically. I learned that the biological father was a man named Douthitt Lester, a resident of Bardwell at the time.

          Here’s the story of how I learned about a new side of me.

          My sister Jeanne Culver Thorpe is very much into genealogical research. In fact, she has a couple of books about the Culver family available through Amazon.com.

          She sent her DNA sample to Ancestry, and eventually I did too. It became very interesting to see the eight relatives’ matches that were changed every couple of days.

          I started noticing a match to someone shown by the name of suzzannek1. This match stood out because it was at the same relationship level as Jeanne. Jeanne and I talked about it and exchanged e-mails, trying to guess how I could have such a close match who didn’t show up among her matches. We guessed every way except the right one.

          Jeanne eventually made contact with suzzannek1, whose name is Suzzanne Kozma. She is the daughter of the late Douthitt Lester. The only way we could have been related so closely is that we had the same father. And that’s what it was. Douthitt (Les) Lester is my father and hers.

          I have looked at Lester history and I’ve decided that I’m happy to have a third family tree. There have been some impressive Lesters, and, yes, some maybe who could be overlooked, especially the two who murdered two men.

          I encourage you to use one of the DNA services. I know of two, Ancestry.com and 23 and Me. You may find information you should pass along to your children. I did.

          J.D Culver lived to be 93 and Jessie Lee Culver lived to 87. I thought that provided good odds for my descendants. But then I learned about the Lester side.

          The best I can figure, I have already lived longer than any of my direct male ancestors among the Lesters. This gave me a good basis to tell my children, especially my sons, to mind their health.

          Here’s why. My father, Douthitt Lester, died at age 49. My half-brother Bill Lester was dead at 43. My grandfather Clyde Lester, who was principal and superintendent of Bardwell schools and served as a state representative, fell dead at the dining table at age 50. (His wife was Ethel Douthitt Lester, who taught school in this area.) His father, Dr. William Henry Lester, lived to age 70, but his father, Dr. Sterling Henry Lester, lived only 25 years. Sterling’s wife, Anne Cole Davis, married him when she was 14 years old, gave birth at 15, and died when she was 16.

          Sterling’s father was Fountain Claiborne Lester, who died at 40. According to a newspaper story, he sliced a man’s throat during an argument. That didn’t prove fatal so he stabbed the man in the throat, and it worked that time.

His father was Fountain Lester, who lived to be either 74 or 75. I haven’t found the date of his birth so I don’t know which is correct. Fountain’s father was Henry Lester, who made it to age 74. Bryan William Lester was his father, and he lived to be 65.

They were preceded by a series of Richard Lesters. Richard IV died at 54, Richard III died at 67, Richard II lived only to age 35, and his father, Richard Andrew Lester (being the first, he didn’t need a number), lived only to age 23.

Thomas Lester, who would have been my 12th grandfather, or great-grandfather, lived to be 64. The ancestry tree says that he married Anne Lewes, who was born in James City, Va., in 1613. She lived until 1635.

There were a lot of early deaths. I guess it’s a good thing I didn’t know about the Lester family until I was nearly 75 or I might not have lived this long.


Monkey's Eyebrow in 1954 when there were a store and residences

The Arivett Family of Monkey’s Eyebrow

And Other Settlers of the Area


June 2010


(Note: This is based on conversations with Evelyn Arivett Hook and Leroy Arivett on May 21, 2010, and on some e-mails from Evelyn and her daughter, Wilma Hook Romatz, who lives in Michigan.)


Evelyn Arivett Hook, born 99 years earlier in Monkey's Eyebrow, died on January 3, 2020.


           Ples and Irene Wildharber Arivett and Ples’ brother Brad weren’t the first people to own a business at Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, but their businesses and their presence in the area are inextricably linked to the history of this small community that sports one of the most unusual names in the United States.

The name is frequently featured in atlas listings of unusual names; it has been the subject of at least two features on National Public Radio, and is featured in two books by author Mark Usler, who came to Monkey’s Eyebrow on May 21 to launch his new book, Hometown Celebrations.

The Arivett name itself is also a bit unusual in that it is consistently spelled Arivett, but is pronounced three different ways within the same family. Most of the members of the family and the people who live in the area pronounce the name as Everett, but Evelyn Arivett Hook, daughter of Ples and Irene, pronounces it as it’s spelled, Ar-i-vett. Evelyn’s younger brother, Leroy, who lives near Chicago, pronounces it Ar-vett, without the “i” sound.

          Evelyn Arivett was born at Monkey’s Eyebrow in 1920, the first of four children born to Ples and Irene. Horace, who ran a store at Bandana and who died in Bandana a few years ago, was next. Then came Leroy, and finally Harold, who lives near Atlanta.

The family’s roots in Monkey’s Eyebrow stretch back into the 1800s.  

          The Wildharbers and Goodleys, Irene Arivett’s family, came to Ballard County in 1903 from Henderson, Kentucky. Ples Arivett’s sister, Maude, told Evelyn that when their great grandfather, Jesse Beeler, came to Ballard County from Tennessee in the early 1840s it was nothing but wilderness. For many years, he and his children all lived in houses along what is now called Monkey’s Eyebrow Road, or state route 473.

          “Maudie was quite a colorful character too,” Wilma Hook Romatz, Evelyn’s daughter, remembers, “chewing snuff and spitting into a Calumet baking powder can. She had coal black dyed hair, and a huge diamond ring and red-painted nails.  Her language was equally colorful.”

          According to Evelyn, “Aunt Maudie said she heard that her grandpa had a whole trunk full of confederate money and her grandma kept trying to get him to change it. He refused, and lost everything after the Civil War was over.”

         John William Arivett, Ples Arivett’s grandfather, was born in Virginia but moved to Ballard County in the 1860s. He lived to be 98 and was married three times. He lived in Wickliffe when he died in 1940.

The business history of Monkey’s Eyebrow goes back to before the Arivetts opened their first business, which was a gristmill. A man whose last name was Ray had Ray’s Store at the bottom of the hill, down in an area which some folks call Old Monkey. Later, Guy Borden ran the store. Ples and Irene Arivett lived in a house near that store, on the south side of the road. There are no buildings there today. The area is covered with trees.

Several families lived in the area. Before the road was paved, the old road made a 90-degree turn to the north, opposite what is now Palmore Road, then it curved back toward the west, behind where Jim and Jean Meadors live now. The Arivett Store and most of the residences were northwest of the Meadors’ house. The buildings are no longer there.

Charley Waldon lived across the field (no paved road then) south of the store in the white house where Imogene Alexander lives now.

A family of Beelers lived down the road. Evelyn’s grandfather, John Wildharber, at one time owned the farm due east of the old road, a farm later owned by a Graves family and then by Herman and Pod Tilley, a part of which is now owned by Joe Culver.

According to Evelyn Hook, Wildharber came here from California, lived here two or three years, and then went back. He played in a band, When he came here he built a box that his bass fiddle would fit into. He put the box on the back of the car and brought it here with him.

The house where Charley Waldon’s family lived – where twin brothers Dot and Tot were born – was previously occupied by a family named Moss. Evelyn remembers playing with their daughter, who was about her age.

Some other families who lived in the area were Redferns, Crabtrees and Yanceys. “And there were Turners who lived down there. They used to sell watermelons. Sand Ridge grew the best watermelons,” Evelyn Hook recalls.

“There used to be some Laniers who lived down there. Judy Magee was a Hayden, and when you go by the game reserve entry there and you go on down to that curve, the Haydens lived in the house just on that curve. That’s where Judy and her sister grew up,” Evelyn said.

There was a small school “right over there in front of where that antenna is,” Evelyn said, pointing to the WPSD TV tower. “There used to be a building that was still there. I don’t know if it still is, I haven’t been down that road for a while. The building was still there even after they built that antenna out there.

“It was called Graves School. I would say 25 or 30 children went there. It had been built for a two-room school but we used only one of the rooms. If it was good weather we’d play outside, but if it was bad we could go in there, in the other room, and play games or whatever.

“The teacher that we had was real good to read to us. We used to have box suppers and she would use the money that we made from the suppers and other activities to buy books and things to entertain the kids. I love books still, and I’m sure I got it from her. Her name was Laura Lee Holt.”

The Monkey’s Eyebrow children went to high school at Bandana. There were no school buses then, but Howard Owsley, Joe Owsley’s dad, took a two-ton flatbed truck and converted it into a bus. It was closed in, with benches around the walls and a bench down the middle. It also had windows.

“He charged us 10 cents a day,” Evelyn recalls. “He would take us to Bandana and then pick us up at the end of the day. There were 15 or 20 people who rode it. He started at Needmore and drove all around the area picking up children.”

Before he built the gristmill which he and his brother Brad ran, Ples Arivett worked in California twice. He also worked on Dam 53 when it was being built, when Evelyn was about four or five years old. The Arivett family lived at the bottom of the hill then, in a house just past Ray’s Store.

Leroy Arivett recalls that his father would get up very early in the morning and walk the five miles to where they were building the dam. Because he left before daylight, Ples would carry a lantern. Evelyn said he would walk down to where the wildlife refuge is now, cross a lake and go over to where the dam was. Evelyn says she was born in 1920 and that would have been around 1925.

“And then we went to California in 1926,” Evelyn remembers. “My dad and my uncle were working out in the oilfields. I guess the oil company owned houses and rented them to the people who worked for them. We lived out there in a mountainous area and my dad wouldn’t let me go to school because he said you’ll have to ride the bus and there’s all those winding roads. He was afraid for me to ride the bus. So I didn’t go to school until I was seven years old after we moved back.”

They lived in Paducah for about a year or so and Evelyn’s first year of school was in Paducah. After that, she finished grade school at the Graves School at Monkey’s Eyebrow. That school remained active until it was consolidated with Bandana.

She went away to college at Murray State in the fall of 1938 and I didn’t move back.

The Arivetts did some farming in addition to running their businesses. Wilma taped a conversation with her uncle Horace a few years ago when he talked about the time they raised acres of sweet potatoes during the depression, thinking that they could sell them and make a little bit of money.  They found it was going to cost more to ship them than they would get, so they brought them back home and ate them all winter. Horace said he still couldn't look at a sweet potato years later.

The Arivetts’ first business enterprise at Monkey’s Eyebrow was a gristmill operated by brothers Ples and Brad. Evelyn says she was always fascinated with the machinery at the mill. They had a tractor chassis in the back part of the mill. It had a big drive shaft that went all the way across and the motor would run an assortment of pulleys and belts. It had a crusher that crushed the corn and there was another grinder that made meal.

“The mill made a lot of meal,” Evelyn says. “My dad usually did that. The Yopp Seed Company in Paducah would buy bags and let my dad fill them up with meal and they would take them back and sell them with Yopp’s name on the bags.”

About a year after they built the grist mill they started putting groceries in the front part. When Evelyn was about 12, in the early 1930s, the Arivetts built a frame building to house the store, separate from the mill.

There was a set of scales between the store and the mill.

Farmers would weigh their loaded trucks before the corn was ground. They would weigh them again when the trucks were empty. The difference was the weight of the corn.

Evelyn remembers that the store had about anything that you would want to buy, except meat because there was no electricity to run a cooler to keep meat.

Later, after the Arivett brothers dissolved their partnership, Ples tore down the frame building and built a new store of blocks in the same location as the first store. Those stores were on top of the hill, a location some people call “New Monkey” to distinguish it from the Ray’s Store that stood at the bottom of the hill. With the advent of electricity, that store was able to sell meat.

The Arivetts ran that store until around 1955 when they retired and moved to Bandana, where Horace already had a store.

By the time the uranium enrichment plant was being built near Kevil in the 1950s, there were 14 people living beside or around the Arivetts’ house and store in Monkey’s Eyebrow.

When the state of Kentucky acquired several of the lakes in the area, Ples fixed up rooms to rent to hunters. “He was always looking for ways to make more business,” Evelyn says.

Evelyn moved away in 1938 to go to college at Murray State. She married Harold Hook in 1942, and they lived in McCracken County, but came back to Monkey’s Eyebrow often to visit her family.

She and Harold had a store for about three years in Camelia, where the road from the Paducah Airport intersections with Highway 62.

Ples Arivett died in 1975, and Irene lived until 1999. She was 96 years old.


Comments from readers

          Here are some comments from people who have read this article:

          Billy Lanier: “The Laniers mentioned in your article were my grandparents, Wallace and Alice Lanier. New Hope Baptist Church sits on land given by my granddaddy.”

          Mary Helen Hicks: “The Barnhill family are the ones who lived closer to Monkey’s Eyebrow and raised watermelon, right in front of Mrs. Redfern. Their son is my brother-in-law, married to my youngest sister.”

          Ava Magee Siener: “How nice. I go to read about the Arivett family and come across a mention of my mother, Judy Magee.”

          Jeanne Culver Thorpe: “This is a great article. I love the genealogy.”

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