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  SIX THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT: KENTUCKY.  
   
   
 

Kentucky is not just a border state. We are THE border state! Our Old Kentucky Home is the place where the South, Appalachia and the Midwest all come together to meet and mingle. Kentucky is so neither here nor there that we spent the first two years of the Civil War playing the Union and the Confederacy off each other (the Union finally got fed up with our waffling and occupied the state). We introduced the mint julep and people around the world think of us whenever fried chicken comes up. Our accent is the Appalachian Twang, not the Southern Drawl, and we play basketball as good as the best flat-landed

 
 

Midwesterner. This cultural burgoo is what it means to be from the Bluegrass State.

 

#1. Louisville isn't in Kentucky.

There are only three truly urban areas in the state: Louisville, Lexington, and "Northern Kentucky." Northern Kentucky is the common phrase used to describe that part of the Cincinnati metropolitan area which is on the other side of the Ohio River and is accidentally in Kentucky and not Ohio. Despite the infamous "Florence Y'all" water tower, Northern Kentucky is a cultural invasion from Ohio. Northern Kentucky is so much of a de facto colony of Ohio that Cincinnati International Airport is actually across the river and in Covington, Kentucky.

Louisville, the largest city in Kentucky, sits across the Ohio River from Indiana. Much like Northern Kentucky, it is a colony of its northern neighbor. While most of the people living in Northern Kentucky think of themselves as being residents of Cincinnati, people in Louisville continue to think of themselves as Kentuckians. The rest of us ain't buying it. Louisville is a Midwestern city, plain and simple. It looks and feels the same as Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Toledo, Indianapolis, or any other vanilla variety flyover city you care to name. Politically and legally, Louisville and Northern Kentucky are in Kentucky. They pay taxes to Frankfort, the state capital. Culturally, those people are in the Midwest.

 

#2. We Don't Talk French So Très Bien.

Kentuckians started giving French names to everything in sight after the Marquis de Lafayette's visit of 1824-25. We've been mangling the pronunciations of these French names ever since. Give us a French word. We will name something after it and find a new and interesting way to pronounce it beyond all Gallic recognition. Lexington sits in the heart of Fayette County, not Lafayette County. No one has been able to explain where the "La" went. Versailles, a small town near Lexington that hosts the Labrot & Graham Distillery ("lab-rot" being another locally-distorted French word), is pronounced "ver sales" instead of "ver-sai." Louisville is neither the Anglicanized "Louis-ville" nor the more French "Lou-ie-ville," but simply "Lou-vull." What we've done to the name "Belcher" requires no comment.

 

#3. We've Got BLUE People!

Being part Appalachian, Kentuckians are used to inbreeding jokes. However, there is one joke about Kentucky and inbreeding that's funny because it's true: The story of the Blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek. The Fugates were an extended family living in an isolated hollow in Eastern Kentucky ominously named Troublesome Creek. Most members of the family had "hereditary methemoglobinemia." This is an enzyme deficiency that causes a person's blood to run vein blue as opposed to arterial red. Instead of being pink, these people are tinted blue or purple. The condition is based on a recessive gene; the only way to acquire it is if both your parents pass down the love. So what were the odds of clan founder Martin Fugate taking another methemoglobinemia carrier as his wife? He did, and they settled in Troublesome Creek sometime in the mid 19th Century. Cousins marrying cousins was commonplace among isolated Appalachians, so by the time a doctor discovered the Fugates in the 1960s, there were several blue people living in the hills around Hazard.

 

#4. Kentucky Grows Your Pot!

Only two states in the Union make it into the top five global producers of both indoor and outdoor pot horticulture: Kentucky and California, and California obviously smokes way more weed than it produces. It is well-known among residents of the Bluegrass state that another kind of grass is their leading cash crop, easily beating out tobacco. Hemp grows wild all over the state, even on interstate medians. Hikers in Daniel Boone National Forest who stumble into a clearing full of cannabis need to backtrack out very carefully; pot farms are often sown with mines.

 

#5. A Baptist Invented Bourbon.

Kentucky is famous for its bourbon whiskey, but even most Kentuckians don't know that bourbon is the invention of a Baptist minister. In Kentucky's late 18th Century frontier days, cash was scarce. Many people conducted business via barter, including supporting their churches. The local minister would receive far more tithes in grain than he could ever eat or resell, so most ran distilleries. In what was then called Bourbon County (and is now Scott County), Baptist minister and notorious cheapskate Elijah Craig was no exception. As the story goes, Craig decided to burn out the inside of the oak barrels he aged his whiskey in so he could get one more use out of them. Turns out people liked the flavor imparted by Craig's charred oak more than the straight, regular-oak aged whiskey, and thus bourbon whiskey was born. The sad irony of all this is that Baptists became teetotalers and Scott County went dry.

While stolidly Baptist Scott County is now dry as a bone, local legend has it that several casks of Elijah Craig's original bourbon were placed inside the columns of the administration building of the equally Baptist Georgetown College. The legend never fails to lure guillible frat boys into trying to crack those columns open about once a decade.

 

#6. Anyone Can Be a Kentucky Colonel.

For all the jokes about KFC's Colonel Harlan Sanders or the ABA's "Kentucky Colonels," the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels is for real. It is also not very Kentuckian anymore. Once upon a time it was common in the South for the governor to reward political supporters with a glamorous title from an appointment in the State Militia. Local notables were often "majors" or "colonels" who had never and would never lead troops. Kentucky was no exception, but we took the idea a step further. In 1885, Governor William Bradley appointed the first "Honorary" Kentucky Colonel, making the military standing even more tenuous. By the 1930s, it was a formal organization. Inductees are nominated by an existing Colonel, approved by the Governor, and go on the rolls that year as an "Honorary Adviser." There are no requirements that an inductee be either from Kentucky or even be living there at the time of his/her nomination. In addition to well-known Colonel Harlan Sanders, some very non-Kentuckians like Bob Hope, Omar Bradley, Joan Crawford, Pope John Paul II, and Mae West are all Kentucky Colonels.

 

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Kentucky Colonel Richard Thomas was born and bred on bluegrass and bourbon. He most assuredly does not have blue skin.