My father, J.D. Culver, left, Herman Tilley, center, and my son Jubal Culver relaxing in the yard at Monkey's Eyebrow, probably around 1986. This may have been  when Herman complained about all the traffic since the road had been paved ... all three cars.

How should I know? And a couple gripes.

 

June 9, 2017

 

I left the friendly confines of Monkey’s Eyebrow and went to Paducah this morning and decided to stop at Cracker Barrel for breakfast.

I look at the menu but almost always order the Sunrise Sampler when I stop there for breakfast. That includes a piece each of bacon, sausage and ham; a couple of biscuits and some gravy; a bowl of grits; a scoop of hashbrown casserole, and some fried apples.

The menu says it also includes a couple of eggs, but I always turn those down because I don't eat fried or scrambled eggs. I think they charge the same price for leaving off the two eggs as they do for including them.

The server, who was from Ballard County by the way, brought the plates and bowls and coffee to my table.

A woman I assume was a manager walked by. "Is everything good?" she asked.

I had taken one bite of something at that point.

"I don't know, I haven't eaten everything," I answered.

She said, "Sorry, we'll check back later," and she walked to some other table to ask if everything there was good. She didn't come back later to check with me. I thought everything was good despite her failure to return.

For some reason, that reminds me of the occasional phone call I get on my landline:

"Hello."

"Hello. Is this Joe Culver?"

"Yes it is."

"How are you this morning?"

"You don't really care how I am. What do you want to try to sell me that I am going to turn down?"

And that reminds me of some recent phone calls I’ve taken where the caller asks, usually in heavily accented phone-fraud voice, “May I speak to the lady of the house?”

I hang up immediately.

But the next time I get that call I’m going to answer in my best bass voice, “I AM the lady of the house!”

If you don’t know it already, let me give a quick lesson: Anyone who calls and asks to speak to the lady of the house is making a cold sales call and has no idea who you are, who is the lady of the house, or even if there is a lady of the house.

And also speaking of a "couple of eggs," as I did a few paragraphs above (re-read the second paragraph to see how often I mentioned a “couple of”), more and more people seem to be writing such things as "a couple eggs." People, I don't care if some modern, ignorant writer has said it's okay to write "a couple" (as a noun meaning two, or an approximation thereof, without the "of") you must stop saying such things as "I bought a couple shirts."

"Couple" requires "of" when used that way. I don't think any of you would say, "I bought a pair shoes."

Zero is better than nothing

 

June 7, 2017

 

          Wow! I didn’t expect so much difference between my old tractor-style riding mower and my new zero-turn mower.

          I’ve never used a zero-turn mower but my son, Joe Ray Culver, told me it would reduce the total mowing time from about three hours to about one hour. His guidance, and the fact that my tractor-style mower was ready for replacement, are why I was cutting didoes on the orange Husqvarna this afternoon. (Didoes. Didoes. There is no L.)

          The zero-turn mower apparently comes programmed to demonstrate its assortment of turns, whether or not the new operator wants to make them.

          I probably didn’t need that stump anyway, and it was a good test of the durability of the mower’s blades. Maybe I didn’t need the side of the shed either, but I wasn’t ready to get rid of it.

          It did cut down my mowing time. I didn’t manage to mow the whole yard  here at Monkey's Eyebrow before fear brought me back indoors, but I do have a very neat circle of mowed grass in that one spot.

There’s no business like no business

 

May 22, 2017

 

          “That’s okay, I’ll buy it somewhere else.”

          With seven years of spiders, webs, bugs, dust, and residue from nearby farming operations proudly camouflaging my windows and old, small country home at Monkey’s Eyebrow, I decided it might be time to look into buying a pressure washer.

          Judicious use of same would remove all that stuff from the house. It might come as a surprise, even a shock, to drivers who pass this way often. Some of them might not have noticed there is a house here. Most of them don’t drive by often enough to notice one way or another. Many of them are lost. Being lost is one of the easiest ways to find Monkey’s Eyebrow. Actually it isn’t accurate to write that many of them are lost. Fact is, there aren’t many who drive past whether or not they are lost.

          For sure I’d get one if it had a GPS built in so I could just turn it on and watch it wash while I sat in a yard chair and read a book. Did I ever mention that I’m at least mildly lazy?

          I checked with the Ballard Co-op in La Center and was told they didn’t have any.

          I was in Paducah this afternoon to have lunch with some folks and thought that while I was there I might as well see if I could find a pressure washer that fit my need and my pocketbook. The pocketbook is harder to fit. I assumed before shopping that pressure washers cost dollars, not cents. Cents are easier to come by. I’ve learned that the dollars are much scarcer since I retired and moved here. I guess the dollars are like the tourists: Most of them get lost on the way to Monkey’s Eyebrow if they try to find it at all.

          Tractor Supply is on the way home. At least it’s on one of the ways home. Just as it is with Rome, all roads lead to Monkey’s Eyebrow. Well, at least a few of them do. Only one actually passes right through the middle of town. I guess when you get right down to it, very few roads lead to Monkey’s Eyebrow.

          I stopped at Tractor Supply and went in. I asked the clerk just inside the door where pressure washers were displayed, and she told me.

          I looked at the couple of models they had and decided the less expensive one probably would be powerful and durable enough to handle a house washing once every seven years.

          Being an older person with mildly debilitating conditions, and also wanting to ask a couple of questions about the device, I went back to the clerk and told her I would need help loading the washer. She sent me back to the display and said someone would meet me there.

          He was there about as soon as I was. He said something like, “Do you need something?” or maybe “Whaddya need?” I told him I thought I would buy the washer I pointed to, told him I had a question or two, and that I needed help loading it.

               He assured me that the model I indicated would be sufficiently sufficient for my needs. In that case, I said, I will buy it and I will need help loading it.

               “Do you have a cart?” he asked.

               The answer should have been obvious standing in the narrow aisle as we were, but I told him that I didn’t have a cart.

               “Do you want me to carry it out on my shoulder,” he said, which startled me into a state of momentary inability to reply. (If I had not suffered a case of addled wits because of his attitude, I probably would have told him I didn’t give a diddly damn how to carried it out.) I think I might have said no, but I’ll get a cart. Maybe I said something like that or maybe nothing.

               “Next time you come in, get a cart,” he told me.

               I told him when I came back to the pressure washer display I didn’t know if I was going to buy one or I might have brought a cart. I probably mumbled something else and stepped toward the front of the store. He stepped right along with me.

               “I’ll get a cart,” he said.

               “Never mind,” I replied.

               “No, I’ll get a cart.”

               “Don’t bother, I’m not going to buy the washer,” I told him.

               He said something to the effect that he wasn’t sarcastic and I said, “What do you call asking if I want you to carry it on your shoulder and telling me to get a cart next time I shopped? If it wasn’t sarcastic it sure as hell made me decide not to buy here.”

               We had a couple of exchanges after that and I told him I had other places where I could spend my money and I walked to my Jeep and drove home, stopped only once a few feet up the highway to call the store and tell a manager why I did not buy the pressure washer.

               He said he understood. He said to come back “and we’ll make it right.”

               Honestly, I can’t be enticed back that way. To return and perhaps get a discount would suggest that I had feigned being upset in hopes of getting a better price. I told him no thanks, and said I would buy a washer somewhere else.

               In fact, I may not buy one at all. I’m gotten used to my camouflaged house and learned how to find it every time. If I wash it, unpleasant people like that guy in Tractor Supply might see it and decide to stop and talk to me.

As Shakespeare said, “To pee or not to pee”

 

May 4, 2017

 

          Growing old, along with its associated aches and pains and humiliations, is nature’s way of helping us come to grips with the notion that death may not be a bad alternative.

          What started a while back as a preparation to remove my thyroid gland and the parathyroids behind it if the parathyroids were where they should be, turned into a heart catheterization, a diminished capacity to use to my right leg, the discovery that my prostate is the size of a grapefruit, a tumor on the left adrenal gland and surgery to remove gland and tumor, concern over a small spot at the bottom of my right lung discovered by a CT scan (a spot which seems to be vanishing), and now a jug in which to collect 24 hours’ worth of urine. All of that is too long of a story to tell; just take my word for it. At least no one can say that I don’t have a pot to piss in.

          One might assume that the collection of urine was related to the grapefruit prostate, which makes it very unlikely that I can drive past a public restroom. I’m familiar with all of those public urinals because of the enlarged prostate. One would be wrong to assume that.

          In fact, the jug of urine, which will be housed in the refrigerator (yuck!), is related to the parathyroids, which might be responsible for the slightly elevated level of calcium that shows up in blood tests or urine tests or maybe both.

          I started the collection at 8 this morning. It ends at 8 on Friday morning, after which I drive to Marion, Illinois, to deliver the pee pot and have a bone density study at the VA medical center there.

          I vaguely remember a time many years ago when such things were not only not a part of my life, they weren’t even a part of my thoughts of the future. That was a time before the sound effects related to standing up from a chair, and a time before panty liners – well, I guess I should call them men’s absorbent shields to catch the drips and dribbles of growing old and having an enlarged prostate.

          Ah yes, the drips and dribbles. The creaks and cracks. The moans and groans. The prostate exams by doctors with big fingers. The pot to piss in.

          But through it all, for some odd reason I feel good. If someone asked about my health I would be tempted to say it’s excellent because I rarely get sick from things that produce symptoms. In fact, it’s probably less than excellent because of the various conditions: High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high calcium, heart caths and stents, type 2 diabetes, some level of kidney disease probably caused by the type 2 diabetes, a sine wave of blood sugar levels that oscillate up or down depending on how many times I eat at the breakfast or dinner buffet, damaged nerve in the right leg, and the piss pot alongside the various foods in the refrigerator.

          But I honestly feel good. With the long list of conditions, I think I should feel sick or decrepit, but I don’t. I have said this to my doctor on more than one visit to his office.

          Still, there is that humbling, humiliating reality of prostate fingers and peeing into a jug.

          If I let the doctors remove everything they think should be removed, I would be hollow inside and probably would feel much worse than I feel stuffed with a mostly intact set of organs and glands. One of the paradoxes we experience is that sometimes we feel worse after treatments that might prolong our lives than we would feel if we just skipped along as is.

          The more often we see doctors, the more conditions we learn we have, and the more things we can worry about if we choose to worry about things.

          But at least I have a pot to piss in. For the next 24 hours anyway.

Most dreams aren’t realistic and I’m glad

 

March 14, 2017

 

Occasionally I awake from a dream here in Monkey’s Eyebrow about having sex.

I frequently dream about being back at the newspaper in Cairo, Ill., or Oak Ridge, Tenn. It's also not unusual to dream about hunting ducks with Danny and Tommy Ryan.

The newsrooms don't resemble the ones where I actually worked. The duck hunts are usually in some improbable location, like a pond in the middle of a heavily populated residential area, and are also unrealistic in that I occasionally hit a duck in the dreams. Many times I don't even shoot because I can't pull the trigger.

I woke up a couple of minutes ago after earning a great ovation because of my guitar playing.

All those dreams have one thing in common: They don't happen in real life, even though some of them resemble memories of real life.

The one dream I don't have, a dream I fear I will have, and the one that would be realistic is the one where I would dream I just peed in my pants.

The pajama years

Enjoying aging in Monkey’s Eyebrow

 

February 16, 2017

 

          I walked outside this afternoon to get the mail. I stood for a while, just looking around at the 50 acres that surround my house and outbuildings.

          A few of those acres are mine. Facing retirement in just a few years, I bought them in 2007 from my cousin Barbara Tilley Moss and her husband, Joe. Barby’s parents – Herman and Pod Tilley – owned these 50 and later added another 50 acres on the other side of Monkey’s Eyebrow Road.

I retired on the last day of 2009 and moved here in January or February of 2010; I forget the exact date. If I am counting properly on my fingers, that means I have been living here for seven years.

          Today the farmed part of the acreage, which is all of it except for an acre or two occupied by my house and other buildings, is soybean stubble. As a matter of fact, everything within sight from my yard is soybean stubble except for the few houses and their yards that I can see. In a few months everything will be green, primarily because of corn.

          There’s a fairly standard rotation of crops around here. One year people grow corn. After that is harvested, they plant winter wheat and when they harvest that wheat the following spring they put out soybeans. Then it’s back to corn. One corn harvest one year, two harvests – wheat and soybeans – the next.

          I stood there and contemplated the view and the cycle represented within the view. New crops are planted, they sprout and grow and then they are harvested and become stubble. I acknowledged that I am also part of that cycle: Birth, life and then death.

          I didn’t dwell on the cycle. I mostly looked around while my Chesapeake Bay retriever Herman romped in the stubble, and I had one primary thought: I’m home; I’m happy to be part of Monkey’s Eyebrow, happy to be here, happy to watch Herman as he romps and sniffs for subterranean moles, happy to be who I am, whoever that is.

          We humans have to classify things. We have to break the flow of time into countable units. Seconds, minutes, hours, days. Time doesn’t care about units, only humans care. We need to be on time. We need to know what time it is, what day it is, what year it is. We measure time and we measure our lives by counting birthdays.

          We have to put ourselves into categories: Infant, toddler, adult, senior citizen.

          I wondered, what is my category.

          Am I a senior, am I old, am I in my twilight years?

          Glancing down toward my legs I decided that the proper classification is “pajama years.”

          My father lived through quite a few pajama years.

          He had no cartilage in his right hip, which made walking very difficult and very painful. He had a walker and some model of electric wheelchair (I think they called it a Jazzy) that he used inside the house. He spent a lot of time sitting in his chair. Because he wasn’t going outside, there was no need to dress every day so he often sat in his chair wearing his pajamas.

          It hit me: I’m in pajama years, too. I don’t have the hip problem but I mostly stay inside except when I get the mail, so most of the time I just wear my pajamas. If I’m going to town – La Center, Wickliffe, Paducah – I’ll change into a pair of shorts and a shirt. Shorts and shirt. That’s my standard dress-up attire. In cold weather I wear a hoodie or a light jacket, but almost always shorts and shirts. If I go to a funeral, I wear long pants. I have some suits and sports coats. They gather dust.

          Something else hit me: I really should put on shorts and shirt and get out more, even if for nothing more social than taking walks down the road and waving at the people in the occasional car that passes. I probably should go to towns more. Maybe mingle with and talk with people. Reading books, writing an occasional piece to post on Facebook or on this website, getting the mail; I’m content with that life but maybe I should do more.

          I expect (and hope) to have a few more years in which to either sit around in pajamas or get out into the world, and I need to make a firm commitment to one or the other. The pajama lifestyle is easier but is it better? Damned if I know.

          It’s inevitable, of course, that my life is part of a cycle, just as the crop rotation cycle around here.

          I take some comfort in knowing that my body may make a contribution that could be of benefit to society. On Nov. 4, 2003, I signed a body donation document donating my body to the University of Tennessee Anthropological Research Facility, better known as the “Body Farm.” I hope it will be used to obtain forensic information that may help authorities identify and convict murderers in the future.

          Other people have different ideas of how to dispose of bodies. Some put them on display for others and then bury them. Some cremate them. Some put them into pots that eventually grow into trees.

          I think that recycling for research purposes is the best way to handle my body. That’s my choice. I respect all choices. One of the fascinating attributes of humankind is that we have lots of different beliefs and opinions.

          Meanwhile, however, I hope the remaining years of my life are lived in such a way that I receive pleasure and satisfaction, and that I continue to appreciate life in Monkey’s Eyebrow. I’m glad most of you don’t share the Monkey’s Eyebrow views … if you did, the place would get to be too crowded and my arm would get tired from waving at all the cars that go by. As it is now, I can nap between cars. Life here is good.

Must be some kind of foreign spice

 

January 10, 2017

 

          Sometimes I cook from scratch. Sometimes I just grab something like a piece of deli ham and eat it. Sometimes I use one of those packaged meals that have most of the ingredients in the box.

          Tonight I thought I would use the box of Hamburger Helper that has been sitting in a cabinet for a while. Don’t ask how long. And the ground chuck in the refrigerator smells like fairly fresh ground chuck so I think it will be safe.

          I always read the instructions before I start.

 

  1. Brown beef in 10-inch skillet; drain. (That’s pretty easy, except I decided to use a sauce pan instead of a skillet. The sauce pan has one of those lids with little drain holes built into it.)

  2. Stir in hot water, milk, sauce mix and potatoes. Heat to boiling. (I can do that.)

  3. Reduce heat. Cover; simmer about 23 minutes, stirring occasionally, until potatoes tender. Remove from heat. Refrigerate leftovers.

 

That one stumped me. What in the hell is leftovers? Must be some kind of French spice. It wasn’t in the box.

I decided to eat something else.

Lovely letter from lady lawyer

 

January 9, 2017

 

          I wish every day would begin as buoyantly as this one. An e-mail from Julia, an attorney in Louisville, was delightful. Julia, and two other lawyers from that big city where the Cardinals make their basketball home, made a road trip to west Kentucky in April. They looked for and found Monkey’s Eyebrow during their 1,208 mile journey, but missed my yard signs. I suspect their navigating device’s voice led them up Palmore Road, and then had them turn left in front of Jim and Jean Meadors’ house.

          Julia gave me permission to post her letter here.

 

Mr. Culver,

I wanted to say hello from Louisville, Kentucky and let you know that I have thoroughly enjoyed your website and have taken great delight in reading your stories.  I am only sorry that I just found your website a few days ago.  I say that because in April of this year I took a road trip “out west” with Molly and Christy, two of my law school buddies.  Our seven-night road trip began in Louisville. Heading west, we eschewed interstates in favor of country roads and over the course of seven nights and eight days traveled 1208 miles exploring western Kentucky.  We stayed at bed and breakfasts and state parks along the way.  I know you can appreciate our adventure since you yourself “got your kicks on Route 66.”

Monkey’s Eyebrow was one of our destinations.  Had I known of you in April we most assuredly would have made a point to stop and visit with you.  You appear to me, by your website, to be the most official “un-official” ambassador of Monkey’s Eyebrow.  We did not stop by the Ballard Wildlife Management Area or the Barlow House (places you have promoted on your website).  But if we had stopped to visit you, our flexible itinerary probably would have adjusted itself to accommodate those recommendations, which I am sure you would have made to us in person.  We stopped at the Wickliffe Mounds, but it was too late in the day to take the tour.  We did however make it to the Cross at the confluence.

As it was, we took the trip navigator lady’s word (“that woman,” as I refer to her) that we had arrived at our destination “Monkey’s Eyebrow.”  We stopped at that moment on the side of the road, got out and took a picture of us standing in the middle of nowhere. (Note: They pulled off in the curve just past the Meadors house.)  The visit was a bit anti-climactic (but I was prepared for that based on what I had read.)   How we missed your sign I do not know.   If we had seen it, we would have stopped for a picture.

Had we stopped to meet you, it would have been so much more meaningful and memorable.   And I have wondered if you would have then written on your website about the time three “big-city” female lawyers stopped by for a visit on their way through Monkey’s Eyebrow. I hate that we missed the opportunity to meet you.  I only hope I can get that way again sometime sooner, rather than later, to meet the ambassador of Monkey’s Eyebrow!!

Among your stories, I enjoyed the “Onion Sex Inhibitor” and “Mirror mirror on the wall” (great picture!) and particularly liked and agreed with your observations in “Poetry? How can you tell?”  I am waiting for the right opportunity to use “Licks and ticks may need a fix, but dog hairs never harm me.” All the rest of your stories bring a sense of history and local color including your description of downtown Wickliffe back in the day.  Thanks for sharing it all.

Despite all the research I did prior to our trip, I inexplicably missed your site.  The reason I am finding it now is that I am writing an account of our trip for our family newspaper, The Pikes Speak.  I was hoping to embellish our visit to Monkey’s Eyebrow with some interesting fact about the place and decided to poke around the internet a bit.

I sent my travel buddies a link to your site, suggesting that in failing to meet you, we missed what might have been one of the highlights of our trip.  My friend Christy replied “I agree it would have been fun to stop and chat with this guy – unless he tried to get us to have onion sex.”

Best wishes to you from your newest fan in Louisville, Kentucky

Julia

Attorney at Law

It’s a back-to-bed type of morning …

Thanks to the sound-effects dog

 

December 5, 2016

 

We heat the house by burning wood in a fireplace insert. When the cast iron insert heats up, a thermostat or thermocouple turns a little blower fan on, and that can keep the entire house warm.

The fire will burn for about two or two and a half hours at a temperature high enough to keep the fan blowing, then as the fire burns down the fan will go off for a few minutes, and come back on for a few minutes as the heat builds back up.

I sleep in the living room in my recliner, stretched out on one arm of the couch while Herman the Chesapeake Bay retriever sleeps on the other arm, or sometimes while sitting in another chair. I’m restless and have to change positions to be comfortable.

When the fan stops blowing, that usually wakes me up and I add a stick or two of firewood to keep the temperature high enough that the fan will keep running. Much more than a stick or two and the temperature gets so high that it’s not comfortable in the living room.

Sometimes I let Herman out around midnight or 1 a.m., so he can answer any call of nature. Most of the time he doesn’t hear nature calling; he goes out to the burning bush in the front yard and tries to wake up any birds that happen to be sleeping there.

Around 6 a.m., Joe Ray usually wakes up and gives Herman his breakfast, lets him have a morning outdoor break, and starts the coffee pot. Sometimes it’s later than that, and sometimes I’m up first and take care of the chores.

I woke up this morning when I heard the fan kick on. Herman was sitting there looking at me, waiting for his breakfast. I glanced at the clock, saw that it was 7:10 a.m., and apologized to Herman for oversleeping. Joe Ray was out of town or Herman would have been fed already.

And then I realized … I had not started a fire last night. It wasn’t going to be cold enough to justify burning up firewood that we might need on the really cold nights. In fact, the house temperature had dropped only to 58 degrees.

So how did I hear the fan kick on? A dream? I don’t think so. That’s when it dawned on me: Herman must have learned to do sound effects. I thought about how impressive that was as I walked into the kitchen.

I wasn’t nearly as impressed by the string of dog poop piles Herman had left as a gift and a strong message that it isn’t right to make him stay cooped up indoors past his normal breakfast-and-morning walk time. It is an extremely rare thing for Herman to let go indoors, and the time or two it has happened have been on mornings when we overslept.

My first reaction was to wish that he had learned the sound-effects trick earlier in the morning. My second was to get him fed and outdoors so I could pick up after him.

I got a roll of toilet paper, picked up the bigger of the piles, and took it to the bathroom to flush it down and out. This was one of the mornings that the toilet decided it didn’t want to flush. It refused to do so without a superhuman effort on the plumber’s helper.

Mess cleaned up, I called Herman to come back in. He didn’t come. I used my trainer whistle which usually works if he’s gone farther away than normal. Still no Herman. I tried a couple of other techniques.

Eventually, Herman came trotting from the north. He must have found something interesting in the field or perhaps even on the WPSD property where the station’s tower stands.

Whatever he found, it was not the most pleasant smelling thing one might find in Monkey’s Eyebrow. That was a few minutes ago.

Such is a morning, though not necessarily a typical morning, at Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky.

I think I should just go back to bed. I’m afraid to see what the rest of the day holds in store.

Iron Man, but without the competition

 

October 10, 2016


I haven't forgotten, but my skills have declined.

I have done very little ironing since I retired. Very very little. Not much point in looking sharply starched and pressed when you spend most of the day hanging around indoors with a dog. I need to keep my skills up. Maybe I should iron the dog.

I ironed today. Dug out the Rowenta Professional "burst of steam" iron and dust-gathering ironing board from wherever it was hidden at my Monkey’s Eyebrow home. (Very particular about the iron I use, not so much about the board.)

In my working days – at least the latter half of them – I ironed just about every week. A few wrinkles – a slept-in look or maybe a “been-rasslin'-the-dog-again” look – doesn't bother me or the dog these days.

I try not to smell too doggy but looks don't bother me. As dog lovers say, "Licks and ticks may need a fix, but dog hairs never harm me." I guess I don't know that dog lovers say that but they probably say something.

You know you're getting old when you can't decide whether your face or your clothes have more wrinkles.

Bella, left, Tana Ivitts and Jim Ivitts

Pod’s pup competes in Waterfowl Festival

 

September 18, 2016

 

I went to the Ballard County Waterfowl Festival at the fairgrounds in La Center this afternoon. The main reason I went was to see Pod’s pup in the Air Dogs jumping contest. I also wanted to see how things were going in general.

My female Chesapeake Bay retriever, Monkey’s Eyebrow Pisingist Pod, was a quality dog. She had the drive and the instincts to be a good hunting dog, and she also participated in AKC hunt tests.

She had a litter of pups, sired by Jon Butler’s outstanding Chesapeake Prairie Sky Patterson (Bear), on August 12, 2015. She had only three. The smallest, a very small female, lived only three days.

Jim and Tana Ivitts, who own Ivitts Plumbing in Paducah, bought the surviving female of the litter. I was going to keep the male. He seemed like he might turn out to be a good hunter and he made me smile. I laughed at him. The smile and the laugh were reasons enough to keep him.

But two things intervened to change my mind. One was that a trip to the hospital in October to get a stress test prior to having my thyroid removed transformed into a heart cath and a bad right leg. I couldn’t move the leg from the knee down. I was told it might get better, but it might not. If you want a retriever to reach its potential you have to train it every day. I knew I would not be able to do that with a bad leg so I gave the pup to Jon Butler. (As an afterthought, I’ll report that I have 90 to 95 per cent use of the leg now.)

On Nov. 19, Pod started acting listless as if she had no energy. Two trips to the vet later, we learned she had a massive cancerous tumor on an ovary. We didn’t let her wake up. That was on Nov. 28, 2015.

The male – I called him Gabi for Grin and Bear It – is a big dog, worthy of his daddy’s name, Bear. The female – Jim and Tana named her Bella after my daughter – is a dainty thing, a very good looking Chesapeake.

Yesterday was the first time they had let Bella try her jumping ability in the air dogs type of competition, where the idea is to have your dog jump as far as it can into a tank of water in chase of a retrieving dummy. She finished second in her class yesterday and came back to do better today.

I went today to watch her jump again. I stayed for the first round but I don’t like being in the heat so I came home. I think she jumped farther in that first round than she did yesterday.

The festival drew a lot of people. Festival officials were parking cars in two or three different places.

In addition to the jumping and splashing dogs, there were vendors selling stuff, much of it related to hunting. There were duck calling contests for competition callers and for hunting callers. The agenda included music, kayaking, bicycle riding, helicopter rides, seminars and I don’t know what all.

I would say it was a big success. Congratulations to the folks who put it together. I think you can safely say that was a bit deal for Ballard County.

And a lot of the goose hunting that once made us famous and the duck hunting that still does happens right around Monkey’s Eyebrow. There are several private hunting clubs nearby and the state’s Ballard Wildlife Management Area is just a couple of miles down the road.

I like hunting ducks. I don’t care so much these days if I shoot any. When Pod was alive I shot some so she could retrieve them. But I am content just to sit in a blind, calling when some fly by, and watching them swing toward me or keep on truckin’, that latter being what happens most often. I don’t really care if I shoot or not. Much of the time I don’t shoot.

We don’t get the big flocks of Canada geese now. When we did, I liked to sit outside at twilight and listen as they flew over.

Nowadays, we see thousands of snow geese and white fronted geese (speckle bellies) flying over in seemingly never ending formations. But their cackling and squeaking isn’t worth sitting outside to hear.

I miss the Canadas’ honking. But I also miss being young and energetic so I could fight my way into the most dismal swamps, to risk life and limb back in the days when hypothermia didn’t exist (or at least we didn’t know about it).

Today, I sit and listen, mostly to ducks. That’s because it’s hard to struggle into a pair of waders, or break through ice and brush to climb into a duck blind, and freeze my butt off like we did back in those days when two layers of clothing (some cotton long johns and a pair of denim jeans), a couple of long-sleeved shirts, a brown hunting coat, some brown cotton jersey gloves, and a patched-up pair of uninsulated hip boots were what we counted on for survival.

At 73 years old, it’s easier to just sit outdoors and listen.

Damn it!

The young man in my mirror.

Mirror mirror on the wall

 

September 17, 2016

 

          I look in the mirror in my Monkey’s Eyebrow house to make sure my fedora hat is placed just right before I leave the house.

The young face. The fedora sitting perfectly just above it.

I smile. The young man in the mirror smiles back at me. Good mirror.

It’s okay to leave now and go to Tractor Supply where that expensive dog food that Herman eats is on sale. Herman isn’t much account so I probably should stop buying Blue Wilderness for him and start getting some cheaper dog food, maybe some made from floor sweepings.

I stop in the dog food aisle and see that the kind I get, the variety in a copper-colored bag, is still too expensive but some $8 less expensive than normal.

I get two bags.

Time to check out. The young woman at checkout asks, "Do you need help with that?" Checkout people ask me that often these days. I don’t know why. They must not be seeing the man in my mirror.

They need to come to Monkey’s Eyebrow and look at the man in my mirror. Their eyes aren’t all that good, I think, but there’s something about my mirror that improves vision.

Separated from me by a counter, they aren’t seeing the young man in the perfectly arranged fedora. Instead, they must be seeing some feeble old man with two bags of dog food. A feeble old man who needs help getting back to his car with those two bags.

If I accept help, will the helper come home with me? If I can’t manage to push a cart to my car and then unload two bags, how do they expect me to get the bags from my car and carry them into my house? I guess they probably will ride to Monkey’s Eyebrow with me and help me unload the dog food. I hope they don’t expect me to drive them back to Tractor Supply, just this side of Paducah.

After he helps me unload the bags, he can come in and look at my reflection in the mirror. Then he will understand why I thought it was foolish to ask if I need help.

I wonder if I should make it a practice to take that vision-enhancing mirror with me when I go shopping.

First, start from somewhere else

 

September 13, 2016

 

          I got an e-mail today from a Mr. Will Mullins. I don’t know him if indeed he is a real person and not some type of Phish. I am impressed, however, by the project he mentioned in the e-mail.

          Here’s what he wrote:

Hello Mr. Culver,   
    We are doing a school project that involves your Kentucky county,with the focus being the town of Monkey’s Eyebrow. The project’s focus involves the construction of a bridge over the Mississippi River, and we have to decide what quality the bridge should be. We need to decide on the budget for the bridge, and it would be a huge help if you could provide us with an estimate of the County budget. We are really big fans of your website/blog, please keep up the good work!
Regards,
Will Mullins

          I try to respond to all inquiries from people interested in Monkey’s Eyebrow, so I wrote back to him:

          “You cain’t hardly get to the Mississippi River from here so I would recommend you put your bridge somewhere else.”

Monkey's Eyebrow mentioned on NPR’s “Fresh Air”

 

September 13, 2016

 

          I wondered why this site had been getting many more “hits” than usual the last day or two. Usually that happens when “Monkey’s Eyebrow” is the answer to a question on “Jeopardy” or National Public Radio mentions it.

          Martha Goolsby, who worked with me at Oak Ridge National Laboratory some years ago, told me that Fresh Air featured a review of an album by young country singer Kelsey Waldon on September 12. In the introduction, host Terry Gross mentioned that Ms. Waldon is from Monkey’s Eyebrow.

          Here’s a link where you can read and listen to the story and hear some clips from Ms. Waldon’s new album:

http://tpr.org/post/country-singer-kelsey-waldon-reaches-back-earlier-era-ive-got-way#stream/0

About stains and streams and my ologist

 

August 29, 2016

 

I left Monkey’s Eyebrow earlier than I needed to so I would be sure to arrive on time for my appointment at the VA medical center in Marion, Ill., this morning. Arriving in Marion about 90 minutes early I decided to stop for breakfast at Cracker Barrel.

Blueberry pancakes tasted very good and, having eaten most of the stack, I thought I might achieve that rare accomplishment of eating a meal without spilling anything on my clothes. Nope. No way. Can’t happen.

A small chunk fell from the fork with only two bites to go. I looked down, expecting to see it on my shirt. Spilled food always lands on that part of my shirt where it curves out over the belly. Sort of an umbellyrella.

Nothing there this time, however. Miraculously, the smidgen of pancake had found just enough space to avoid the shirt and land on my shorts. Right there on the zipper.

Blueberries make a permanent purple stain. Can't wipe it off. I hope the other diners aren’t watching me try to. If they are, I hope they realize I’m wiping off a stain.

I eventually sneaked out of Cracker Barrel and drove to the appointment. With a urologist. A urologist is bound to notice purple stain and water marks where I tried to wipe off the stain right there on my … on my zipper. I felt embarrassed even before I entered the building.

I should also have felt very unprepared for the questions, but having never been to a urologist before I didn’t know what to expect.

          A pleasant woman did a blood pressure test and the initial paperwork.

          She started asking some personal questions about my peeing habits, but I guessed she was a professional so I did my best to answer. It might have been easier if I had remembered to wear hearing aids. Maybe not. I don’t think I hear much better with them than without them.

          The first question that I really flubbed was the one I answered, “I’ve never had a stream for a week; usually it takes about a minute or less.”

          Naturally I felt like an idiot when she said she was asking about whether it was a strong stream or a weak stream. Hell, they sound alike to me. Mean different things, of course.

          But I really didn’t know how to gauge the force of a stream, even if it’s a creek, much less a flow of urine. And I told her I didn’t know a good medical way to answer that question.

          But I did explain to her that I have to stand right up close to the urinal in the men’s room. I can’t hit it from very far away. In fact, I continued, now that I’ve gotten older I mostly depend on gravity and I just hope there’s enough angle and force that I don’t soak the bottom of my shorts. Right down there below the blueberry stain.

          I left it up to her to determine whether that was weak or strong. She didn’t tell me which she wrote down.

          She asked me if I ever had situations where I had a sense of urgency to urinate, a feeling that I couldn’t hold it.

          I think I answered a sort of extended “yes” to that one. I told her that I sometimes have the condition, basketball bladder. She wasn’t sure what that was, which surprised me her being a professional and all.

          I thought it odd that I had to explain that basketball bladder is when you fast break toward the men’s room, dribbling while you hurry, and hoping you get there in time.

          I thought that was a recognized medical term but she apparently hadn’t gotten that far in her urology book. In fact, I think she had just about run out of the questions from her book because she slammed her folder shut and sent me back to the waiting room to wait for the doctor.

          The doctor asked quite a few questions his own self, and they puzzled me. He kept asking questions about why I was there.

          I told him, “I thought you would know. Someone from here called me and told me to be here for an appointment with a urologist. That’s really all I know.”

          He kept asking why, and I kept telling him “because your people called me and told me to come. I don’t feel any symptoms of my ology or your ology. I think one reason they wanted me to come was because the CT scan you took showed that I have an enlarged prostate.”

          I really did think he should have known the answer to those questions better than I did. After all, he was the doctor. But maybe they teach them to cross examine patients in India or Pakistan or New Jersey or wherever he went to school. They probably need to find out if the patient is just there for cosmetic urology purposes or for real problems.

          He had the friendly woman do some kind of scan and he said it showed my prostate was about six times larger than normal. I was pretty proud of that until he said that is not a good thing.

          I was being cooperative until he told me he wanted to take a look at my prostate and he had me drop my pants and lean over a table.

          “Whoa,” I told him. “There’s no way your head is going to fit up there.”

          But then he showed me the latex glove on his hand and it turned out that it was just his finger, not his head, that would be looking around. I said it might be better if he said right up front that he was going to feel around, not look around.

          Time was about up and he said he wanted me to come back for some more tests in a few weeks.

          Before I left I asked the difference between a urologist and a nephrologist.

          A nephrologist, he explained, focuses on the kidney and provides treatment but doesn’t do surgery. A urologist can do surgery and focuses on the whole urinary system, including bladder and sex organs and prostate, etc. He looks for solutions, including surgical ones, to that entire area, and even problems involving sex.

          I told him that hadn’t been an issue for me for a good long time, but it sure made me feel good knowing he might do something about that.

          Now I’ve got to read up on what questions they might ask on my next visit. And I probably should write a reminder to wear hearing aids.

Lighting up the sky

 

August 9, 2016

 

          I took Herman outside for a last-of-the-day opportunity to do whatever nature wanted him to do.

          Herman is the only Chesapeake Bay retriever in Monkey’s Eyebrow. He’s a little weird, but aren’t we all.

          Anyway, while I stood in the dark waiting for him to tell me he was ready to go back inside, and having read about the Perseid meteor shower, I looked out across the night sky and thought, “That really is an impressive meteor shower.” I watched for a couple of minutes, impressed by the display.

          But then I realized it was just a bunch of lightning bugs. Herman was ready so we came inside and now I’ll go watch the rest of the Cardinals’ game.

More “tourists,” and an “Oh my God” moment

 

August 8, 2016

 

          Herman and I went out to mow this afternoon but I made him go back in because there was a BMW pulling into the east end of the driveway. It was dark colored, maybe black or a dark blue.

          When a car pulls in there, it’s usually a tourist, less frequently someone turning around, and on rare occasions someone who’s lost. The “lost” category is the rarest because no one on their way to somewhere else can ever be so lost as to be lost in Monkey’s Eyebrow.

          A young woman got out on the passenger side and I could tell she was saying something, but I couldn’t hear well enough to tell what. I took for granted she was asking to take photo of the sign so I spoke loudly and told her there were two sides with different words on each side.

          A young man got out a few minutes later and started toward the sign. I walked toward them, so I could take a picture of both of them if they wanted one like that.

          They were attractive young people, brother and sister, names of Joey and Natalie. I asked where they were from. Paducah. But they had never been here. I get that a lot. A good percentage of Paducah people know the name but have never been to Monkey’s Eyebrow. An even higher percentage of people from other states have not been here.

          She was a very attractive young woman. So attractive that I almost wished I were a young man again. But then I accepted the fact: What would be the point? No way such an attractive young woman, tooling around the countryside in a BMW, would be interested in even a younger version of me.

          But I do wonder if men ever get so old, so wrinkled, so overweight that they don’t want to believe some beautiful young woman won’t want to hook up with them. Hope, maybe, but realistic enough to know better.

          Anyway, I told them a little about the community and the name and I said they could read more on my website or in my book. (You can order the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Characters-Bushel-affair-Monkeys-Eyebrow/dp/1466262575/ref=cm_aya_orig_subj)

          “Are you Joe?” she asked in an excited tone of voice. They seemed friendly so I confessed to being one and the same.

          I can’t remember if she actually said “Oh my God,” but it was an “Oh my God” moment so I’m going to write as if she did. “Oh my God,” she might have and should have said, “I was looking at your website yesterday!”

          I felt pretty doggone proud that the fact I have a website made me seem sort of important.

          They were such a nice brother and sister. Polite, interested. Friendly. I’m glad we have young folks like that.

          I pointed to the west and told them if they had a little more time and would drive about two miles in that direction they would come to the Ballard Wildlife Management Area. The last time I drove past there, just a couple of days ago, the lillie pads were thick and blooming, and they might enjoy seeing them.

          I don’t know if they went that way or not. They went toward their car and I walked back to the house to let Herman out so he could walk along while I mowed.

          The fact that they stopped, no matter which way they went when they left, made this a more pleasant day.

Herman also likes to eat firewood.

Slytherin…ooops, slithering and the Plastic Diet

 

August 5, 2016

 

          A gentle knock on the door and some loud barking by Herman alerted me that someone was at the front door earlier today.

          You folks know Herman. He’s my Chesapeake Bay retriever. Big and loud. Not much of a guard dog. In fact, Herman will be asleep on the couch or on the living room floor and won’t be aware that someone has come into the house until the person is walking across the hardwood living room floor within about five feet of him.

That wakes him up and he jumps off the couch, barking like a proud protector of property and person. He has a confused look on his face when that happens because he’s not sure why someone is that close to him.

He also barks frequently when he hears a car door shut. Of course, there is no car in the driveway or anywhere near, and there is no shutting car door. Herman hears things that aren’t there. Lots of things that aren’t there.

He barks but he never bites. If anyone did break in, Herman would bark if he were startled from a sound sleep and then he would get close to the burglar hoping to get his back scratched.

Herman is a strange dog. If my back is turned when we’re outside, he likes to grab the ripe tomato on the tomato plants. I used the singular form because it’s rare to have more than one ripe tomato at a time for some reason. It is even rarer to get to eat one when it gets ripe because Herman is a quick tomato picker.

I feed Herman a premium brand of dog food. It’s supposed to be very good. It costs around $50 a bag.

But Herman likes to snack on plastic.

There was a bag of plastic screw-off bottle caps that formerly topped bottles of Sprite. Herman discovered the bag. I noticed it when I heard a rattle coming from his secure place, a steel cage or pen. The pen is a couple of feet from where I sit to compose articles using my word processing software. I glanced over and saw around 10 of the caps inside his cage, with several more on the floor around the cage.

I guess he thinks they are doggy treats. He eats them.

He also likes to snack on PVC pipe if he can find any.

This afternoon I noticed something on the floor and discovered that it was the Galaxy Note 5 stylus touch S pen that came in my Galaxy Note 5 cell phone. I would never send a text or e-mail via the cell phone without the use of that pen. I hit too many wrong letters using my fingers.

I don’t know if I dropped it or if Herman figured out how to withdraw it, but he had it and he had chewed it up.

Any form of plastic that he finds lying on the floor is his to chew, as far as he’s concerned. He likes plastic at least as much as ripe tomatoes, maybe even more. He has eaten some USB cable and other forms of treats.

Where was I? Hmmmm. Oh yes, there was a knock on the door and a bark on the dog.

The woman who is moving into the house across Monkey’s Eyebrow Road was standing just outside the door. I had not met her, so she introduced herself and I introduced myself and Herman.

She told me she had been looking for something in a shed behind the house and when she moved a box, a long snake raised its small head (Note: small head, not small hands). It was a long, black-colored snake and looked quite menacing. She asked if I would assist in finding the snake a new home, even a permanent resting place beneath the ground.

Knowing that most of the snakes we see in Monkey’s Eyebrow are non-venomous, even if also non-friendly, I told her I would try to move it outside the shed and let it go about its good business of catching mice and driving out rhinoceros. Laugh if you want about that last part, but when is the last time you saw a rhinoceros here? By the way, what is the plural of rhinoceros? Is it just rhinoceros? Rhinoceroses? Rhinoceri? I don’t think snakes eat rhinoceroses or plastic.

I grabbed a leaf rake with plastic tines from a shed and went across the road with her. Sure enough, the snake was still there. It was difficult to grab because of its location and its strength which it used to hang onto its perch.

Finally after some prodding, the snake began to crawl across the top of one of the 2x4s that framed the building and I was able to pull it down with the rake. I raked it outside and it crawled inside a nest of pine needles.

I know my neighbor-to-be will always be expecting to find that snake every time she goes into the shed. That’s the nature of people and snakes. I’m not especially scared of snakes, but I don’t go out of my way to pet them either. I am happy they eat mice and other varmints, and not tomatoes. I don’t subscribe to the commonly held notion that the only good snake is a dead snake.

          And such is life at Monkey’s Eyebrow.

One side of the sign in my yard

Everyone comes to Monkey’s Eyebrow…

Eventually, and just one or two at a time

 

August 5, 2016

 

          I walked outside around 11:30 this morning to see if I could get my old – 1993 vintage – Jeep Cherokee started. It acted like the battery was dead but I think the battery should be fine. Anyway, it wouldn’t – won’t – start.

          While I stared at the Cherokee’s engine, I noticed a small car parked at the end of the eastern part of the driveway. The reason I was staring at the engine is because I don’t know anything about engines. I can start and drive a car and sometimes I can cause music to play. That’s about it.

          A man and woman had been looking at the Monkey’s Eyebrow sign in the front yard. I didn’t see them because they were obscured by the large burning bush – I think that is what it’s called because the leaves turn very red in the fall; I haven’t heard any voices coming from it.

          They came into view and walked toward me. I walked to meet them, with a smile on my face because I knew they would be tourists. Mostly it’s tourists who stop and take pictures at the sign. I like to smile at them.

          And they were tourists. They were tourists who had come the long way to Monkey’s Eyebrow. They started from Italy when it would have been much closer to start from Paducah. I guess they started from Italy because that’s where they live.

          Both of them struggled with English, struggled even more than Ballard Countians. He was more comfortable with English than she was.

          He told me they had married recently and were on their honeymoon. They had some sort of guide book. It was written in Italian and it featured Donald Duck characters. I believe the characters were visiting various places in America, including Monkey’s Eyebrow. From here they planned to go to Louisville – Lewis Ville, as he pronounced it.

          I pointed out all the Monkey’s Eyebrow highlights, mostly soybeans this season, and told them about the history of the community and showed them where the Arivetts had a store close to where Jim and Jean Meadors live now.

          I was wearing a Monkey’s Eyebrow T-shirt. She asked where she could get one. I told her I had them made and I had a few in bags in one of the outbuildings.

          I dug one out, sold it to her and gave her a Monkey’s Eyebrow cap and a copy of my book. (You can buy your own copy of it from amazon.com. Characters by the bushel: My love affair with Monkey’s Eyebrow.”) I had to explain what a bushel is.

          I told them that instead of going directly to Lewis Ville, they should drive past the Ballard Wildlife Management Area, through Oscar and Barlow, and then visit the Cross at the Confluence on the bluff at Wickliffe, overlooking the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. I also recommended a stop at the Wickliffe Mounds. She was an archeologist, so there is a good chance they followed my recommendations.

          Most of the tourists who stop here are from the states. I’ve had others from other countries, but not a lot of them.

          I wish I had more to offer, maybe a little gift shop or something, or even a drink machine. I wish I had a nice motel or bread and breakfast so I could encourage folks to do more than just drive through the area or their way to Paducah where they rent a room and buy meals.

          I wish Ballard County had more to offer that would draw money from tourists.

          Meanwhile, I’ll chat with the Italian honeymooners and others who stop here. They stop and go. They go somewhere else.

From left, Herman and Pod Tilley, and my parents, Jessie Lee and J.D. Culver

A Pod by any other name

 

          I never called her anything but Pod.

          That’s what everyone else called her too.

          Well, that’s not exactly true. Her mother – my maternal grandmother – called her something that sounded like Margry.

          But that wasn’t unusual. My grandmother had her own way of saying lots of things. Maybe “her own way” is an exaggeration. At that time, in rural West Kentucky, lots of folks pronounced some words in ways that mighty not follow the strict guidelines of proper English.

          Pod was one of the 10 children of Bob and Lannie Crice. My mother, Jessie Lee, was another. Other children were Elwood, Gene, Ann, Thelma, Nellie, Dick, Billy Bob and Anita Fay (or Nita Fay because no one pronounced the A).

          And Billy Bob wasn’t really Billy Bob. He was named Ernest Wells but called Billy Bob. Stories I’ve heard say that was because of some disagreement about what to name him, so they compromised by naming him one thing but calling him the other. I don’t know if that’s true.

          Eventually Pod married Herman Tilley and they bought the farm at Monkey’s Eyebrow, a small part of which I now own.

          Grandmother lived with them in the later years of her life, and she continued to call Pod Margry.

          I wondered if that was grandmother’s way of saying Margaret or perhaps Marguerite.

          Pod gave her proper name as Margaret.

          Later in Pod’s life she had occasion to need a birth certificate. Back in those days it was fairly common for folks not to have a copy of a birth certificate. Official records were not treated as the big deal they are now.

          Pod sent off to get a copy of her birth certificate and lo and behold when it arrived, her name was listed as Margaree.

          Pod wasn’t sure if that was what grandmother intended to name her or if the person who filled out the birth certificate just spelled it the way grandmother said it.

          She had her name legally changed to Margaret.

          But I like Pod better.

          I don’t know where she got that name, but it seemed to fit her for some reason.

          Names aren’t as important as people anyway.

          Whether you called her Pod or Margaree or Margaret, the house she and Herman turned into a home for themselves and their two children, Barbara and Frankie, was the magnet that drew family members together.

          It was a place where you felt welcome and a part of a large family of grandmother and aunts and uncles and lots of cousins.

          I have very warm feelings of the home where I was raised by my parents, but for some reason that’s not where I wanted to return when I retire. I wanted to move to Monkey’s Eyebrow where Pod and Herman had lived. I thought maybe I could get an acre or two of land and put a house there to live.

          When I asked Barbie about possibly buying the Tilley home, which she and her husband Joe own after the death of Pod and Herman, they agreed to sell it to me and that’s Joe’s Place now.

          Except it really isn’t. It’s still Pod and Herman’s. I just get the chance to live in it and hope the memories and the love and the warmth are still embedded in the structure, and that, unlike the saying, I can go home again.

A Grocery Store on Wheels

 

One of the highlights when I spent part of the summers at Herman and Pod’s farm in Monkey’s Eyebrow was when the huckster came.

The “huckster” was a merchant who drove the dusty gravel roads back in the “old days,” maybe as early as the 1940s and certainly in the 1950s.

Inside his truck was an assortment of staples that a farm family might need to purchase. Such things as bread, flour, sugar, canned goods, candy bars.

The huckster might have had a huge assortment of things. Frankly, I can’t remember. Details have either slipped out of my head or hidden themselves behind more recent memories as I’ve aged.

My sister, Jeanne … now she’s the one who can remember every embarrassing detail of every stupid thing I did as a youngster and as a teenager. At least she claims them as memories. When she tells of something particularly dumb that I did, and when I can’t remember it – which is just about all the time – I can claim that she’s making it up.

Anyway, I can’t recall many details of the huckster or much else from those years. I think he came through only once a week, but it could have been more often. He stopped in the road in front of the various houses and customers – usually the farmer’s wife because the farmer was out working in the fields – would walk to his truck and buy what the farm didn’t produce.

The one detail I can remember is that he sold candy bars. In the hot summers at Ballard County, a Hershey bar bought from the huckster was always melted. There were no air-conditioned trucks in those days.

I’ve enlisted a couple of other folks to give me some additional information about the huckster.

My cousin Barbie, daughter of Herman and Pod, says one of the hucksters was Leonard Grief. “He had all kinds of things. I mainly remember the candy bars, but mother bought lot of things from him.  His truck was kind of like a motor home and he had shelves in the back with the stuff on them. That is about all I can remember.”

David Reid, who was a classmate and a basketball teammate at Ballard Memorial High School, grew up in the area. He remembered more things.

“One of the hucksters was Bobby Thompson from Ragland. Leonard Grief was from Ingleside. Thompson and his wife ran a grocery store in Ragland and he had the ‘rolling store’ that came by once a week,” David recalls.

“When I was a small, my mom would swap eggs and sometimes chickens for different staples. For me that meant an RC Cola and some kind of candy bar that was still firm, like a Payday.

“The big box truck he drove had cages on the back for the chickens he bought and sold on his weekly runs. It was a big deal for the kids because it was the only time they enjoyed such unhealthy luxuries. (Have we come a long way baby...Virginia Slims...or what?)

“You may remember (name omitted to protect the injured). She boarded the huckster with high heels (the steps were grated to help keep mud out); anyway she got her heels caught in the grates, lost her balance, fell backwards and broke both of her legs.

“It's refreshing to remember in those days we were all friends and neighbors and you wouldn’t ‘sue’ ’cause Sue was usually a girl down the road.

Our dog loved to chase the hucksters; seems he thought they were chicken thieves.”

I vaguely remember that most of the merchandise in the huckster’s truck had a good coating of dust from driving up and down the backroads. But back in those days, a little dust, a few flies, a few worms in the older candy bars, and even some mouse droppings in the corner weren’t nearly the catastrophes they seem to be today.

Life was quite a bit simpler then, and folks accepted what came.

 

Other memories of the hucksters

From Robert Crice (one of my cousins):

Regarding huckster – we called them "huckster wagon" and I suspect the term goes back to the days they were literally a wagon drawn by horses. In any case we "shopped" out of one in the early ’40s. I started taking photos before the age of 12 while still on the farm where I was born.  One of the photos was of Ralph Stevens' wagon that came to our area.  Since his son, Clyde Ralph (Stevens Chevrolet), sometimes came with his dad and slept on the feed sacks, when I moved back here I gave the original photo to him. The cloth feed sacks, with all their color, was one of my strong memories of the time. 

 

From Henrietta Smith Ross (a classmate at Ballard Memorial High School):

 

Joe, I really enjoyed the article about the huckster as well as the website. What fun to remember all those things. I remember the huckster as well, as I visited my grandparents often and lived with them during the 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade before I moved with my Dad to Florida but then came back to finish up my senior year at Ballard and stayed with them. My heart was always in Kentucky.  I will never forget the pleasant odor of Lenard Grief's huckster and the dust.  But I thought it was the most wonderful store there was outside of Bandana, that we didn't get to very often. I always bought the peanut butter logs, with the fuzz on the outside, because it didn't melt; I would hide them in my room and ration myself until he came again so I wouldn't run out.  My grandmother, Grace Smith, married to Urb Smith, would sell eggs and cream and make purchases with that money.  Guess there was some kind of refrigerator on board to preserve it or maybe not.  Anyway, I'm sure the "rolling store" couldn't have held that much stuff but my eyes were large at all the groceries and things to buy.  I was always excited to see Lenard drive up to our back door and honk the horn.  I was always the first one outside to investigate the goodies.  I will never forget the smell and remember it to this day.

 

From Carol Wolfe Coryell (also a classmate at Ballard):

 

My sister Jane and I often reminisce about the joys of
meeting the huckster. All good experiences. No bugs. And I remember at the time my grandmother commenting on the amazing variety of inventory.

 

From Liz Wolfe Miller (sister of Carol Wolfe Coryell):

 

            Boy, does this bring back memories!  Remember the candy cigarettes you could buy?  We were so cool puffing on those sugar sticks with the dyed red ends. Thanks for the day brightener.

 

 

From Bill Wolfe (brother of Carol Wolfe Coryell):

 

            I'll always remember the Huckster Truck. It was hard to me to understand in later years why the word "huckster" had a bad connotation, and was used to refer to someone selling overpriced, shoddy or fraudulent merchandise. To me, the Huckster must be a wonderful person to bring all those sweet treats. In my childhood, a nickel was plenty to buy a large chocolate candy bar or other snack, and Mother or Daddy would always give Liz and me a nickel apiece for the truck. One morning, Mother didn't have a nickel and she gave me a dime. A dime was considerably smaller than a nickel, so I felt terribly cheated. I wanted a big nickel and she gave me that miserly little dime. I cried and cried. But my tears dried up when they showed me how a dime could actually buy twice as much. It was a valuable lesson in the world of high finance.

My sons Jesse Mallard and Jubal Drake aggravating some of Herman Tilley's cows, May 1986. I think he had these penned for use as beef, and they were not part of his milking operations.

Come in Bossie, it’s time to milk

 

          One of my favorite things to do when I visited Pod and Herman at their Monkey’s Eyebrow farm was to go with Herman to his dairy barn and watch him milk.

          Later, I came to look upon dairy farming as being more like a sentence than a job because it was so confining.

          Pod and Herman rarely went anywhere except during the middle of a day. That’s because cows have to be milked each morning and each evening, seven days a week, 365 days a year and 366 days on Leap Year.

          But to a kid it was something fun to watch.

          I think when Herman first went into farming after the war, he milked Jersey cows by hand. You had to have a lot of pull to be a dairy farmer at that time. During that period he also kept mules, a sort of grain-fed, pre-tractor plow puller.

          I’m not all that familiar with farm economics, but I think Herman earned most of his cash money from the milk and from the annual tobacco sale.

          I recall that he also grew corn, but I think he used most of that to feed his cows. I remember going with him a time or two to the Randolph mill in Bandana where he had corn stalks and kernels ground into feed. Later, folks started growing soybeans instead of corn. I suppose the soybeans brought in more money. It seems that they rotated corn and soybeans and wheat.

          Herman eventually graduated from Jersey cows to Holsteins, which gave much more milk per cow. He also graduated to machines that did the milking.

          His relatively small dairy operation allowed him to bring in four cows at a time. He could milk two of them while the other two munched on the feed he shoveled into the trough in front of each cow.

          The cats always showed up at milking time and Herman poured them some milk out of the shiny bucket that the milking machine filled. Then he poured the rest of the milk into the cooler where it was kept cool until the milk truck came around and picked it up.

          A shovel always leaned against the wall within convenient reach because cows aren’t especially particular about where and when they deposit fertilizer. Shoveling up behind them was part of the operation.

          The smells – cows, cow manure, feed – and the sounds – cows chewing, horseflies buzzing, shovels scooping, milk machine milking – are a big part of my memories. And Herman in constant motion is another memory, scooping grain into the trough (something I got to help with from time to time), wiping down the cows’ udders, attaching the milkers, emptying the bucket when it was full, closing the neck clamp when the next set of cows came in, opening it when a cow had been milked, scooping when necessary, swatting horseflies, and finally cleaning up the little barn after it was all done for that morning or evening.

          But the really fascinating part of it to me was how the cows knew when it was their turn and which stall was theirs.

          They would be standing in front of the dairy barn most of the time when it was time for milking. Sometimes we had to go into the fields and call them.

          When Herman opened up the barn doors, four cows would come in. Always the same four cows. Each cow would plod to a milk station, always the same station for each cow.

          When two had been milked and released, two more would walk in, always in the same order and always to the same stall.

          I suppose it’s not odd that a cow would have enough sense to fall into a pattern. But to me, that was an amazing thing and one of the wonders of visiting Herman and Pod at Monkey’s Eyebrow.

The Physics of Manure Distribution

 

(Note: This article was submitted by Keith moss. Keith is the son of Joe and Barbara Tilley Moss and the grandson of Herman and Pod Tilley. Barbie is my first cousin, so that makes Keith my ... hmm, I never was able to calculate anything below first cousin ... let's see, that makes him my second cousin or my brother-in-law or my uncle.)

 

By Keith Moss

 

I remember an important lesson learned about mechanics and physics that I probably would have never truly realized in a classroom setting, but fully grasped while spending time at Granddad’s farm at Monkey’s Eyebrow one summer.

My Granddad and Grandmother were dairymen (probably should be referred to as dairypersons to keep with the PC crowd), and I don’t exactly remember what time they got up in the morning to start the milking, but I know at some point I was awakened by Grandmother and sent to help with what I could at the milk barn.

I would normally shovel feed into the troughs for the cows coming in, and then help clean the milk barn and the parlor after the milking was finished. Once the cleaning was finished we would head up to the house to have breakfast and plan what else needed to be done that day.

With cows comes manure, and just outside between the parlor and milk barn was the pile. When we cleaned up after the cows, we piled the manure until such time that it needed to be removed. I guess it would be more accurate to describe it as being relocated to various locations around the farm to fertilize whatever needed to be fertilized.

We pulled the old Oliver 66 Row Crop tractor around to start the relocating process. We hooked up the manure spreader and parked tractor with spreader next to the large pile of manure and starting loading the spreader.

After we filled the spreader, which looked like a three-sided wagon with a bunch of paddles and spikes across the back of the wagon, we would drive it out to one of the fields, move the long levers on the front of the spreader and then drive around until it was emptied.

The various paddles and spikes on the rear of the spreader would turn ferociously as we drove around, attacking the mounds of manure as they inched toward the back of the spreader, tossing it across the field leaving an easy-to-follow trail. 

Well, as I was a fairly energetic young man, but old enough to drive the tractor by myself (probably 12 years old or so), Granddad gave me some instructions to start removing the manure while he took care of some other jobs that needed to be done.

One of those instructions was what speed to run the tractor while unloading the manure. I believe the instructions were to keep it in low speed, in third gear and since the Oliver tractor didn’t have a tachometer – about two/thirds throttle.

This speed worked okay during the first trip out to empty the spreader, but once I got going just wasn’t fast enough. I kept inching the throttle up feeling pretty confident in my abilities and knowledge of this particular task, but as stated – it wasn’t moving quite as fast as I thought it should.

On the third load I decided if I sped up the process I could get finished quicker and move on to more exciting activities.

Once I got to the field, I moved the shifter into the Hi-speed position, and moved it into what would be fifth gear and kept it at the two/thirds throttle position and started across the field.

Since the manure is moved toward the back by a chain drive, the first couple of minutes were uneventful during the trip. I did notice that since I was moving across the field at a significantly quicker pace, that the paddles and spikes on the rear of the spreader were spinning at an incredible pace (mechanics lesson #1 – since the spreader was “wheel” driven, faster speed means faster spin).

When the manure finally reached the spinning apparatus at the rear of the spreader, it was like an explosion occurred (physics lesson #1 – the distance manure will fly is directly proportional to the speed at which the tractor is going and the paddles are spinning).

It was actually landing almost 10 feet in front of the tractor. Needless to say the tractor and I were pretty well covered by the material we were trying to get rid of.

The trip back to the barn ended with a quick wash with the hose for the tractor and me, and a little grin from my Granddad after he reminded me about the speed the spreader needed to be pulled at. I had to wonder as I emptied the last load if he had learned about physics the same way I did.

Neighbor Billy Pippin broke ground for my garden on April 10, 2010. Sadly, he is another of the good folks at Monkey's Eyebrow who are no longer with us. By the way, I planted lots of things, but the varmints got more of them than I did.

Life is good at Monkey’s Eyebrow

 

March 11, 2010

 

          The spring peepers are peeping at Monkey's Eyebrow, I've put away the firewood, and I'm looking forward to planting a garden. It feels like spring. It’s good to be settled in at home, especially now that it’s getting warmer and I don’t need to burn wood in the fireplace insert.

          My farmhouse has an electric heat pump that keeps the house at whatever temperature is set on the thermostat, but there’s something about burning wood that makes me feel more like I’m living authentic country style. Wood heat feels warmer than heat pump heat, too. I like that.

          The crackle of hickory or oak giving up their heat is a comforting sound. And split firewood smells good, too.

          I’ve found some bald eagles hanging around the Ballard County Wildlife Management Area just down the road from here, eagles who seem to enjoy having their picture taken. They sit patiently and unafraid while I snap off 40 or 50 shots. I’ve posted some of the pictures on my Facebook page. The bald eagle is a magnificent bird, but it has the coldest eyes you can imagine and some of the photos show that trait very well.

          The spring frogs – I think maybe they’re spring peepers but they buzz more than peep – are out in big numbers the past few days. It’s good to sit out front and listen to them. Except for the occasional vehicle that passes by, they are one of the few daylight sounds. Birds are among the sounds, too, but the little frogs are more vocal right now. My favorite bird call is that of the bobwhile quail. I like it when they are bobwhiting back and forth to each other.

At night, we can go outside and listen to the coyotes howl. I don’t especially like listening to coyotes so I usually just sit inside on my recliner and doze off until it’s time to go to bed.

          It’s so quiet here. I heard the wind blowing last night but that just put me to sleep quicker.

          I haven’t seen recently the skunk that was living under the house. Maybe it got tired of sharing space with people walking above it and it moved out. I’ll give it credit: It never sprayed us.

          This farm life is hard work. At least, that’s what I think. We really haven’t gotten into it yet. We’ve cleaned some of the outbuildings but haven’t planted anything.

          That will change soon. Jesse and I drove over to see Billy and Betty Pippin this afternoon. Billy agreed to come over some day soon when he’s out tractoring and break up a garden spot near the tobacco barn. He said he would disk it and chisel plow it. I grunted knowingly. I don’t have a clue what it means to chisel plow, but it sounds like good farming so I’m all for it and it must be worth a knowing grunt. We farmers always grunt in acknowledgement when someone talks about something we don’t know.

          Jesse put a bunch of tomato seeds into starter boxes today to get us ready for when we get into gardening in a big way. I ordered 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, the kind that taste like tomatoes are supposed to taste, and the supplier sent me a few free samples on top of the ones I ordered. Looks like we’ll have somewhere around a hundred tomato plants, assuming all goes well.

          I also purchased some heirloom seeds for watermelons, cantaloupes, squash and Kentucky Wonder pole beans. We’ll plant some corn and some peppers, too. Billy Pippin gave me a bucket of onion bulbs to plant.

          If all that stuff grows, I may have to open a roadside market.

          A couple from Paducah stopped at the house yesterday because of the sign in my yard: “Joe’s Place Monkey’s Eyebrow.” The man had brought his wife to see Monkey’s Eyebrow and they were about to give up on finding it before he saw my sign. It’s hard to know you’re in Monkey’s Eyebrow. That’s one reason I put up the sign. The other reason is so people who want to come here to buy a Monkey’s Eyebrow coffee mug, T-shirt or cap will know that they’re at the right place. In fact, the couple who stopped here yesterday wound up buying a mug and two shirts.

          At that rate, I’ll get rich. Well, maybe not rich but maybe I’ll make enough to pay for the Monkey’s Eyebrow products I had made down at Unlimited Graphics in La Center.

          Seems like I have to go to town just about every day because I discover that I need something I don’t have. Today, Billy Pippin said I should have a planter. That’s a little wheeled device you push down the row and it drops seeds into the ground. Apparently it saves a lot of wear and tear on the back. I’m all for saving wear and tear, be it back, front or somewhere in the middle.

          Well, I just looked out the window and I see that the sun is setting. I’ll be getting sleepy soon, so I’ll wrap this one up.

          Anytime you’re down Monkey’s Eyebrow way I hope you’ll stop by to chat. You’ll know you’re here by the sign in the yard.

Is it a fragrance if it stinks?

 

March 24, 2010

 

          I tried to watch a couple of shows on TV last night but as is frequently the case I dozed off in the recliner and missed the ending of both of them.

          A strong smell woke me at around 1 o’clock this morning. It was eau d’skunk and it was both fresh and emanating in a noisome manner from a nearby source.

          I thought something must have irritated the skunk that lives beneath the house; not wanting to entice it into additional emissions, I left the recliner and went to bed.

          When I woke up around 4 o’clock I couldn’t smell it and I began to wonder if the earlier smell was real or a particularly intense and malodorous dream.

          But a few hours later when Jesse got up and went outside, he came in and asked about the dead skunk in the road.

          Those among you who are sufficiently mature – read that “old” – will be reminded of the profound lyrics from days gone by (1972), “Dead skunk in the middle of the road, stinking to high heaven,” as performed by Loudon Wainwright III.

          As long as I was drifting to memories of old songs, I decided to drift into more pleasant memories, so I thought about the cherry tree that stood beside the house when Pod and Herman were alive and this was their home.

          When the cherries were ripe, I loved to stand beneath the tree, pick cherries and gobble them down on the spot.

          I don’t know what kind of cherries they were, but when I drove to the store the only cherry tree they had was the Montmorency cherry, the picture of which was red and reminiscent of the ones that grew on the cherry tree here until it blew down during a storm.

          So I got a cherry tree and a couple of Knock Out Rose plants and came back home.

          While Jesse was planting the roses beside my yard sign, I took a shovel and scraped our skunk off the road into the ditch beside it where maybe it will provide sustenance for a buzzard or two, if buzzards eat dead skunks from the middle of the road. If eau d’skunk lingers for a long time, maybe the aroma d’rose will overpower it later this year.

          We planted the cherry tree out back where the cows used to wait patiently for their turn to be milked, back in the days when Herman milked cows. I suspect that soil will be very rich and will grow cherries with a sweet taste unless they soak up too much of the ancient cow manure that makes that particular soil so fertile.

          Unlike the patient cows, I’m impatient and I’m already itching to enjoy some of the cherries, grapes and blackberries. I’d much rather eat than plant.

Comments from friends

          A couple of friends had comments about this article. Tom Ryan writes: Joe, dad would probably classify you as a "pointer" on the farm.  Point and talk a lot but never perform any labor...kind of like road crews!

And Tim Hughes recalls, “I do remember the smells of the country. In days gone by, driving by a farm, one could easily tell if the farmer had cows, horses, sheep or chickens, simply by their unique manure fragrance.  But regarding the dead skunk in the middle of your road, I think it may have committed suicide ...  Have you guys taken a bath lately?”

All roads lead to Monkey’s Eyebrow

 

April 2, 2011

 

          You will probably find this hard to believe but there still are a few people who’ve never been to (or through) Monkey’s Eyebrow.

I was surprised earlier today when a couple of them pulled into my driveway.

I had taken Brooke, the Lab, outside so she could get a little exercise and do any of nature’s business that might need doing. She and Dora, the beagle, were exploring the yard when I noticed a van slow down at the Joe’s Place Monkey’s Eyebrow sign in the front yard.

It contained two people. After a few seconds the driver pulled into my driveway. She was a woman, probably around my age, and she rolled down the window.

“How did the place come by that name,” she asked, and I told her two or three of the stories that try to answer that very question.

She asked some more questions, including whether or not I was the Joe of Joe’s Place, and then asked if it would be all right if they took a photo of the sign. Because one of the reasons I put the sign there is so people could know that they’re in Monkey’s Eyebrow and take a picture to prove it if they so desire, I assured her it would be okay to take the picture.

When I saw her taking a photo of just the sign, I asked if they would like to have me take a picture of them at the sign, and they said they would. The man – her husband, I assume – got out of the van at that point and I took a photo of the two of them.

They said they would like to get a picture of me at the sign, and I agreed to pose. The man said maybe I could hold Dora. I declined because just about an hour earlier, while Jesse and I were fooling around with the tractor, Bella found an old paintbrush in the shed and a container that held oil. The oil had probably been drained from a tractor when Herman Tilley was still alive and living here. I imagine it was at least 20 years old.

Bella decided it was time to do a little painting and her 3-year-old mind thought the oil was paint. While our attention was distracted Bella “painted” part of the shed wall, part of my aluminum fishing boat, and part of Dora. I wasn’t in the mood to pick up an oily dog.

The people were from Nebraska. I asked how they happened to be driving past Monkey’s Eyebrow and they said they were on their way home from a trip to Mississippi. I pointed out that Monkey’s Eyebrow Road isn’t on the direct path from Mississippi to Nebraska. I think they were just roaming around in a leisurely drive home.

I explained to them that the Ballard Wildlife Management Area is just two miles down the road and they would have a chance to see some pretty scenery and maybe some wildlife, so when they left that’s where they were headed.

Two fewer people who haven’t been to Monkey’s Eyebrow. Also, two more people who have visited Ballard County.

I don’t know if they stopped anywhere to eat or buy gas or spend money on something else, but I think this helps show how any of us might have a chance to make a good impression on visitors. I imagine when they get back to Nebraska they will tell some other folks about having been to Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, and the wildlife refuge. They may have gone on to Wickliffe to see the cross on Fort Jefferson Hill. They will mention all of those things. Some of their friends may wind up coming here, too. That kind of networking helps increase the number of visitors who come through our county.

There are things in the county that visitors could enjoy seeing. One of our best assets, however, is the outgoing friendliness of our people. I know I made a good impression on this couple from Nebraska, but no better than any of you would have made.

Ballard County folks are the best.

 

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© Joe W. Culver