He carried this photo of Allie with him every day he was deployed to France during the Great War. Only sixteen, she was already lovely and as unbowed as the boards of the outbuilding behind her. Soon after he returned in the spring of 1919, he married her. She was just seventeen.
He had first met her shortly after her birth. He was twelve when his father, a highly respected country preacher, walked him across the road to the neighbors’ farm to welcome the new baby. Their fate was already set.
He must have watched her grow up, keeping a keen eye on her. At some point, while he waited, he left the farm where he had been raised with his five siblings and went to work as a telegraph operator in other Kentucky communities—Owensboro and Maysville—some distance from his homestead in Anderson County. Perhaps it was that experience that landed him in the Headquarters Company of the 338th Infantry when he was drafted in 1918. And perhaps that kept him just removed from the front lines that bloody fall as the infantrymen in his unit replaced exhausted or fallen fighters.
After their marriage, he settled in with his wife’s family on their farm, already so familiar to him, and worked again as a telegraph operator. Her five younger siblings made the household a lively one.
In time, he took a job with the railroad in Louisville, moving his bride far from her family. When the Great Depression took its toll, he accepted a job that sent him to Atlanta, where the young family made their home until he died in 1966, and she followed in 1996.
He was my grandmother’s younger brother, John Foster Moore. The couple’s oldest surviving son, John Allen, was one of my dad’s best friends. Their daughter, Jane, died May 26 at age 98, leaving only their youngest son, Joseph Perry, who still resides in Atlanta.
All of John and Allie’s children were born storytellers, with family facts and lore at the ready, awaiting a simple prompt from an interested party. Their lives spanned a family’s generations. They knew my father, and they knew his grandfather. I never knew either. The memories they shared are priceless.
As those in my generation continue to sort through the detritus of our parents’ lives, as we downsize and try to organize what will be handed down to the next generation (where there is one), we must preserve these photographic gems. They reveal who we are, where we came from, what mattered. They reveal the love that held a family together.
Last Sunday, on yet another unusually cool morning, we decided to take Lucy for a walk at a nearby network of mountain bike trails appropriately called Skullbuster. Rather than staying on the abandoned roadbed as we typically do, we donned hiking pants in a vain effort to ward off ticks and chiggers and headed for the orange trail, a byzantine loop of crisscrossing singletrack that features behemoth oak and maple trees as well as the old Stockdell family cemetery.
At one crossroads we decided to check out the Teeter-Totter Trail. I initially imagined the name referred to an undulating path with sharp up and downhill sections. Instead, it turned out to be a gradual uphill through both pastoral woodland and some slightly more open brushy areas. At one point we passed an old stone wall, evidence of a former homestead, which currently serves neither as property line nor rudimentary enclosure. A few yards farther up, at the highest point on the trail, we arrived at a small clearing where a simple bench had been erected among the towering trees. A few steps beyond the clearing were…two teeter-totters.
I had not expected that the trail would lead me—literally—to teeter-totters or, as I always called them, seesaws. It was a moment of pure surprise and delight. They appeared rough-hewn but sturdy enough for two adults, so Rick and I tried them out. Lucy was quickly bored, so we took the intersecting path to Wyatt’s World, a trail full of laid stone ramps and log jumps to challenge the cyclists, and eventually found ourselves back on a familiar stretch of the orange trail.
As we walked, I thought about how those teeter-totters had gotten there. Remembering the stone wall, I imagined a family in the early twentieth century constructing them to entertain a passel of children. That idea had evidently settled in my mind when Rick mentioned that just as Wyatt’s World was likely named after a central Kentucky cyclist with a penchant for treacherous downhills, he suspected a cyclist named Teeter had been inspired to construct the teeter-totters from leftover lumber as he worked with other volunteers to develop the trail system.
His comment startled me. We had both stumbled upon the teeter-totters for the first time just moments earlier and, in that brief period, we had both quietly come to radically different conclusions about how they got there.
My romantic mythology arose from my limited understanding of the history of the place, which I had concocted purely from the scant evidence left behind by long ago inhabitants. In my silent musings, those who built the trail system had happened upon a relic of another world.
Seeing the same evidence, Rick concluded quite sensibly that those constructing the trail simply hadn’t wanted to lug unused lumber back down the trail and had had imagination sufficient to figure out an entertaining application for it.
If a conversation hadn’t ensued, we would have left the trail carrying two immensely different interpretations of this site of human activity.
I look to my friends with backgrounds in archaeology or anthropology to explain the human frailty this experience reveals. I will admit it has humbled me. Although I was still embellishing my romantic vision of farm children running toward the teeter-totters after a day of chores, I can imagine how quickly that initial vision might have congealed into “fact.” Can my experience, my understanding of what I observe, my conclusions be so errant from what may actually be true? How quickly I could have gotten to certainty—and been dead wrong.
At that moment I realized how easy it is to create our own mythologies. And once we have created them, we are emotionally bound to them. We will not give them up easily. After listening to Rick’s unexpected interpretation of what we saw, I felt fairly quickly that his scenario was probably more likely than mine. But if my vision had had more time to gel, I might have been more stubborn. He might not have been able to change my mind, and I might have fought tooth and nail to defend the mythology I had created. I could imagine myself insisting on the validity of a baseless story I had simply told myself over and over.
Perhaps this experience not only provided a much needed dose of humility. Perhaps it also provided a window into the empathy I currently lack to understand those who seem to have fallen under the spell of what I believe to be false interpretations of facts or experiences. I may never share their beliefs, but perhaps, if I were willing to set aside my own contrariness, I can better understand how they came under the sway of a mythology they so dearly want to believe.
David Hoefer of Louisville, Ky., the co-editor of The Last Resort, explores our relationship with a beloved emblem of summer. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
They dot warm summer nights like phosphorescent punctuation marks. They carry bioluminescent chemicals in their abdomens that produce a cold light, more like LEDs than Edison incandescents, to attract potential mates. Little children (and adults behaving like little children) enjoy chasing after them, catching them in hand and watching them glow on release. (I’ve been known to do this after a couple of beers.)
What am I talking about? Lightning bugs, of course. Or fireflies. Or glow worms. Well, which is it?
It turns out that it’s all three, though the first two names are now more common than the third. But it also turns out that what you call these creatures is, in part, dependent on the section of the country from which you hail. The following map recently appeared in an article on the Rochesterfirst.com Web site:
This makes sense to me. I’ve called these beetles both names at different times but lean toward lightning bug. No surprise there, as Kentucky is smack dab at the center of lightning-bug territory. But I grew up in North Syracuse, New York, at the northern edge of the same region, and called them lightning bugs up there, too.
The article goes on to note an interesting coincidence. Firefly is more common in parts of the country that record more wildfires. Lightning bug is more typical of areas with higher frequency lightning strikes. The author correctly states that this is not proof of causation. But it is definitely intriguing.
We get no help from John Goodlett on this topic. The bugs are never mentioned in The Last Resort. (Pud always was a plant guy, first and foremost.)
What to call an insect may seem like a purely academic question, of little import to anyone other than linguists or entomologists. That notion would be mistaken, however. Sectional differences are an integral part of American history, with serious and sometimes dire consequences. These many differences—a true, organic form of diversity rather than the often forced and phony stuff that we’re being inundated with now—are gradually being rung out of our lives by the growing homogeneity of corporate-state culture. I like lightning bug but am okay with firefly as well. I hope distinctions like this one, and thousands of others, stick around for a while longer.
On June 25, gymnast Simone Biles was not having the Olympic Trials her fans had anticipated. She had stepped out of bounds, fallen off the beam, and not stuck a landing. She was still brilliant, of course. She is arguably one of the greatest athletes ever and she easily clinched the top spot on the U.S. Olympic team. But she was clearly not satisfied with her performance.
After she finished her floor routine—eye-popping, as usual, but not perfect—the camera followed her to the sidelines. She sat down on the floor, reached into her backpack, and pulled out a long pair of shears to cut off the tape supporting her troublesome ankle. That task quickly dispatched, she reached into her backpack again and pulled out an almost comically large makeup brush. While the camera remained trained on her, she proceeded to powder her face.
My jaw dropped. In the middle of an immensely significant athletic competition, one of the world’s greatest felt compelled to touch up her makeup. Perhaps the sheer ordinariness of that action calmed her. Perhaps it was a way to boost her confidence. But at a moment when she most needed to concentrate on her athletic performance, she was fixing her face.
I was chagrined. Clearly I can’t ignore the fact that many, many female Olympians wear makeup and other cosmetic enhancements while competing. Eyelashes and fingernails of grotesque lengths are common. And how on earth do track athletes—male and female—run with necklaces and chains bouncing under their chins? I doubt these trends started in 1988 with Flo-Jo, but we all paid attention when she positioned herself in the starting blocks, her wickedly curved nails splayed on the track, her hair loose and flowing. This year, media reported as frequently on Sha’Carri Richardson’s flaming orange hair and outrageous fingernails as they did on her speed. Too bad we won’t get to see her perform in Tokyo.
These fashionistas do succeed in grabbing our attention. But don’t they already do that with their athletic feats? Many, like the gymnasts, sometimes appear made up for a performance at the Grand Guignol. Why do they feel so compelled?
As a youngster and a teenager I participated in nearly every sport available to girls at the time. I was notoriously average at all of them. But I loved being active, I loved the discipline it required, and I loved the harmony of a team effort. Being an athlete, no matter how ordinary, made me feel strong. It gave me confidence. But more than that, it allowed me to play a role other than “Sallie,” the socially awkward, too smart for her own good, outsider. Instead, I was the 4’11’’ hurdler or the feisty all-state midfielder or one of eight synchronized swimmers trying bravely to mimic the moves of the more experienced swimmers. I was gutsy, determined, fearless.
As a teenage athlete, I could set aside, however momentarily, the fact that I wasn’t beautiful. I had no idea how to apply makeup to improve my appearance. With those two marks against me, finding acceptance at that age was difficult. But I could disappear on the tennis court or the hockey field. My sweat was worth something. My tenacity had value.
So it makes me sad to see that, in 2021, many of our greatest athletes still view their looks as part of their performance. They have to be strikingly beautiful, perfectly coiffed, overly made up. Somehow they must feel that their athletic skills alone cannot validate their presence on the world stage. Years of training can only get them so far. Perhaps it’s the lure of lucrative promotional contracts that prompts them to make sure their appearance is as perfect as their performance.
I wish young girls could see these athletes as the pure, powerful women they are. They don’t need fake eyelashes and fake fingernails and fake hair color to make a statement. They just need to demonstrate their prowess as heart-stopping, mind-blowing athletes.
As the 2021 Olympics approached, several female athletes and their teams made the news for their attire. An official from England Athletics claimed that Welsh Paralympic world champion Olivia Breen’s sprint shorts—the Adidas official 2021 briefs—were too short. The European Handball Association's Disciplinary Commission fined the female Norwegian beach handball team when they showed up for a match in compression shorts similar to what the men wear rather than the mandated bikini bottoms. Black Olympic swimmers were denied the option of wearing the Soul Cap, a swim cap designed to better accommodate and protect their hair.
Why can’t we just let women compete? Why does their appearance have to play such a large role? This morning I watched a men’s sand volleyball match, the men dressed comfortably in shorts and tank tops. I don’t have to tell you what the women are expected to wear.
I live in the fastest growing county in Kentucky. It seems that everywhere I go I come face-to-face with this reality: farmland bulldozed for a new subdivision, woodlands daylighted without a thought of what has been sacrificed, trees pushed into hulking piles of smoking debris, traffic and impatient drivers clogging the roadways, new interstate exits and newly built intersections designed to handle today’s volume of cars. New schools, new businesses, and a new bypass to get around it all. And let’s not forget a controversial dump still accepting garbage way beyond its approved capacity.
This morning, however, we took a road trip a few miles southwest to Woodford County, where the tiny town of Midway is trying desperately to manage its own growth. It has been called “Kentucky’s Mayberry,” and as little as ten years ago it was a quaint little hamlet of historic homes and a bustling main street that attracted visitors to its special collection of unique restaurants and art shops. In recent years, however, industry has come to the area near the interstate, along with fast food franchises and convenience stores. It’s a disheartening trend that I expect is nearly inescapable for every community that had been temporarily left behind by the ravages of what many call progress.
But just off Midway’s historic downtown Railroad Street, the town has established the remarkable Walter Bradley Park, named for a town native and World War II Army veteran who, in 1977, became the first African American on the Midway City Council. He served the community in that capacity for 24 years. I had been on the periphery of this 28-acre park many times for events, mostly races where I was more focused on making it to the start line on time and finding the finish line while still breathing. This morning we could wander the grounds and its four miles of walking trails at our leisure.
Unlike many city parks, this is not simply a mowed area with a few signs and perhaps a walking path. Some visionary arborists and gardeners have created a verdant sanctuary that delights all the senses. On an unusually cool summer morning, the butterfly gardens were bursting with color. A wide variety of native trees—some old, many recently planted—welcomed us, already offering shade and guaranteeing a cool summer retreat in the years to come. Gravel paths wend among the gardens, around Sara Porter’s Seed Farm shed, across wooden footbridges, past an old spring, circling near horses grazing in the nearby meadows, and winding up to the public pavilions behind the elementary school.
As I stepped into the long arbor facing one of the many wildflower gardens, I felt as if I had stepped back into another century. Time slowed. Natural beauty again felt revered. I could imagine spending a full afternoon seated on the benches watching the birds and butterflies while engaged in idle conversation. Would I be twirling a parasol?
The good people of Midway have always seemed to understand the importance of their community’s history and have managed to preserve its rare qualities. This battle will intensify over the next few years. But they have committed to nurturing an oasis in their midst. Bravo. Central Kentuckians now have yet one more reason to visit.
I suppose it should be comforting that it was a small group of friends much younger than I who shared their common insight.
“Words are hard,” they had all agreed, laughing, as one of them couldn’t find the word she was searching for as they congregated for breakfast after a morning walk.
When they told me this story a little later, standing in front of my table at the Lexington Farmers Market where I had three books displayed that co-opted tens of thousands of those sometimes intractable words, I smiled knowingly and looked at my friends a little closer.
One is a visual artist and professor. Although words are not her preferred medium of expression, I am certain she is articulate and profound during classroom discussions about creating and interpreting art. One is an engineer with a natural talent for managing people, who solves complex problems and coaxes her colleagues in the direction she needs them to go. One is a teacher who compassionately interacts with teenagers from widely diverse cultures, students whose first language is rarely English.
In their professions, words are their currency. All are expert communicators. They are quite comfortable expressing themselves. I imagine they rarely think about how fluidly the words come…until a cantankerous one goes missing.
These days, I seem to have a particular problem recalling proper nouns: names and places, titles and characters, famous people and family members and longtime acquaintances. Shortly after my conversation with these three remarkable women, a former boss of mine—someone I reported to for four years—stopped by my table and chatted for several minutes. A week later I finally remembered her first name. I still haven’t come up with her last.
(If you detect this happening when you next encounter me, please don’t think that means I don’t cherish our relationship. It just seems that my brain has made room for the mountains of new trivia necessary to navigate the modern world by archiving information I would choose to keep close at hand. Too bad my rather headstrong cognitive processes don’t consult me before making these sometimes critical decisions. On the other hand, as I glance around my cluttered office, perhaps that’s for the best.)
I also recognize that words’ elusiveness is part of their charm. Ask any writer. Words can indeed be hard. Hard to come by. Hard to conjure. Hard to differentiate. Hard to define. Hard to know. Hard to let go. Hard to lasso for a specific need. If words were easy, we wouldn’t take so much pleasure in wrestling them into cohesive, lyrical patterns.
Words can also be hard to hear, if we’re not inclined toward the truth, or if we’re feeling unusually burdened. And they can simply be hard, if their intent is to bruise.
Sometimes I seem to have too many words. I can’t get to my computer or to a pad of paper fast enough to capture my thoughts. In those instances, I’m typically just letting off steam about some issue that has me riled up. Or perhaps I’m sorting through an emotion that blindsided me. Occasionally I feel I’ve distilled some human experience in a way that may be worth sharing.
Sometimes I say too much when I should have kept my mouth shut. Knowing when to use your words can be hard, too.
Those of us who love words, who ache for more time to immerse ourselves in the carefully chosen words of others, who can disappear into a world fabricated by a word artist—we’re the lucky ones. Words are our friends. We’ll put up with a little petulance now and then, even as we sense their smirks as they refuse to come out of hiding.
David Hoefer of Louisville, Ky., the co-editor of The Last Resort, bids a fond farewell to the Brood X cicadas. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
The cicada bloom is finally starting to wind down in my neck of the woods (which is the Louisville Highlands). It is increasingly possible to hold an intelligible conversation with another human outside the house and to travel the sidewalks without the regular crunch of dead or dying bugs underfoot.
That said, I had a final cicada experience that might be worth relating. I’m currently taking an online birding course through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (an organization whose praises I’ve sung previously on this blog). One of the exercises, called “sit-spotting,” involves sitting outdoors for 15 minutes, observing the immediate surroundings, and making note in a field journal of all that which most impinges on the five senses. In a Kentucky suburban environment, that ought to mean birds, squirrels, chipmunks, bees, cats, breezes, floral scents, etc. I did this a couple of weeks back, when the cicadas were still hot and heavy. Not wise. My entries read something like:
I’ll give the cicadas this: every 17 years they put on what is truly a command performance. I guess part of the diversity of nature that we always go on about, is that sometimes there is very little diversity at all.
I’ve never liked Father’s Day. My father died unexpectedly when I was seven, and I’ve felt cheated ever since. I could happily wipe that holiday off my calendar.
This year, however, marking Father’s Day is putting a smile on my face. Recently, my cousin Bob Goodlett had some iconic family video digitized to share with relatives near and far. Today, I’m sharing my Father’s Day joy with you.
It turns out that my Uncle Leonard Fallis, husband of my dad’s older sister, Virginia, had an 8mm movie camera as early as the 1940s. I don’t recall ever having seen the following clip before Bob shared it with us last month. But there’s my father, before the war and all the horror he witnessed, strutting around his family’s property in Lawrenceburg, Ky., in his University of Kentucky ROTC uniform, being silly, mugging for the camera, while his faithful dog, Mike, gambols at his feet.
The youngster at the beginning of the clip is my dad’s nephew Robert Dudley “Sandy” Goodlett, who died April 26, 2021. Readers of The Last Resort may remember references to “Sweetpea” visiting the boys’ camp. At the end of the clip, you’ll see my dad’s nephew Davy Fallis, aka “Sluggo,” who died March 7, 2018. One of the letters that Pud wrote to Davy and his parents while at basic training in Texas is included in Appendix A of The Last Resort.
During a Goodlett family reunion in 1984, I remember being emotionally walloped when one of the Fallises played some of their archival movie footage that, at the time, I had no idea existed. By that summer, my dad had been gone 17 years. Suddenly, on a small screen in a northern Kentucky hotel gathering space, there he was in an intimate, playful moment with my mother, shortly before they were married. I gasped, and then I sobbed. If they played more old footage of either of my parents that evening, I missed it. (That’s Davy Fallis again, chaperoning the scene.)
In the following clip, that footage is preceded by images shot on their wedding day, December 27, 1947. Lawrenceburg natives may recognize several in the wedding party: Lin Morgan Mountjoy, Bobby Cole, George McWilliams Sr., George McWilliams Jr., Vincent Goodlett, Ann McWilliams, Mary Jane Ripy, Ann Dowling, and Madison Bowmer (of Louisville).
In this era of cell phones and selfies and images and video shared instantly with the world, it may be hard to imagine what it means to me to have this rare video of my dad. I have only a few memories of him from my childhood. So seeing him move—his mannerisms and his interactions with others—makes him real. It confirms what others have told me in recent years about his sense of humor and how much fun he was to be around. And, of course, it confirms all that I missed by losing him at such a young age.
I am deeply grateful to Vince Fallis for preserving the original 8mm reels for more than 70 years and to Bob for making the video more widely available.
This Father’s Day, I am thinking about playful Pud, and I am having a good day.
The only other video of Pud that I’m aware of was shared with me by Bob Cole, Bobby Cole’s son. Appropriately, my dad is fishing. You can watch it here.
As I started working on Next Train Out, I knew that racial conflict had to be a theme of the novel. It seemed clear to me that the trajectory of Lyons Board’s life had to be predicated in part on his role, as an eight-year-old boy, in having a Black man lynched in his hometown, Paris, Ky., in 1901.
As I researched the various cities and towns where my grandfather eventually lived, I found plenty of instances of racial unrest in their histories: mob violence, riots, lynchings, the obliteration of sections of towns where Blacks lived and prospered. Soon I began to better grasp the bigger picture, that the whole country was awash in deadly racial conflict just after World War I, when Black soldiers returned home expecting opportunities and respect in return for serving their country in the trenches in Europe.
Instead, they found resentment and violence stoked by the belief among some white citizens that these returning veterans threatened their jobs and their status in the community. I learned about the Red Summer of 1919, which made me realize how widespread these race problems were. These confrontations were not isolated to the Deep South. They erupted in our nation’s capital, in Chicago, in New York and Omaha—in at least 60 locations from Arizona to Connecticut.
How this anger and suspicion manifested itself in towns like Corbin, Ky., and Springfield, Ohio, are part of Lyons’ story.
As we all now know, an area referred to as Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Okla., waited until 1921 for its turn at center stage. On June 1, after 16 hours of horror, more than a thousand homes and scores of businesses had been incinerated. Somewhere between 100 and 300 people had been murdered. Thousands of Black survivors were then corralled into a detention camp of sorts and assigned forced labor cleaning up the mess the violent white mob had created.
Before June 2020, when President Trump landed in Tulsa for a campaign rally originally scheduled to take place on Juneteenth, few Americans knew the lurid history of Black Wall Street. The facts had been suppressed, kept out of classrooms, out of the news, out of polite conversation. Black families in Tulsa passed down stories of violence and terror and escape—or stories of family members never seen again, their fates unknown. Few public officials dared recognize what had happened to all those people and their livelihoods and their property and their wealth.
This year, on its 100th anniversary, the entire nation has been awakened to Tulsa’s tragic history. LeBron James produced a documentary—one of many. Tom Hanks wrote an op-ed. HBO made its Watchmen series accessible to more viewers. News forums of all types reported on the anniversary. Survivors of the massacre—all more than 100 years old--testified before Congress and met with President Biden. Under the leadership of Tulsa’s young white Republican mayor, G. T. Bynum, archaeologists have resumed the search for mass graves that had finally begun last summer.
How a community like Tulsa now, finally, begins to reckon with its history is significant for all of us. We as a nation, as a collection of human beings, must break the silence we have permitted ourselves for generations and acknowledge how gravely we have wronged indigenous peoples, Blacks, and other minorities. How we blithely destroyed their culture, their history, their identities, and their lives.
Acknowledging the truth is a start. Reporting historical facts is essential. Engaging in respectful, compassionate, and sensible discussion can prompt healing. Some communities—and even the U.S. Congress—are now beginning to discuss what reparations might look like. Other communities first need to simply acknowledge both the shame and the pain that have churned for decades among their citizens.
When I first met with Jim Bannister, the great-nephew of the man lynched because of an alleged incident with my great-grandmother, he made it clear that it was the silence that weighed most heavily on him. He had tried to learn more about the lynching of George Carter, but no one would talk about it. His elders wouldn’t talk about it. The Black community wouldn’t talk about it. Fear and shame and ongoing oppression had kept everyone close-mouthed for generations.
The emotional damage accrued. The human damage. The not knowing. The not understanding.
With her book In the Courthouse’s Shadow, Tessa Bishop Hoggard provided the key that Jim needed to open the door to his family’s history. She pulled his story out of the shadows. Jim has told me repeatedly that he feels an extra spring in his step now that he knows the facts. He has found a peace that had eluded him all of his eighty years.
In her interview with Tom Martin on WEKU’s Eastern Standard program this week, Tessa said, “As we peer into our history, hate crimes were a common daily occurrence….Accountability and consequences were absent. There was only silence. This silence is a form of complicity….Today is the time for acknowledgment and healing. Let the healing begin.”
(Listen to the 10-minute interview.)
We have to acknowledge our difficult history. We have to face what happened. And then we have to consider the steps, both small and large, that we can take to heal the wounds that will only continue to fester if we stubbornly ignore them.
This year, on the morning of Juneteenth (Saturday, June 19), I’ll have copies of Tessa’s book and my novel available for sale at the Lexington Farmers Market at Tandy Centennial Park and Pavilion in downtown Lexington, Ky. In August 2020, the citizens of Lexington agreed to rename Cheapside Park, the city’s nineteenth-century slave auction block and one of the largest slave markets in the South, the Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park, honoring the freed slave who did masonry work for many of Lexington’s landmarks, including laying the brick for the nearby historic Fayette County courthouse, built in 1899.
One of the organizers of the “Take Back Cheapside” campaign, DeBraun Thomas, said at the time: “Henry A. Tandy Centennial Park is one of the first of many steps towards healing and reconciliation.”
Fittingly, I’ll be at the Farmers Market as part of the Carnegie Center’s Homegrown Authors program. Tandy had a hand in the construction of Lexington’s beautiful neoclassical Carnegie Library on West Second Street in 1906, now the home of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning.
If you’re in Lexington that morning, stop by and we can continue this conversation.
David Hoefer of Louisville, Ky., the co-editor of The Last Resort, examines our latest plague. If you would like to submit a post to Clearing the Fog, please contact us here.
They’re here. In fact, they’re everywhere—gazillions of them. They’ve come up from holes in the ground, where they spent 17 years sucking nutrients from plant roots in the dark, biding their time until nature called them to invasion.
With their cellophane wings and bulbous red eyes they look like something out of an Old Testament plague or maybe next-of-kin to the “Bug-eyed Monsters” (BEMs) that infested the covers of science-fiction pulp magazines from mid-20th century America.
And the racket—an incessant loud thrumming from high in the air, as though alien spacecraft were massing behind tree cover or Saruman the White was working up his war engines, as described by Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings. Reportedly, that racket can raise noise levels in neighborhoods up to 100 decibels.
What am I going on about? Why the 2021 vintage of Brood X cicadas, of course.
You likely know the story by now. Brood X is number ten of 15 groups of periodical cicadas resident in eastern North America. It consists of three species and is the largest and most widespread of its kind. Brood X nymphs tunnel up from their underground lairs every 17 years, once soil temperatures reach 64 degrees Fahrenheit. They shed their exoskeletons, briefly taking on a final adult form. What follows is a furious few weeks of them discharging their Darwinian duty—flying, mating, laying eggs in the trees, and dying. And, yes, all that noisemaking—the male’s monochromatic version of a mating song. Brood X cicadas are estimated to emerge in the trillions, and species survival depends on it, because these defenseless insects make easy prey for a variety of birds and other hungry creatures (including my dog, who wolfs them down like a human chomping on potato chips—a protein supplement, I suppose).
In the meantime, cicadas are as common as hydrogen, and getting into everything. You name it and they‘re on it—clothing, hair, cars, furniture, rugs, sidewalks, houses, and every other manifestation of human culture. Their weird insect noises and alien ugliness make them unwanted guests, but the fact is, unlike last year’s virus, they’re perfectly harmless. Brood X cicadas may be the ultimate proving ground for the philosophical notion of “live and let live.”
Kentucky is not actually at the epicenter of Brood X, but the bugs are certainly present and accounted for in the Bluegrass State (including in great numbers in my treelined yard). Entomologists see this North American version of a locust visitation in effect until mid-July, when the survivors will begin a new 17-year cycle of root-sucking and apocalyptic emergence and transformation. The best we can do for now is batten down the hatches and learn to live with one of nature’s stranger life utterances.
If you’re inclined toward more active observation, I can suggest an interesting application that is downloadable to iPhone and Android devices. Developed by an academic at Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati and called Cicada Safari, it enables Joe and Josephine Test-tube to take on a citizen-scientist role during the Brood X interval by documenting local cicada activity with photographs and videos and posting them to an ever-growing database curated by the application’s sponsors. I’ve enjoyed running around my neighborhood looking for interesting shots, once I got over my initial repulsion.
Just remember: the cicadas probably find us at least as hideous to contemplate.
There is no mention of cicadas in The Last Resort, which makes me think that John Goodlett didn’t observe them in the Lawrenceburg environs during 1942-43. Brood X outbreaks would have occurred in 1936 and 1953, outside of the journal’s timespan. But there are other broods on different schedules, waiting for long periods to climb into the light and then share the world with us, if only briefly.