Written by Bwog Staff
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).
- Without 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- The Birthplace of the High Five. You read right, recent evidence suggests Kentuckians invented the famed maneuver.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Epic Feuds. UK versus Louisville fans, Davis versus Lincoln, and most famous of all: Hatfields versus McCoys.
- “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.”