Reunion on the RocksRead Now
When I graduated from Anderson County High School in 1977, I intended to leave Lawrenceburg (Ky.) behind and never look back.
I didn’t want to attend the actual graduation ceremony, but my mother made me. I refused to get a new dress (to wear under the gown?) or the required white sandals (when would I ever wear those again?). So, over and over, I clopped across the stage in that hot high school gym wearing my worn Dr. Scholl’s, the rubber long gone from the bottom of the wooden footbed, as I was unexpectedly called to accept a number of awards.
My mother was mortified. She told me later that she overheard people around her whispering, “That poor little girl. Her family obviously couldn’t afford a new pair of shoes. Isn’t it wonderful that she’s receiving these scholarships?”
Afterwards, backstage, I remember looking around at my classmates as they hugged and cried and laughed. I felt nothing. No one approached me and I didn’t see anyone I wanted to say goodbye to. It all seemed completely hollow. I just wanted to get home and get on with my life.
Eventually, I did go back, of course, but it took me nearly 40 years. When David Hoefer and I started compiling The Last Resort, I spent a lot of time around Anderson County imagining the area in the 1940s, visiting my dad’s old camp on Salt River, and talking to the few people who still remembered him. I brought a different perspective this time, and a purpose. I was interested—fascinated, as it turned out—by my family’s long history in the area, which I had long ignored.
And then this winter, by another stroke of sublime serendipity—or perhaps cosmic payback—I’ve found myself thrown together with a motley group of boys who also graduated from Anderson County High School in the 1970s.
I suppose it started with our pilgrimage to Panther Rock in November 2020. My cousin Jim McWilliams had been told I knew the owner of the property and could get us access. When Jim contacted me, he mentioned that he and his friend (and my former classmate) Jeff Lee wanted to revisit a site they had hiked many times as youngsters. The three of us soon realized we were always up for a walk in the woods. When Jim and Jeff began to hike the Red River Gorge area with friends Greg Hood and Walter Moffett this past fall, I somehow wheedled an invitation to tag along.
Others have joined us at times: my cousin Bob McWilliams; another classmate, Bob Cox; another of Jim’s classmates whom I knew from band, Kelly Rose; Barry Puhr, son of one of my mother’s good friends. All Anderson County graduates. All fellas I either knew or knew about when I was in school. All with completely different life histories and distinct talents. All now joined together, decades later, by our love of being in the woods.
At the end of my high school years, I looked around and thought I had nothing in common with the people surrounding me. I had no idea how to talk to them. I had never felt that I fit in. And now, 45 years later, I eagerly look forward to spending time with this gang of intrepid trekkers. Our careers are behind us. We’ve set aside our professional personas and the roles we played for decades to meet society’s demands. Now we’re just a group of comrades who can’t wait to get back on the trail.
2/23/2022 05:24:10 pm
There is much to love in this post, Sallie! To come full circle, and to fill in those old cracks (always there) is a testament to the gift of being here. May the shared beauty of the woods keep calling...
2/23/2022 09:15:08 pm
The photographs are beautiful. You have quite an eye for capturing the joy of being out in nature. as they say, Kentucky is God’s country.
Barbara R Fallis
2/23/2022 09:31:21 pm
Sallie, so beautifully written but I must admit the part about your graduation hit my funny bone. Graduation meant nada to me. The nuns, dressed the traditional way with only face and hands showing and quite strict (one was named Sister Petreonella, another Conrada and Sister Perigreen), informed us that no casual clothes , shorts, pants to be worn underneath the oh-so-lovely gowns. Heck with that! I wore shorts, got the diploma and never looked back. Thanks Sallie for letting me recall that unimportant day. It brought a smile!
2/23/2022 11:54:38 pm
A nice piece, Sal. I relate to the high school graduation bit; I had the same love for Ballard High School in Louisville that you had for Anderson County High School in Lawrenceburg. (I also tried to get out of the graduation ceremony and no luck there.) I'm glad that you were able to turn some old memories into new comrades.
2/24/2022 11:47:17 am
Beautiful account Sally. My husband Barry has really enjoyed joining old Friends for these hikes. Hope I can join you someday. We both loved your book, “The Last Resort”. Keep on exploring and writing!
2/24/2022 11:53:48 am
So nice to hear from you, Deborah! I hope we can arrange a hike or other get-together sometime when you all are back in Kentucky. Look forward to meeting you!
joseph G anthony
2/24/2022 11:48:11 am
I love the graduation tale. Now my wife is about to start tutoring the teenage daughter of a wild boy who has metamorphized into almost a helicopter dad. I hold both images in my mind: the boy who drove his parents and everyone else almost to drink (his dad's a strict teetotaler) and this concerned, nagging father. I was a wild boy myself. I wish you could go back and wear those white shoes for your mother, but alas, that's life. I can't go back, either, but both of us can remember.
2/24/2022 12:10:10 pm
Wow! The photos are incredible - nature's finest! Thanks, Sallie, for sharing the rediscovery of your roots or better said as your trek from Dr. Scholl's to hiking boots.
2/24/2022 02:46:58 pm
Great photos, Sallie. Thanks. Just shows how's beautiful the KY landscape is. Don't recall anything special about my HS graduation. I do recall the day we got our HS yearbooks going around having our friend sign them. My mother, who was on the school board at the time, spoke at my sister's HS graduation. So that one is a bit more memorable;e. Great you have connected with HS friends and have been able to share the outdoors with them. I'm hoping to see some ofd my classmates at our delayed 60th reunion this fall.
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