Ye Olde Kentucky Home

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 was a turtle, meandering across the pavement.

Frank pulled over and stopped traffic. He approached the turtle and noticed the creature was missing one of its hindlegs.

He felt so moved, watching this wounded animal struggle to cross a highway, that he forgot all about work problems. Frank couldn’t leave the turtle there. It didn’t seem right. So he picked it up and took it home.

“He peed all over me,” Frank recounts.

Later that night, Frank made the turtle a pen in his backyard. He researched online what to feed turtles and how to care for them. Frank’s wife wasn’t exactly thrilled about having a new reptile in the family, but it turned out she got along better with the turtle than with her in-laws.

The next morning, Frank left for his long interstate commute to work. He got halfway to the jobsite when he received a call from his boss. His stomach went sour.

Because when he answered the phone, somehow he knew what his young boss phoned to say. The supervisor said there was no need for Frank to come to work today—or any other day for that matter. He had been let go.

Happy New Year, Frank.

Frank took an offramp and pulled over so he could cuss openly at his steering wheel.

As he states it in his letter, using the finely crafted prose often found within the Bluegrass State: “This pandemic has been a royal [bleeping] pain in my [bleep].”

That’s when Frank saw something in the distance, trotting along the interstate. There was no mistaking the shape. It was a dog. Scrawny. Black with brown markings. The thing was about to get killed.

Cars whistled past the animal, horns honking, tires screeching. Frank winced when the dog almost got hit several times.

And so it was that an older man jogged into traffic, for a second time, to save an animal.

Try to visualize this image: a white-haired guy is bolting across several lanes of interstate congestion, dodging speeding vehicles, flagging back transfer trucks, fending off SUVs, for a dog.

Frank lifted the dog in his arms. It was a young animal, female, maybe 2 years old. Once in his truck he gave her a Pop Tart and that was all it took. They became instant friends.

She had no collar and she was starving. Frank could count the dog’s ribs. When he got back home, he was too preoccupied with his new friend to tell his wife about his recent unemployment. Oddly, he admits, he wasn’t even thinking about his job.

Maybe this was because Frank’s big heart had other things to worry about. Or maybe it was because Frank was too busy outfitting a laundry room with bowls of food and a warm doggie bed. Who’s to say?

Either way, when the pup howled and whimpered into the wee hours, Frank climbed out of bed and spent the night beside her in the laundry room. He stroked her fur, talked softly, and held her trembling body until both fell asleep curled against the washing machine.

Frank’s letter ends right there. He never told me what he planned on doing with the turtle or the dog. I never learned whether he named the animals. And he never told me anything more about his job situation.

The way he ended his letter was with these words: “I feel like there was some kind of divine reason for all this, what do you think?”

Well, what do I think?

Frank, between the two of us, you know more about divine matters. You’re the one who lives in heaven.

27 comments

  1. Christina - December 31, 2020 7:25 am

    God bless Frank and his big heart

    Reply
  2. Robert - December 31, 2020 9:41 am

    Beautiful write up. My mom has been telling me about you for a while, maybe years. Glad I started reading your stories. I’m from Cantonment. Where life is simple but somehow still complex. Cheers☕

    Reply
  3. Marilyn Ward Vance - December 31, 2020 12:20 pm

    There needs to be more Franks in the world!

    Reply
  4. Dean - December 31, 2020 12:46 pm

    Thank goodness for Frank and all the other people like him who love animals.

    Reply
  5. Gay Talbott - December 31, 2020 12:53 pm

    The world is a better place because of all the Frank’s snd Seans out there. Thank you for your heartfelt writing. Happy New Year- from a Kentucky gal who happens to be a big fan of yours!

    Reply
  6. Debbie g - December 31, 2020 1:05 pm

    Thank you frank. And you already know who’s holding you. Thanks for sharing Sean and mr frank and as you have said Sean “everything is going to be ok. Love from Tennessee 🥰🥰🥰

    Reply
  7. Lynn Schroeder - December 31, 2020 1:10 pm

    Your writing has a way of making me smile every morning. Thank you. I hope you and your wife have a wonderful day!
    Lynn (Missouri gal…Auburn mom…War Eagle!)

    Reply
  8. Bob Brenner - December 31, 2020 1:19 pm

    Good luck Frank! You’re a good man and good person and good things happen to good people ❤️

    Reply
  9. Dianne - December 31, 2020 1:23 pm

    I lost my husband unexpectedly on December 18, and I, too, know he is in heaven where he was ready to go. Like the gentleman in your letter, my husband was a kind and very special man. He loved dogs, and was a dog sitter in our community. I miss him very much, but know God needed him more. Thank you for this wonderful story today.

    Reply
  10. Peggy Thompson - December 31, 2020 1:49 pm

    Great story about a good man…♥️

    Reply
  11. Jo Ann - December 31, 2020 1:55 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for another great story about the good people who live with us. What a lucky dog & turtle that he found them-they rescued him, I think. The story ends 2020 on a positive note, which most of us need.
    Have a safe New Year’s Eve, Sean & everyone, & please let 2021 be a Happy New Year!!!

    Reply
  12. Sue Rhodus - December 31, 2020 1:58 pm

    So here I am, in Kentucky watching a cold rain steadily falling, on this last day of whatever we want to call this year. As usual, I read your remarks first thing in the morning. I feel good to get to know Frank. I feel as though I already know you. I just love people with big ole hearts ! Thank you and Happy 2021 to you & Jamie !

    Reply
  13. Beryl - December 31, 2020 2:27 pm

    That fastest way out of our suffering, oftentimes produced by thought alone, is through service to others. Alcoholics Anonymous uses this skillfully to help people with addictions to think outside themselves. Naturally, (notice the word Nature), when we are concerned with another our previously insurmountable troubles are eclipsed by our immediate, CONSCIOUS awareness of another. Go figure! Frank, in Kentucky, you are a fortunate man. Happy New Year! I resolutely confirm that you are off to a wonderful start for 2021.

    Reply
  14. Jan - December 31, 2020 2:40 pm

    Beautiful! Look around, there is always someone or something around me who needs help worse than I do …

    Reply
  15. Sharon Brock - December 31, 2020 2:50 pm

    In June of 1965, my family moved to Kentucky from Colorado. My father had been transferred. We crossed into the state from the west, near the Ohio–Mississippi River confluence. I knew within minutes I had found home. I fell in love with the state and have remained so for 55 years. My hometown of Elizabethtown is set in the north central part of the state and although I temporarily reside in central Missouri, E’town is home. Kentuckians have a saying: Heaven is a Kentucky kind of place. Enjoy the Bluegrass state.

    Reply
  16. JACKIE DARNELL - December 31, 2020 3:00 pm

    OKI I thought the article would be about Bardstown. But it was not. However I ain’t gonna complain since you done good. YEP old Frank is right there are plenty OLD construction workers but once laid off, it is hard to find the next comfortable job, one that fits you. Hope my new carpenter friend finds work, if not hope the boss was reporting the work and he can draw some unemployment. Many of us worked for the boss and never had anything took out on us and had to come up with it all at the end of the year, and we were never eligible for unemployment. Anyway animals can do that for you. FILL in the gap with love.
    Thanks my friend good article. (As a singer you should go to Bardstown
    if you have not.)
    Sherry & jack in a warming Florida

    Reply
  17. Joy Dollar - December 31, 2020 3:10 pm

    Goodness! Now I’m crying! Now, too, I want to know how Frank and his strays, now family, are doing! So, Frank, please let us know how you all are?! We care!

    Reply
  18. Creg Smith - December 31, 2020 3:31 pm

    Sorry Sean, Kentucky is the home of and home to many things, but not Mother’s Day. Grafton, West Virginia, home of Anna Jarvis, lays claim to that. Ms. Jarvis worked to have Mother’s Day become a celebration.

    Reply
  19. Suzanne Moore - December 31, 2020 3:44 pm

    Wonderful post,Sean. I pray that the Lord will rescue the loving man who rescued the turtle and the dog.

    Reply
  20. Bkr - December 31, 2020 5:21 pm

    Didn’t see that coming -the that being my nose tingling and my eyes watering up because your words your story made me cry again. Great story. Seriously. Didn’t see it coming.

    Reply
  21. Heidi - December 31, 2020 5:27 pm

    Sorry to be kind of dense…but Frank didn’t DIE did he? The reference to Heaven was Heaven on earth, right? Many blessings to Frank wherever he is.

    Reply
  22. Linda Moon - December 31, 2020 5:52 pm

    It’s been a while since I went to Kentucky. It was for someone’s service when she found Heaven after spending most of her earthly life in Kentucky. You might say that she’s had the best of both worlds. And Frank will too, one divine day. What do you think, Sean?

    Reply
  23. MAM - December 31, 2020 7:25 pm

    This caused my eyes to leak, but I thank Frank for saving the turtle and the dog. I once stopped traffic for a rattlesnake that was crossing the road – a narrow two-lane. He made it after I took his picture.

    Reply
  24. thouse1001 - January 1, 2021 12:08 am

    Frank has a calling, and it’s rather clear. At least that’s how it seems to this 69 year old animal lover. <3

    Reply
  25. Linda Broyles - January 1, 2021 2:53 am

    Wonderful column, thanks so much.

    Reply
  26. elizabethroosje - January 1, 2021 3:37 am

    No accident there. beautifully written, thanks so much Sean. and God bless Frank! and his family! including the animals!

    Reply
  27. elliemac3 - January 1, 2021 4:31 am

    He does live in divine heaven! I wish we all had more of the mindset that death is not to be avoided and feared. It is to be welcomed as the next phase of life.

    Reply

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