The last time I went to Kentucky, I got lost. Ten minutes after I crossed the state line my GPS quit working and I found myself on a two-lane highway, adrift within an ocean of wild green hills that never ended.

The first thought I had was: “I think I’ve found heaven.”

I’ve read claims about certain U.S. states that boast the most greenery. Well, I think Kentucky is up there with the champs. We’re talking about a place that’s roughly 12 million acres of woodlands, which comes out to nearly 49 percent of the state.

Kentucky is also home to one of the biggest elk herds east of the Rockies; cradle to the Boy Scouts of America; the birthplace of Mother’s Day; also Abraham Lincoln; and the home of perhaps the greatest philosopher, thinker, and role model of our time, Jim Varney.

Which is why I was pleased to get a letter recently from Eastern Kentucky, sent to me from a man we’ll call Frank.

Frank has been working construction for

43 years. And last week, after a long day at work, he was riding home, feeling depressed because he had this nagging feeling he was about to be laid off before the New Year.

The company Frank works for has fallen on hard times since the pandemic hit; there have been lots of layoffs. Frank believed he was next to go because, in his own words, “I’m too old.”

Frank is in his 60s. His younger coworkers work for cheap, and are considerably more spry. You fall off a ladder at 23, you get up and keep working. You fall off a ladder at 60-something, your boss calls the local funeral home.

So Frank’s truck was rolling through a heavenly rural highway. It was already dark outside, the moon was out, and he saw something in the road.

The small object looked like an upside-down bowl, inching forward.…

It’s my birthday and I’m writing this before sunrise. I don’t know why. I guess, like all aging people, I have changed over the years. I don’t sleep like I used to. Once upon a time I could fall asleep during a pep rally, but now I wake up hours before my neighbor’s deranged rooster, Virgil.

Virgil is a piece of work. He crows at odd hours. And once he starts crowing, he goes all day, no matter how many blunt objects are hurled at him. Virgil is one of those chickens who, when he looks at you with his two crazy eyes, you know he’s only got one oar in the water.

The first thing I do this morning is start the coffee on the stove. Then I listen for Virgil at the back door, but he isn’t up yet.

Thank God for birthday blessings.

To kick off my big day, I play my guitar, quietly, so I won’t wake my wife. The Folgers perks on the stove while I play “After You’ve Gone.” I’ve

been picking a guitar since I was 9 years old, and in all that time I think I’ve actually managed to get worse.

The percolator starts bubbling. I put the guitar down and turn the coffee off.

This porcelain Corningware percolator was a wedding gift from my mother. I remember the day I got it. No sooner had I announced to Mama that I was getting married than she wrapped up her 1950s coffeepot in paper grocery bags and gifted it to me.

“You’ll need coffee if you’re gonna be married,” she said. And I nearly started crying because in that brief moment, before I left her home forever, life seemed so existentially real to me. I can’t explain it.

I pour a steaming cup then walk outside before sunrise.

On my porch I discover that it is colder than brass undergarments out here.…


I don’t think my school is going to have prom for 2021, everyone is guessing this is the case. We don’t know yet, but it’s probably not happening. It just sucks that we might not get to do this because we have nothing to look forward to.



First of all, I am sorry. I know this year has been a major let down. So I am not going to offer you some overused parental slogan like: “You oughta count your blessings, young lady.”

When I was a kid I heard versions of this phrase all the time from my mama. And I swore these words would never, EVER exit my lips. Because this is old-person talk, and I’m no fuddy-duddy.

Although, before I write another word, you should know something. Life is unfair and nothing you can do will change this. Not just a little unfair, either. A lot unfair.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in karaoke clubs. Have you ever been to one?

They are totally criminal. Singers with the pitch sensitivity of tugboat airhorns try to sing “I Will Always Love You” while spilling their Harvey Wallbangers all over the audience. And these people get standing ovations.

Meanwhile, the guy who sings from memory all eight verses of Allan Sherman’s masterpiece, “Hello Mudda, Hello Fadduh,” gets booed off the stage. I ask you, is this fair?

Something else unfair? The price of automotive tires. I bought new truck tires a few days ago and they cost as much as a three-bedroom rambler. I remember buying secondhand tires when I was a younger man for $19 apiece from “Al’s Used Tire Barn.” Al even threw in a complimentary emergency flare gun.

You know what else really sucks? Body pain. I had spinal surgery when I was in my mid-20s; nobody ever tells you how quickly chronic pain can ruin your…

A nameless town. A tiny place you’ve never heard of. One without a stoplight. It’s a place so small that when you dial a wrong number they supply you with the correct one. The 2020 Christmas decorations on mainstreet have started to come down today.

Once upon a time, the beautification committee would have kept decorations up until New Year’s, but it’s been a weird year. The chairwoman decided it was time to take decorations down. The New Year needs a fresh start, she said. People are ready to forget the trappings of 2020 and remember that life goes on.

So the garland on local businesses was first to go. Then the pinery on lampposts. The snowflake decals in shop windows came down too.

Meanwhile, across town, there is an old man sitting in his yard in a wheelchair. He wears a surgical mask and watches grandkids play with a Nerf football. He’s hardly moving after his recent stroke, which nearly killed him weeks before Christmas. But they tell me this man

is immeasurably determined, and even cheerful.

His granddaughter sits beside him, holding his limp hand. He has been through a lot, but there is no sadness in his mumbled responses, only reassurance to those he loves. His quivering lips seem to say, “Please don’t cry for me, life goes on, and so will I.”

Life does indeed go on. Just like it’s doing a few houses over, where a young man who we’ll call Billy is back home. Billy is visiting his mom for the holidays.

Billy has been sober for two years now. Although most remember him from his former days spent on a local barstool, playing the fool. But that’s in the past now. He’s dry, and constantly recovering. This makes his mama proud.

His mother, the former Sunday school teacher. The woman who taught the town’s children to memorize the Ten Commandments and recite the…