What is in a political border that it holds us so? Why does the ground within that border bind us to tradition and defense of everything that border encompasses?
Kentucky is a land. Earth wrapped by rivers and mountains and a parallel. Yet, within that boundary, imaginary or waterlogged, lies allegiance. We, if Kentuckians, call it an “Old Home,” and sing songs about its grass and horses. We, if Kentuckians, claim it as home no matter our current reside elsewhere. We, as Kentuckians, perhaps the most homesick of the 50 states when away. But it’s just a border, established in 1792, completed with final purchase in 1818.
I’m from that purchase. My Kentucky was founded at the back end. No further can one go west than Fulton County. A river keeps us in, a border welcomes us southward to Tennessee. And to the rest of the encased Kentucky, we may not even exist. Warfield would know that feeling. Some 450 miles to the east, still in state, staring across to Kermit, West Virginia. Another river, yet with a bridge. No different, they may well be forgotten about to.
The Map Dots of Kentucky are spread far and near across the boundaries set forth in 1792, expanded in 1818. As Lexington and Louisville far outpaced other settlements for size, Kentuckians, those living within the border at any point in the land, still made a mark tucked away in hollers, hills, knobs, and bottomlands. They lived at the crossroads, the country stores, the farmlands, and the coalfields. They called this area home, too.
I sat out to see the others in 2013. It began as a quest to cover more hiking ground, and ended up as a quest to see the whole of Kentucky. Every single spot in the state. To compare it with the others, especially with the others that received the most attention. What was Kentucky? Was it the polished, presented parts seen on Derby Day on national TV? Was it the stereotyped images from the 1960s still etched in War On Poverty lore? What was out there? What was real? Was it even worth mentioning?
I found out in an exploration that lasted a year. A road trip to every county. With the bent of a protest, having to work seven days a week as an auto worker in Bowling Green, the chip on my shoulder and statement to make made for an even better reason to get out and go. So I did. And found out that border-wrapped passion, one mile at a time.
Editor’s Note: Written in 2013, in moth balls until now.