Nature’s unmistakable sounds
May 13, 2015
Members of a covey of quail were bobwhiting at each other from several directions this morning while I was outside doing some yard training with my two Chesapeake Bay retrievers.
This afternoon when I came home after watching Bella in her gymnastics class, I heard one chirp the distinctive “Bob White.” Just one, just once.
For about three years I could count on hearing the quail every day in the spring, especially after the baby birds emerged from the nest. I don’t remember hearing any last year. I thought maybe the coyotes or other predators had wiped them out. I was so happy to hear them this morning.
“Bob White” is one of my favorite spring sounds here at Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky.
There’s an otherworldly sort of quality to the quail’s call. It’s more than just a bird call; it seems to affect me either physically or psychically at some level. I almost always will stop and listen.
When I was a kid, quail were plentiful in Ballard County, as were quail hunters. I remember George Williamson always kept one or more pointers at his home in Wickliffe and he hunted often with them.
Perhaps it was the migration of coyotes from the west that cut heavily into the population. Coyotes or some predator seem to treat bobwhites as hors d'oeuvres. We don’t hear or see them nearly as often now. I love hearing them and watching them run. They strike me as the clown runners of the birds. It’s hard to watch one run and not smile.
Two other fowl calls also affect me strongly.
One is the hrrrUNK of a Canada goose migrating over the house around dusk. The other is the tuka-tuka-tuka chatter of mallard ducks flying over. Those two are signals to get ready to light a fire or turn on the furnace because the weather will be changing in a colder direction soon. I can almost visualize pioneers stopping as they chopped wood for the winter to listen to geese flying past.
Not all the pleasures of life come with a price tag.
What’s your mama’s name child?
May 13, 2015
In an e-mail published on this site on May 4, 2015, George Shadoan mentioned Gladys Haynes and Billy Bob Crice among some other folks who were part of the town when he grew up in Wickliffe, Kentucky, through the 1940s and early 1950s.
Those names triggered the memory of a story my uncle Billy Bob told about his early days in Wickliffe. Billy Bob Crice’s actual name is Ernest Wells Crice. He was given that name on his birth certificate, but has always been called Billy Bob. I know, I know, that’s a little weird but it’s one of those things that sometimes happened in large families.
Gladys Haynes was a fixture as the first grade teacher at Wickliffe back in the days when each town had its own school system. I guess she must have taught for about a hundred years. She taught my father and mother, Billy Bob, me, my sister Jeanne, and maybe my brother Jerry. I don’t know if she taught any of my younger siblings. She was married to Marvin Haynes, but she was always called Miss Haynes, as far as I can remember. I think most of the female teachers were known as “Miss” no matter what their marital status happened to be. That’s just how it was. Or maybe we sometimes called them Miz. It’s hard to say for sure because we speak with a Ballard County accent.
Billy Bob moved to Wickliffe in 1933, just before Christmas. His father had been elected as Ballard County jailer and the family moved into the combination family residence/jail in December. That jail no longer stands.
When Billy Bob went to school, Miss Haynes was his teacher.
As he was new to town and her class, Miss/Mrs./Miz Haynes was trying to get some information.
She asked, “What’s your name?”
He told her his name was Billy Bob.
She checked the roll and didn’t find any Billy Bob listed, probably because he was registered by his actual name, Ernest Wells.
“I don’t see your name,” she said. “What’s your mother’s name?”
“Mammy,” Billy Bob answered.
“No, I mean what’s her real name?”
“Her name is Mammy!” an increasingly frustrated Billy Bob was the only name for her that he knew. His father’s name, of course, was Pappy.
Experienced teacher that she was, Miss Haynes decided to drop the inquisition. It’s not like there were so many children in Wickliffe that she would not be able to learn his name easily.
Besides, back at that time most boys were known by a nickname instead of an actual given name anyway. Those nicknames pretty much followed them all of their lives. And Ballard County has an exceedingly rich heritage of nicknames. (If you look in the “Around Ballard County” category on the left side of this page, you can scroll down and find a story about many of the nicknames.)
Observations while shopping
May 7, 2015
Maybe you can’t count or read, but you should know from experience that your heaped-up shopping cart doesn’t belong in the “Express Lane – 10 items or less.”
If that’s how you normally talk to and treat your children, you should not be a parent.
Shopping isn’t really all that bad an experience. Stay home until you’re in a better mood.
You knew when you came into the store that you would have to pay for your purchases. You don’t have to wait until all 215 items have been scanned before you start the five-minute search to locate your checkbook, cash or credit card hidden in your purse.
When you stand in front of the baked bean section and spend five minutes checking prices on the different brands to save 3 cents, you’ve wasted four minutes and 45 seconds of your life. At the end of your life, you would gladly pay those 3 cents to get the time back.
Make a list and check it. Don’t wait until most of your purchases have been scanned and suddenly remember that you forgot the roll of Scotch tape at the very back of the store. By the time you get back with it, the others in line will be among those unhappy shoppers in paragraph 3 above.
It’s a trivial amount, but when you sample grapes out of a pre-weighed and -priced cellophane bag, someone else will be charged for your grapes.
There’s no good reason for you to park your shopping cart diagonally across the aisle while you try to decide which peanut butter crackers you want. There are other shoppers in the world and in the store, and some of them would like to be able to get past you.
When you push your cart outside, please put it in one of the cart-return places instead of ditching it right in the middle of the space I wanted to park in.
There are many more but I need to do something else. You can add your own observations if you want.
NOTE: Here are some more sent by my longtime friend (not to mention duck hunting friend) Tom Ryan.
When you block the aisles, do it with a confused look on your face and I will have patience; when I say "Excuse me," don't just ignore me, or glare and block somebody else, get out of the way!
Don't drive fast in a grocery parking lot, save that for the interstate!
If you only bathe monthly, please do that before going grocery shopping.
When I let you cut line in front of me for having only a few items, don't explain to me and then again to the cashier how you've just bought enough groceries to get a 4 X discount on gas at the pump. My ice cream's melting!
Feel free to walk away with my grocery cart, I know you'll eventually notice and come find me. I think I've done that, too!
When I knock over a pile of onions or apples, have the courtesy not to laugh AND point at me.
(NOTE: My sister Jeanne contributed these.)
Very good article and so true.
There are some to share on the other end of that for the employees of some of the grocery stores.
Young checkers who roll their eyes at you because you want the Coke you bought scanned first so it doesn't get "all shook up" on the counter.
Baggers: When I ask you not to put heavy cans on top of my bread and eggs, I expect that you will listen – not ignore me in a huff. AND do not throw my bags in the cart. (I stopped one the other day and told him that I would prefer to bag them myself. I prefer the self check but it isn't always possible.)
I try to find an aisle where I know the checker and bagger – most of them want to bag mine because I tip and most of them know it.
Joe’s Place not just a website,
It’s a memory exchange
May 4, 2015
(Note: This was sent to me by e-mail from George Shadoan, former resident of Wickliffe, Kentucky, who lives in Sarasota, Florida.)
Let me start by asking you to pass along best wishes to old friend Shirley Williamson with whom I lost contact about half a century ago.
My discovery of your site yesterday was like finding a long lost diary full of forgotten names and memories.
My name is George Shadoan. I graduated from Wickliffe High School in 1951. But the names and events in your writings that are most exciting are those dating from my elementary school years.
God knows how many hours I idled away in Bill Ryan's service station with the characters you resuscitate so well. I congratulate your writing style and stand in awe of your incredible memory. Gladys Haynes indeed. I still remember my first day in her class and how much more some of my fellow students knew. Some of the girls could actually read.
My brother, Will Shadoan, was probably well known to you. My last trip to Wickliffe was in 2010 to deliver the eulogy at his funeral. What I would not give to have the opportunity to relive some of the memories excited by your writing. I would like to ask him if he remembers Billy Bob's heroic throw over the courthouse dome to Bill Weaver's waiting glove.
And to just take all those old half forgotten names and go through them one by one. I had not read or heard of Charlie Pott for over 60 years.
As Bob Hope sang, "Thanks for the memories!"
Not allowed to give a free plug
July 30, 2014
One of the things I like best about this time of year is that melons are ripe around this region.
The standard for a great watermelon is displayed on signs you’ll see propped against pickup trucks where the beds are full of watermelons. The signs read, “Missouri Melons.”
When I was much younger, you could drive across the Cairo Bridge, take a left over the bridge to Missouri and follow the road toward Charleston. There would be flatbed trucks parked along the way loaded with watermelons.
Sometimes people would be there to take your money – a quarter or 50 cents – but other trucks would have a box with a note to drop your money inside the box. It was an honor system. Might not work today.
How did you know if the watermelon was ripe? Well, if there was a person at the truck he would pull out a pocket knife, one of those three-bladed models, and use the thin blade to “plug” the melon. That involved making a triangular cut through the rind, sticking the sharp point of the blade into the rind and then removing the triangle, exposing some of the underlying red melon. It usually was very red, and confirmed that you had made a good choice.
Just as good as a Missouri melon back then were those from Sand Ridge, between Monkey’s Eyebrow and Oscar. It is as the name implies a ridge of sandy soil, the same kind of sandy soil you find in southeast Missouri, ideal for watermelons and cantaloupes.
I don’t think anyone grows melons there now. Robert Turner may have been the last of several who grew them. He gave up a couple of years ago when we had the high backwater that got into his house, and he moved to La Center. He told me that the most he had ever loaded onto a truck in one day was a thousand melons. Figure 15 or 20 pounds per melon and that’s a lot of lifting.
I buy melons these days mostly at the Farmers Market at La Center. I bought some cantaloupes this morning and while there I brought up the subject of plugging melons. They told me they’re not allowed to do that now, some sort of health regulation.
I wish they could. I know how to choose a good cantaloupe. Pick it up, sniff the end where the vine was attached, and if it smells like a cantaloupe it’s going to be a good one.
I don’t know how to pick out a watermelon. You can smell the end all day and still not learn anything about it. Some people thump the melon, but I don’t know what to listen for and, besides, they mostly sound alike to me.
I don’t think I’ve had a melon since I moved back here that tasted as good as the ones when I was a kid. They don’t seem to be as sweet now. Maybe my memories are bad. Maybe my taste buds have changed. Maybe cutting that triangular plug through the rind made them taste better.
Good flashback but the years are gone forever
June 9, 2014
For just a moment – no more than two seconds, maybe just one second – it was as if I passed through a time warp that opened about 45 years into the past. Then – Whoosh – it closed and it was today again.
Many times I’ve sat and deliberately wallowed in trips into nostalgia, but this was different. Those trips were conscious dredging up of memories. This was more like being back there in time, not just thinking about it.
I had driven through Cairo and then followed Route 3 to the four-way stop at the intersection with 127, where a right turn leads toward Mounds. Rodney Droge had agreed to tie some bucktail fishing lures. Bucktails used to be available in just about every fishing store in the area, but it’s very hard to find them nowadays. I guess stores would rather sell those rubber or plastic jigs that fall apart after two or three fish. A bucktail will last a long time unless you snag it on some solid object and snap your line. Stores would rather sell things you have to restock more often. They make more money that way.
I was running early so instead of turning right toward where Rodney lives, I continued on north toward Tamms. Back in the ’60s and ’70s when I was sports editor and managing editor, sometimes photographer, author of two columns, and news reporter for the Cairo Evening Citizen, I also drove a circulation run every afternoon, dropping papers at stores and at homes of carriers who delivered them to subscribers. My regular route went through Tamms, over to Olive Branch, and on up to Thebes, Gale and McClure.
I haven’t been on that stretch of road since 1974 when I left the paper and went into the Navy.
Then there was that flash, that moment of time travel, and I was a26 or 27-year-old newspaperman driving a circulation route.
A short moment, but intense.
My drive took me past places with familiar names such as Patierdale, Urbandale, Klondike, Unity, Sandusky, Tamms. Familiar names but they were not familiar to see. Too much has changed. Too much decay and places closed and in need of repair. Too many weeds.
I thought the community of Sandusky was about the neatest looking place along the drive. Yards generally were well maintained and it was an attractive part of the drive.
And it must have been inevitable as I looked at the places that had lost the vibrancy I remembered, I also had to look at myself. I, too, have aged and gone down a little the worse for wear, and even though I try to take as much care as I can, I’m probably too much like the places I drove past: Vibrant in memory, gray with pieces falling off in reality.
I wish the flashback had lasted a little longer.
A good lick with a strop
Dec. 3, 2013
I know most of the older readers will know what a razor strop is. How many younger readers know?
Back in the good ol’ days when a shave and a haircut were standard fare at barber shops, there was a strop hanging from every chair.
A razor strop is a flexible strip of leather or canvas maybe about three inches wide and 18 inches or a couple of feet long. Back in the day of straight razor shaves, barbers would strop the razor before each shave. That consisted of moving the razor in the direction of the spine back and forth along the strop, alternating the direction of the spine with each stroke. There was a rapid back-and-forth movement … whish whish whish, repeated several times.
All of which leads to this. Bill Ryan had the well-known-in-Wickliffe Chesapeake Bay retriever, Ike. Ike was a great duck dog, and he could do other things as well, such as walk to the post office to get the mail at the back door and then deliver the mail to Bill at the Standard Oil station.
When it wasn’t duck season and if there wasn’t anything to do, the laid-back Ike sometimes would lie on the station floor and lick himself, an activity Bill described as “stropping his dick.”
The Arivett Family of Monkey’s Eyebrow And Other Settlers of the Area
(Note: This is based on conversations with Evelyn Hook Arivett and Leroy Arivett on May 21, 2010, and on some e-mails from Evelyn and her daughter, Wilma Hook Romatz, who lives in Michigan.)
Ples and Irene Wildharber Arivett and Ples’ brother Brad weren’t the first people to own a business at Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky, but their businesses and their presence in the area are inextricably linked to the history of this small community that sports one of the most unusual names in the United States.
The name is frequently featured in atlas listings of unusual names; it has been the subject of at least two features on National Public Radio, and is featured in two books by author Mark Usler, who came to Monkey’s Eyebrow on May 21 to launch his new book, Hometown Celebrations.
The Arivett name itself is also a bit unusual in that it is consistently spelled Arivett, but is pronounced three different ways within the same family. Most of the members of the family and the people who live in the area pronounce the name as Everett, but Evelyn Arivett Hook, daughter of Ples and Irene, pronounces it as it’s spelled, Ar-i-vett. Evelyn’s younger brother, Leroy, who lives near Chicago, pronounces it Ar-vett, without the “i” sound.
Evelyn Arivett was born at Monkey’s Eyebrow in 1920, the first of four children born to Ples and Irene. Horace, who ran a store at Bandana and who died in Bandana a few years ago, was next. Then came Leroy, and finally Harold, who lives near Atlanta.
The family’s roots in Monkey’s Eyebrow stretch back into the 1800s.
The Wildharbers and Goodleys, Irene Arivett’s family, came to Ballard County in 1903 from Henderson, Kentucky. Ples Arivett’s sister, Maude, told Evelyn that when their great grandfather, Jesse Beeler, came to Ballard County from Tennessee in the early 1840s it was nothing but wilderness. For many years, he and his children all lived in houses along what is now called Monkey’s Eyebrow Road, or state route 473.
“Maudie was quite a colorful character too,” Wilma Hook Romatz, Evelyn’s daughter, remembers, “chewing snuff and spitting into a Calumet baking powder can. She had coal black dyed hair, and a huge diamond ring and red-painted nails. Her language was equally colorful.”
According to Evelyn, “Aunt Maudie said she heard that her grandpa had a whole trunk full of confederate money and her grandma kept trying to get him to change it. He refused, and lost everything after the Civil War was over.”
John William Arivett, Ples Arivett’s grandfather, was born in Virginia but moved to Ballard County in the 1860s. He lived to be 98 and was married three times. He lived in Wickliffe when he died in 1940.
The business history of Monkey’s Eyebrow goes back to before the Arivetts opened their first business, which was a gristmill. A man whose last name was Ray had Ray’s Store at the bottom of the hill, down in an area which some folks call Old Monkey. Later, Guy Borden ran the store. Ples and Irene Arivett lived in a house near that store, on the south side of the road. There are no buildings there today. The area is covered with trees.
Several families lived in the area. Before the road was paved, the old road made a 90-degree turn to the north, opposite what is now Palmore Road, then it curved back toward the west, behind where Jim and Jean Meadors live now. The Arivett Store and most of the residences were northwest of the Meadors’ house. The buildings are no longer there.
Charley Waldon lived across the field (no paved road then) south of the store in the white house where Imogene Alexander lives now.
A family of Beelers lived down the road. Evelyn’s grandfather, John Wildharber, at one time owned the farm due east of the old road, a farm later owned by a Graves family and then by Herman and Pod Tilley, a part of which is now owned by Joe Culver.
According to Evelyn Hook, Wildharber came here from California, lived here two or three years, and then went back. He played in a band, When he came here he built a box that his bass fiddle would fit into. He put the box on the back of the car and brought it here with him.
The house where Charley Waldon’s family lived – where twin brothers Dot and Tot were born – was previously occupied by a family named Moss. Evelyn remembers playing with their daughter, who was about her age.
Some other families who lived in the area were Redferns, Crabtrees and Yanceys. “And there were Turners who lived down there. They used to sell watermelons. Sand Ridge grew the best watermelons,” Evelyn Hook recalls.
“There used to be some Laniers who lived down there. Judy Magee was a Hayden, and when you go by the game reserve entry there and you go on down to that curve, the Haydens lived in the house just on that curve. That’s where Judy and her sister grew up,” Evelyn said.
There was a small school “right over there in front of where that antenna is,” Evelyn said, pointing to the WPSD TV tower. “There used to be a building that was still there. I don’t know if it still is, I haven’t been down that road for a while. The building was still there even after they built that antenna out there.
“It was called Graves School. I would say 25 or 30 children went there. It had been built for a two-room school but we used only one of the rooms. If it was good weather we’d play outside, but if it was bad we could go in there, in the other room, and play games or whatever.
“The teacher that we had was real good to read to us. We used to have box suppers and she would use the money that we made from the suppers and other activities to buy books and things to entertain the kids. I love books still, and I’m sure I got it from her. Her name was Laura Lee Holt.”
The Monkey’s Eyebrow children went to high school at Bandana. There were no school buses then, but Howard Owsley, Joe Owsley’s dad, took a two-ton flatbed truck and converted it into a bus. It was closed in, with benches around the walls and a bench down the middle. It also had windows.
“He charged us 10 cents a day,” Evelyn recalls. “He would take us to Bandana and then pick us up at the end of the day. There were 15 or 20 people who rode it. He started at Needmore and drove all around the area picking up children.”
Before he built the gristmill which he and his brother Brad ran, Ples Arivett worked in California twice. He also worked on Dam 53 when it was being built, when Evelyn was about four or five years old. The Arivett family lived at the bottom of the hill then, in a house just past Ray’s Store.
Leroy Arivett recalls that his father would get up very early in the morning and walk the five miles to where they were building the dam. Because he left before daylight, Ples would carry a lantern. Evelyn said he would walk down to where the wildlife refuge is now, cross a lake and go over to where the dam was. Evelyn says she was born in 1920 and that would have been around 1925.
“And then we went to California in 1926,” Evelyn remembers. “My dad and my uncle were working out in the oilfields. I guess the oil company owned houses and rented them to the people who worked for them. We lived out there in a mountainous area and my dad wouldn’t let me go to school because he said you’ll have to ride the bus and there’s all those winding roads. He was afraid for me to ride the bus. So I didn’t go to school until I was seven years old after we moved back.”
They lived in Paducah for about a year or so and Evelyn’s first year of school was in Paducah. After that, she finished grade school at the Graves School at Monkey’s Eyebrow. That school remained active until it was consolidated with Bandana.
She went away to college at Murray State in the fall of 1938 and I didn’t move back.
The Arivetts did some farming in addition to running their businesses. Wilma taped a conversation with her uncle Horace a few years ago when he talked about the time they raised acres of sweet potatoes during the depression, thinking that they could sell them and make a little bit of money. They found it was going to cost more to ship them than they would get, so they brought them back home and ate them all winter. Horace said he still couldn't look at a sweet potato years later.
The Arivetts’ first business enterprise at Monkey’s Eyebrow was a gristmill operated by brothers Ples and Brad. Evelyn says she was always fascinated with the machinery at the mill. They had a tractor chassis in the back part of the mill. It had a big drive shaft that went all the way across and the motor would run an assortment of pulleys and belts. It had a crusher that crushed the corn and there was another grinder that made meal.
“The mill made a lot of meal,” Evelyn says. “My dad usually did that. The Yopp Seed Company in Paducah would buy bags and let my dad fill them up with meal and they would take them back and sell them with Yopp’s name on the bags.”
About a year after they built the grist mill they started putting groceries in the front part. When Evelyn was about 12, in the early 1930s, the Arivetts built a frame building to house the store, separate from the mill.
There was a set of scales between the store and the mill. Farmers would weigh their loaded trucks before the corn was ground. They would weigh them again when the trucks were empty. The difference was the weight of the corn.
Evelyn remembers that the store had about anything that you would want to buy, except meat because there was no electricity to run a cooler to keep meat.
Later, after the Arivett brothers dissolved their partnership, Ples tore down the frame building and built a new store of blocks in the same location as the first store. Those stores were on top of the hill, a location some people call “New Monkey” to distinguish it from the Ray’s Store that stood at the bottom of the hill. With the advent of electricity, that store was able to sell meat.
The Arivetts ran that store until around 1955 when they retired and moved to Bandana, where Horace already had a store.
By the time the uranium enrichment plant was being built near Kevil in the 1950s, there were 14 people living beside or around the Arivetts’ house and store in Monkey’s Eyebrow.
When the state of Kentucky acquired several of the lakes in the area, Ples fixed up rooms to rent to hunters. “He was always looking for ways to make more business,” Evelyn says.
Evelyn moved away in 1938 to go to college at Murray State. She married Harold Hook in 1942, and they lived in McCracken County, but came back to Monkey’s Eyebrow often to visit her family.
She and Harold had a store for about three years in Camelia, where the road from the Paducah Airport intersections with Highway 62.
Ples Arivett died in 1975, and Irene lived until 1999. She was 96 years old.
Comments from readers
Here are some comments from people who have read this article:
Billy Lanier: “The Laniers mentioned in your article were my grandparents, Wallace and Alice Lanier. New Hope Baptist Church sits on land given by my granddaddy.”
Mary Helen Hicks: “The Barnhill family are the ones who lived closer to Monkey’s Eyebrow and raised watermelon, right in front of Mrs. Redfern. Their son is my brother-in-law, married to my youngest sister.”
Ava Magee Siener: “How nice. I go to read about the Arivett family and come across a mention of my mother, Judy Magee.”
Jeanne Culver Thorpe: “This is a great article. I love the genealogy.”