Two years of telling stories in my new Kentucky home

Saturday, July 19, 2014 at 12:50 pm

On an unusually cool July morning, the sweet scent of whiskey mash hangs heavy in the air over Bardstown. I used to think the aroma was from a former bakery downtown, until the proprietor told me what it was.

Today it smells like home.

It was two years ago this week that I moved here from Winchester and started working for The Kentucky Standard as a reporter, photographer, copy editor and columnist.

That summer wasn’t mild like this one. Temperatures topped 100 degrees, and I looked forward to swimming at night at the Bardstown Parkview Motel, which was my residence for the first month. The vintage motor inn is in a leafy neighborhood that includes My Old Kentucky Home State Park.

These days I live in an efficiency behind the newspaper office and above one of the downtown businesses. It’s close quarters, but a good location. I can walk to the office, restaurants, the bank and the Episcopal Church.

I suppose if I were here for 20 years instead of two, I would still be a “brought in,” because Bardstown is traditional that way, and family ties in this old town are important. But it’s also a progressive small city in many ways, and one that exudes hospitality.

In my 30 years as a community newspaperman in Kentucky, I’ve felt welcome almost everywhere I’ve lived, but I’ve never felt more appreciated than during my time here. Hardly a week goes by that someone doesn’t tell me they liked something I wrote, or that they read my Sunday column every week, or that they’re pleased I’m here and hope I’ll stay. For an introverted and sometimes insecure writer, that kind of affirmation means everything.

This has been a pleasant place to live and work, and I’ve done some of my best and most interesting work here (interesting to me, and I hope, to our readers). That was especially true of that first splendid summer and fall.

My first front-page story was a “special report” on the uninsured in Nelson County, in which I interviewed Jan Tronzo and Linda Simms. I now serve with them on the board of Nelson County’s free community clinic.

That summer I met some of the Sons of Bardstown, members of the local National Guard artillery unit who survived a horrific battle during the Vietnam War that claimed the lives of several of their brothers in arms.

Although I’m not Catholic, I was fascinated by the history of the Kentucky Holy Land and enjoyed writing about the Abbey of Gethsemani, the mission work of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and the 220th anniversary of the Church of St. Michael the Archangel in Fairfield.

I’m also not a bourbon connoisseur, but I was intrigued by the bourbon lore of Bardstown and its environs, and enjoyed my first Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

I also had fun at my first Buttermilk Days, though I’ve never had a taste for wild game, and I’ve always preferred dry red wine to the sweet, heady homemade stuff offered there.

Inevitably, there have also been tragic stories that I would rather not have had to write about, most notably the murder or Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis. But even in that case, it was inspiring to see an entire community honor a fallen hero and show solidarity with his family, fellow officers and one another. It shows how strong are the ties that bind us.

That kind of kinship is part of what attracted me and keeps me here.

One Response to “Two years of telling stories in my new Kentucky home”

  • Curtis Absher:

    Hey friend,
    So glad you’ve found a home away from home. Your writings, like Wendell Berry’s sanctify communities. Keep up the good writing.

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