Characters by the Bushel:
My Love Affair with Monkey’s Eyebrow
My book is available now through this link: https://www.createspace.com/3677540
Here’s some information about me and the book.
My love affair with Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, started after World War II when mother’s sister Pod and her husband, Herman Tilley, bought a farm here. They had two children, Barbie and Frankie. I visited during the summers and did my best to stay out of the way. I was too young to be of much help. On Saturday nights, we kids bathed in a galvanized tub on the porch so we would be clean when we went to Providence Baptist Church on Sunday, where Herman was the song leader.
How small is Monkey’s Eyebrow? I would say the population ranges somewhere between two and perhaps as many as twenty people, depending on what homes are included. The boundaries are indefinite. In fact, there is no official boundary. I think folks in this community choose for themselves whether or not they live in Monkey’s Eyebrow.
I grew up in nearby Wickliffe, the county seat of Ballard County. Wickliffe’s population today is something less than 800 and the county’s population is a little more than 8,200. We have no pretensions that we are living in or near any city. We are country folks, and damn proud of it.
Prior to retiring as a public affairs professional (I called myself a science communicator) with the U.S. Department of Energy, I purchased part of the Tilley farm to be home for the rest of my life. Monkey’s Eyebrow has felt like home to me for a long, long time. Wickliffe is also home, as is Ballard County.
Kentucky has more than its share of “characters,” those special people who add seasoning to life. I think Ballard County has more characters per square inch than any other place in Kentucky. Many have passed along. This book is my attempt to keep their stories alive.
I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
What is Monkey's Eyebrow?
Many people have asked me how Monkey's Eyebrow, Ky., got its name. My usual reply is there are worse parts of a monkey's anatomy it could have been called.
I’ve heard two or three stories about why it’s named Monkey’s Eyebrow. My favorite is that the western end of Kentucky, bounded by the Ohio River, looks something like the profile of a monkey’s face and the Monkey’s Eyebrow community is located about where the eyebrows would be. That’s why I’ve chosen the image as the logo for this site. The bold line outlining the monkey's face is the Ohio River. The eyebrow in the logo is where Monkey's Eyebrow is located.
According to an author, another version tells of a store owned by the community's first settlers that sat at the base of a brush-topped ridge -- looking like a pair of eyes set under the tufts of a monkey's eyebrows.
You’d probably be surprised how many people haven’t been to Monkey’s Eyebrow. Some people who have driven through didn’t realize they were doing so. It’s hard to tell when you’re in Monkey’s Eyebrow. It’s a lot easier to tell when you’re not.
As far as I can tell, there aren’t any city limits. For one thing, there isn’t any city.
Some folks have theorized that Monkey’s Eyebrow is a state of mind. No, that’s not right. A state of mind doesn’t show up on a map. Monkey’s Eyebrow doesn’t show up on all versions of the map of Kentucky, but it’s on some. (Google map showing location)
It sits there in Ballard County above Bandana and to the side of Oscar, and a few miles this side of Paducah. It’s on Route 473, also known as Monkey’s Eyebrow Road. It's not far from the Ballard County Wildlife Management Area, a flood plain that holds many beautiful cypress lakes and plenty of wildlife.
My mother was one of 10 children of Bob and Lannie Crice. One of her sisters was Pod, who married Herman Tilley, and they had a farm at Monkey’s Eyebrow. When I was a kid I spent occasional weeks in the summer visiting Pod and Herman. For several years until they died, when the Crice family got together, it was at Pod and Herman’s.
Back in those days, the roads were dirt or gravel and Arivett's store was down the road and around the curve.
At that time, back in the late 1940s or early 1950s, Monkey’s Eyebrow was considerably smaller. It was where the store was.
Today, when there’s no store and the area’s name shows up in atlases of the most unusual town names, the “city limits” have stretched out in all directions, but in an indefinite way. I suppose you live in Monkey’s Eyebrow if you say you do.
Route 473 has been named Monkey’s Eyebrow Road. But there are no markers on the road to suggest that the lost traveler is in Monkey’s Eyebrow. The state used to put up a sign but every time they put up a new one, someone would steal it. Now, they don’t bother.
Monkey’s Eyebrow always seemed like home to me. As it neared time for me to retire I got in touch with my cousin Barbara Lynn and her husband Joe. Barbie is one of Pod and Herman’s two children. She and Joe own the 100-acre farm that sustained the Tilleys for many years.
They agreed to sell me five acres and all the associated buildings, including the house. My little farm includes a tobacco barn and the concrete block structure where Herman milked cows, then later converted into a woodworking shop. (Aerial view of my farm) My place is just below and to the right of center in the aerial view.
There are no beer joints. Ballard County is a dry county. You have to go to Paducah or drive across the river to Cairo, Ill., if you want a drink. Plenty of folks do.
I hope you enjoy this site. I’ll update it from time to time with comments from my perspective, and I hope to offer some Monkey’s Eyebrow merchandise for sale.
Another site dedicated to Monkey’s Eyebrow
Dave Clarke put together another website with videos, photos and discussions about Monkey’s Eyebrow, Ky. It is packed with content from the Monkey’s Eyebrow Homecoming held on May 21, 2010. Check it out: http://monkeyseyebrow.webs.com/
MENTIONED ON THE RADIO
Mark Usler, author of "Hometown Revelations: How America's Cities, Towns and States Acquired Their Names," was a guest on the Walt Bodine radio show on radio station KCUR in Kansas City, Mo., Monday morning, August 6, 2007. He talked about several interesting place names, including Monkey's Eyebrow. I recommend Mark's Book, which you can check out at his website (See link in the "Links" section of this site). Click on the link below to listen to the show, which is about an hour long. Mark's segment starts at about the six minute mark and goes through the 13 minute mark.