Kentucky counterpoint

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A defense of the Bluegrass state, from Kentucky partisan Carlton Travis Cone.

As one of the few Kentuckians at Columbia University, I sat by and read Bwog’s coverage of the marauding CU Dems as they marched around the Commonwealth, visiting such cultural centers as the Tolly-Ho.  Any token mentions of the culture of Kentucky or its people had a pseudo-Orientalist snark to them, and so to amend this I have made a fifteen point list (in no particular order) as to why the fifteenth state is worthy of re-examination by a largely uninitiated Columbia community. (Pictured: my ancestor Daniel Boone coming through the Cumberland Gap).

  1. booneWithout Kentucky there would have been no United States of America.  Or at least not by 1776.  The illegal movement of British colonists across Appalachia and into the Kentucky countryside was the catalyst for the French and Indian War.  Following the war, Parliament placed taxes on the colonists to pay for their own defense, and retroactively pay off the expenses of the French-Indian War.  The colonists began to protests their “taxation without representation,” and the rest, as we say, is history.
  1. Kentucky: Land of Natural Splendor.  Kentucky is home to the longest cave system in the world, Mammoth Cave, and has the most navigable waterways of any state aside from Alaska (suck on that, Florida).  Other features of note include the magnificent Red River Gorge, Natural Bridge, and Lake Cumberland, one of the largest manmade lakes in the country.  Lake Cumberland’s dam, built by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1952 has started to fail, and should it give will flood all the way to Nashville about 150 miles away.
  1. Thomas Hunt Morgan: Kentucky’s Gift to Columbia.  Morgan used fruit flies to prove Mendel’s theories of heredity and variation, and theorized that genetic material was stored on chromosomes.  For this work he won a Nobel Prize in 1933.  His lab on the eighth floor of Schermerhorn is still a working biology lab.
  1. Kentucky the Border State.  Kentucky was the home state of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator and Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy.  Kentucky never seceded, but was represented by the center star of the Confederate flag.  On the importance of the state to the Union, Lincoln said “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”
  1. The Birthplace of the High Five.  You read right, recent evidence suggests Kentuckians invented the famed maneuver.
  1. The Food.  Kentucky has given the world such culinary delights as country ham, beer cheese, the artery clogging Hot Brown (an open face sandwich of toast, ham, turkey, bacon, tomato, drenched in mornay sauce and optional cheddar cheese), Benedictine (cream cheese and cucumber spread), Ale81 soda, bourbon balls, burgoo, mint juleps, and Derby Pie.  We also have Southern favorites such as barbecue, cornbread, hush puppies, sweet tea, fried catfish, and of course—fried chicken.
  1. Kentucky, Land of Legal Vices.  Kentucky is home to bourbon, fields of tobacco, and the drive-thru liquor store.  Despite Governor-elect Beshear’s push for legalized casino gambling, in a state synonymous with horseracing, gambling was already here.
  1. Kentucky, Land of Illegal Vices.  More important than the moonshine industry, Kentucky is the number two producer of marijuana in the country after California.  According to the federal government, in 2005, $1 billion worth was confiscated.  Kentucky State Police Lt. Ed Shemelya remarked to the Lexington Herald Leader “if every Kentuckian smoked one joint an hour every day for 365 days, they could not smoke all of the marijuana grown here.”  With a population of roughly 4.2 million, I leave that Frontiers-style “back of the envelope” equation to you.
  1. Famous Kentuckians: Henry “The Great Compromiser” Clay, Muhammad Ali, George Clooney, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, Loretta Lynn, Louis Brandeis, Ashley Judd, and two of the Backstreet Boys.
  1. Kentucky, Land of Opportunity.  Kentucky is the fourth leading state in automobile manufacturing, was the birthplace of the Corvette, and currently constructs the best-selling car, truck, and SUV models in the country.  The state is also home to Lexmark, as well as major hubs for UPS, Amazon, and Proctor & Gamble.
  1. Kentucky, Land of Rustic Beauty.  Despite all of the industry and being the fourteenth smallest state, it is fifth in number of farms, most still family-owned.  Lexington, in the center of the state, is known as the “City in the Park,” due to the verdant beauty of the surrounding horse country.
  1. The Horse Racing Industry.  Kentucky is world-renowned for the strength of its racehorses, which thrive on Bluegrass enriched with calcium from the same limestone beneath the soil that forms Mammoth Cave.  Lexington is the “Thoroughbred Capital of the World” and Louisville is home to the Kentucky Derby, the most exciting two minutes in sports.
  1. Basketball.  Despite the confused kid from Cleveland Bwog quoted in its first Kentucky entry, basketball is the clear king of the Bluegrass, not football.  The University of Kentucky boasts the most wins and best winning percentage in NCAA history, and the Wildcats own seven national championship titles, second only to UCLA.  Basketball forges the Bluegrass into the Big Blue Nation every year.
  1. Epic Feuds.  UK versus Louisville fans, Davis versus Lincoln, and most famous of all: Hatfields versus McCoys.
  1. “My Old Kentucky Home.”  The state song, written by Stephen Foster and tear-jerkingly sung at every UK sporting event and at the Derby is the symbol of a larger sentiment that life there should be easy.  The birthright of all Kentuckians is the serenity of being in the Bluegrass.  Life there slows down in a way that is easy to appreciate after even as short time in New York.  As Mark Twain wrote: “When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Kentucky, because there it will come 20 years later.”


  1. i am so sick  

    of hearing about kentucky

  2. truthfully  

    I don't care either

  3. Anonymous  

    is this that weirdo with the red hair?

  4. Anonymous  

    (Not pictured: My ancestor Daniel Boone killing them rascally Indians and Mexicans and stealing their land)

  5. hey  

    i liked this. and i am a salty orientalist new englander.

  6. cpd  

    Hawkeye: Headin' west. To Can-tuck-ee.

    Heyward: There is a war on. How is it you are heading west?

    Hawkeye: Well, we face to the north and, real sudden like, turn left.

  7. random  

    woah, woah...hold on one minute. I thought the US only had 49 states - kintuckee isn't one of them. Let me tell ya now, North Dakota now that's one hell of a state.

  8. CML  

    As a bicoastal liberal I am rather fond of Idaho.

  9. dear

    haters: shut up.

    this post was awesome. thanks carlton, this was a good read. suitable number of quips, self deprecation, provincial pride, and columbia references. all around, well done!

  10. You know  

    you were doing great until you got to "...and two of the Backstreet Boys."

  11. indeed  

    this was well-written, funny and interesting. good job all around!

  12. beh

    this crotchety old new englander thinks kentucky was the first stop on the road to american empire. those hooligans should have stayed behind the proclamation line of 1763.

  13. Anoynmous  


  14. lincoln vs. douglas?  

    who's davis?

  15. kentuckylover.

    if i could pick one person to defend my homeland it would be you tcone. it is filled with wit and appreciation in a way i would only expect from a kentuckian.

    oh, and thanks for getting in my high five piece ha.

  16. wait...

    Does that mean Henry Clay and Cassius Clay are related?

    • CTC

      Henry and the original Cassius "the Lion of White Hall" Clay were related. The latter was an infamous, eccentric, and at times even violent abolitionist. The modern Cassius Clay Jr. was named (as was his father, obviously) after the abolitionist, but changed his name to Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam. As far as I know, there is no family connection.

  17. according to  

    some magazine, perhaps readers' digest maybe TIME or even something more hip, kentucky nabbed first place in the "most fashionable state" rankings, just beating out new york.

  18. bluegrass

    kentucky ranks third in state pride behind only texas (which lets face it, is basically a different national pride) and georgia.

    ((must be a southern thang))

  19. bigbluenation

    you are a true kentuckian with such a great passion. I will vote for you for governor one day.

  20. KFC!  

    Kentucky fucking Fried Chicken! How did you miss that?!

  21. no, CML  

    idaho is full of white supremacists and, in the summer, there are many forest fires. idaho is terrible.

  22. remember

    those "Getting Lucky in Kentucky" T-shirts from back in the day? what was the deal with them? Was it just because it rhymed, or are women genuinely easy there?


    • CTC

      I think those shirts only really caught on because of Paris Hilton. As far as I know, Kentucky girls are no easier than girls from other regions, just more attractive.

      And yes we are home to the creationist museum (which depicts man standing with dinosaurs wearing SADDLES, yet doesn't depict Adam and Eve in the buff to preserve family values), but most Kentuckians see it as an embarrassment are opposed to its presence and message. Also I hear it's bleeding money and won't be there for too much longer.

  23. kentucky  

    is also home to the creationist museum...

    the forefront of scientific thinking in america...

  24. Crit '08  

    I'm looking forward to watching Crit Luallen knock McConnell back to Alabama where he belongs in 2008. Kentucky is a grand state, as Bwog readers would know if they had paid attention in American history. I hope the guy who didn't know Jefferson Davis was joking...

  25. Jill

    How did this bunch of ignorant people even find this website to even reply to? Surly you people aren't students at Columbia U.or even college educated. If so, what a world we have to look forward to. Good Lord.

  26. CU Spew

    I watched the people from Columbia parade around during that trip, saying really classist, ignorant things in bombastic, inebriated mounds of word vomit. They came off looking like arrogant assholes and sparked some pretty funny jokes back here about them when they left. After the way they treated us, I personally would have preferred them to stay in New York.

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