Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tolu at center of Arab-Isaeli conflict ... sort of

By Chris Evans

This week leaders from the Middle East are meeting in Annapolis, Md., near Washington to discuss further a road map for peace among Arabs and Israelis. Namely, the dispute is over some territories in and around presentday Israel which the Arabs believe they own and want to establish a Palestinian state on. While most of us have heard the terms Gaza Strip, West Bank, PLO and Arab-Israeli Peace Process, the vast majority of Americans have only narrow understanding of the whole situation despite it being a major story almost nightly on the television news. An expert on Middle Eastern affairs, I am not.

However, with this week's peace talks going on in America, I figured it would be timely to discuss – in simple terms – what all of this fuss is about. In doing so, I will use some familiar terms and landmarks to draw a figurative comparison to the Arab-Israeli situation. Let's say for instance that Jerusalem is Tolu, the West Bank is Hurricane Island, the Gaza Strip is Sawmill Hollow and Golon Heights is Carrsville and its tall hillside overlooking the Ohio River. OK, snicker if you will, but using this imagery might make the whole thing easier to comprehend.

Tolu and the surrounding area from Carrsville to Hurricane Church, if you will, were once ruled by the British. When the British Empire pulled out, some of the ancient tribes of the area decided they would retake Tolu for their own. Those were the Israelis who during a war in the late 1940s won back the land that their religion claims to be an inalienable right from God (see Abraham, Genesis and the Old Testament). Now, when the Israelis repatriated their ancient lands they ticked off their age-old rivals the Palestinians (see Philistines, Goliath and the Old Testament). Instead of wiping out the residents of the whole area as the Old Testament says God demanded in Biblical times, the modern Tribes of Israel decided to try to live side by side among their enemies – granted their enemies were subservient to the leaders of new Israel, I mean Tolu.

After it was apparent that the outlying areas were becoming staging grounds for their enemies, the Israelis took by force in the late 1960s all of the area surrounding Tolu, including Hurricane Island and Sawmill Hollow. Slowly since then they've started moving outward, establishing Israeli communities at E-town Landing, Sheridan and even Carrsville where a strategic hillside overlooks the valley where the capital city Tolu is located. The new Tolu leaders couldn't have the upset native river people dropping bombs down from Carrsville Heights, now could they?

Understand, too, that the old Tolu School, the Tolu Post Office and former Tolu Grocery Store buildings are sacred locations among ancestral tribes, including the Israelis, the Palestinians and other Arabs living in the region (see Wailing Wall, Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock). In fact, those sacred sites are among the most beloved by all of the ethnic groups living in and around Tolu. Each group wants to own, occupy and control its ancestral sites.

However, the new rulers of Tolu say the Arabs are too dangerous to let roam the streets. They are considered low-life terrorists and an almost sub-human class of people. Because of that, the Israelis are building walls like in China around their cities and communities out in Sawmill Hollow and on Hurricane Island. If any of the non-Israeli people want fruit, meat or vegetables grown in the fertile Sawmill Hollow lands, they have to buy it from the Israelis who only allow a certain amount to be sold to the Palestinians. Likewise, if the Arabs living around Hurricane Island want gasoline from the island refineries, they have to stand in line and can only have a small amount to put in their cars.

The Palestinians are ticked off about their treatment. Some want to kill or eliminate all of the Israelis from Tolu and surrounding areas. Other Palestinians, or Arabs, say they can tolerate the Israelis, but want Sawmill Hollow, Hurricane Island and part of Tolu proper for their own state. Some are willing to concede a great deal of land to Israel, including part of the town of Tolu and most of the area from Hurricane Creek to McKinley Island and from Buck Creek below Carrsville all the way out to Sheridan.

If the Palestinians would quit throwing rocks at Israelis in Tolu and bombing buses near Sawmill Hollow, the Israelis, also known as Jews, say they are willing to talk about giving up some of the lands that the Arabs want. The biggest problem is that there is no one in Tolu who can speak totally on behalf of all of the people. Both sides of the conflict have weak leaders who are feeble in the eyes of a number of their more radical followers. Israel really wants to keep all of Tolu and is reluctant to consider giving up a single acre of it. Israel also wants to keep some of its settlements near Sawmill Hallow and a fraction of Hurricane Island.

Folks in southern Illinois, across the Jordan, I mean the Ohio, would like for the two sides to find an equitable solution to the strife and to quit fighting all of the time. Folks as far away as Smithland, Marion, Paducah and even Frankfort are urging the two factions to find a peaceful solution to their quarreling over land. For me, the only solution I can see is greater international influence on the process.

Tolu should be made an independent city-state such as the Vatican. It could be ruled by an international board so that everyone with a stake in the ancestral city could enjoy its historic and religious values. As for Sawmill Hollow, Carrsville and Hurricane Island, give up totally. Go back to the 1960 border that was established by the Israelis. Then, if the Palestinians can't get along with the Israelis, let the rules of engagement from the Old Testament be the guide.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Brushes with fame, part two

By Chris Evans

Brushes with Fame may turn out to be a regular feature in The Press. It’s been lots of fun finding out about friends and neighbors who have had a brush or two with famous people or famous events.

Since the last column regarding such brushes, I’ve received a few new stories. Here are a few:

Being on the East Coast, brushes with fame are sometimes easy to come by for former Dycusburg resident Matthew Patton. He’s a fairly regular contributor to The Press, has authored a few books about local history and maintains a Web site Patton sent me an e-mail right after the last Brushes with Fame column. Here’s what he had to say:

At the University of Kentucky, he met Angela Y. Davis, who spoke to his class on prison reform. On Aug. 18, 1970, Davis was the third woman and the 309th individual to appear on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List because she was implicated in a prison escape. She was later exonerated of the charges. She is now a professor at UCLA. Patton spent several hours that weekend showing her around Lexington.

He met Diane Sawyer at a journalism conference in New York City and chatted for several minutes about, of all things, how difficult it is to get nonstop flights from the East Coast into Kentucky (Sawyer is a Louisville native).

He met former President Bill Clinton in Philadelphia on July 4, 2004, at the National Constitution Center and he has an autographed copy of his book, “My Life.”

Currently, Patton is working now on setting up a telephone interview with Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards. Patton works for a publishing company in Philadelphia. He shared several other brushes with fame, but we’ll move on to some others.

Sister-in-law Andrea Mick sent in an e-mail and photo of her brush with the WWE. She’s flying in for a Labor Day visit and figured the timing was right to get her mug in The Press next to Hulk Hogan. Like Patton, she’s something of a jet-setter, touring around the country and working in one big city after another.

Your chance of running into a famous person is much better in Denver or New York than it is in Mattoon or Sheridan. Andrea says she visited with the Hulk in a Denver nightspot. She’s also had some brushes with pro football and baseball players. Denver Bronco quarterback Jay Cutler lives in her apartment complex, which overlooks Coors Field.

Getting back closer to home, Wayne Keeling sent me a letter regarding a legendary visit by President William McKinley (pictured) to Nunn Switch back in the early 1900s.

He wrote: “The McKinleys that lived near Nunn Switch were relatives of President McKinley. One day when the president was traveling through this area on the presidential train, it stopped at Nunn Switch and parked on a side track.”

Keeling went on to tell that the president was met at the railroad line by some of his kinfolk, who took him off in a horse-drawn buggy to their home nearby.

Faye Conger verified the story as a long-told family tale. Her father, Riley Emerson “Emmie” McKinley, often told the same thing, Conger said.

A Cleveland, Ohio native, McKinley was president from 1897 to 1901 when he was assassinated by a lone gunman, Leon Frank Czolgosz, at Buffalo, N.Y., during the Pan-American Exposition.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A redneck dinner outing in Tennessee

By Chris Evans

I covet nothing other than the ability to sing.

The talent to croon like Johnny Cash or Willie is attractive to countless thousands. Some of us would simply like to pick and play like artist impersonators. As you know, lots of them sound just like the original.

Went on a short family outing recently down in the home country of western Tennessee. While searching for a place to dine one evening, brother suggested we try a little dive on the side of the road near the state line that looks more like a bar than a restaurant. Most of the time when I pass by it, there are Harleys and big Chevys lined up in front. Looks exactly like a place I’d have frequented 20 years ago. Now, though, with younguns in tow, there’s less desire to see what’s on tap inside.

With the reassurance from my younger sibling that this little country shack provides a family atmosphere – at least prior to 7 p.m. – we loaded the children and traveled up Tennessee highway 119 toward Ky. 121 to Largo’s. Come to find out, one of my old college fraternity brothers owns the place.

Endorsements for food are not my forte. A connoisseur of fine cuisine, I am not. But slap a big chunk of ribeye on a plate and my inner coyote takes over.

A little red oozing from the center of a well spiced steak is like honey for a sweet tooth. Have tried ribeyes and prime ribs from New Orleans to Chicago and never – I say never – have I dined upon a finer piece of meat than the one at Largo’s.

Surely, it’s the best ribeye in the Jackson Purchase. Let me take this opportunity to provide a little geography lesson to press home the point. Most of us know that the Jackson Purchase includes the eight Kentucky counties west of the Tennessee River, but few realize that the Purchase area originally included some 8,500 square miles and 20 counties in Tennessee.

That land deal – lesser known than the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 – was completed 15 years after President Thomas Jefferson snagged the entire Northwest from French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte for a mere $15 million in the Louisiana deal.

In 1818, Andrew Jackson (later to become president) and Isaac Shelby (the first governor of Kentucky) orchestrated the Jackson Purchase, which was thousands of acres known to the Chickasaw Indians only as their Happy Hunting Ground.

The Jackson Purchase completed a missing physical link right in the heart of America, taking colonial land claims directly to the Mississippi River and beyond. It opened massive areas along numerous navigable rivers, allowing pioneers an uncontested water route from the East Coast to the soon-to-be American heartland. A labyrinth of rivers and streams made property in western Tennessee and western Kentucky accessible by boat, aided rapid settlement and kept trading routes open and busy.

Strangely enough, all of these historic facts were running through my mind as a fellow stepped up to the microphone, went through a series of sound checks, then started wailing like the Man in Black. He took a long draw off a cigarette, blew the smoke toward a ceiling fan, then fastened the lit butt between the tuning pegs of his guitar before transitioning into a Waylon Jennings hit.

There were a few families still in the place by that hour, and the rednecks had started filing in by the droves. Oh, how I wanted to stay and relive my youth. Understand that in western Tennessee the term redneck is not offensive. In fact, it’s something of a badge. Its stripes are to be worn conspicuously on body or pickup truck.

A few weeks ago, Brian Murphy, the director of Quality Deer Management Association, was in Marion for a speaking engagement. He told me that he spent his younger days as chief of the wildlife restoration project in Australia.

Rednecks in America, he said, have nothing on the provincial outback yokels in the Land Down Under. That’s just a tidbit of information that some might find meaningful.

As the clock struck 7, it was time to grab the kids, pay and tip the waitress and say goodbye to one of the best meals west of the Tennessee River. It was time for the pool players and beer drinkers to take over this roadhouse that prompted an otherwise raveless writer to wax on about a cow part.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Brushes with fame

By Chris Evans

Ever had a brush with fame? Got to asking around town recently about folks who’ve been near famous people or famous events. The following is what I came up with. If you’ve had a brush with fame, let me know as I may pile up another set of these interesting tidbits for a later column.

Stan Hoover is now the director of the Crittenden County Economic Development Corporation. In years past he was an auditor and investigator for the Ineternal Revenue Service. Hoover was part of the IRS team that investigated the federal tax evasion case against Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in South Carolina.

From a visit this week to the dentist office, I got this tidbit of info. Dr. Crider’s son, Marion native Corey Crider, recently had a brush with a big time performer that didn’t go too well. Crider, a very successful opera singer, runs with famous musicians in Nashville quite often. Recently, he and former college buddy Chris Thile of the band Nickel Creek were at award-winning artist Alison Krauss’s home. Thile was practicing with her as a backup performer. Crider and Krauss’s boyfriend were cutting up and apparently disturbing the practice session so Alison asked both to leave.

Chantel Benton Millikan and Hutch Goad had parts in Madonna’s big movie, a League of Their Own, about a woman’s baseball team in the early 1900s.

The late Forrest Pogue wrote the only authorized biography of Gen. George Marshall (pictured), who Winston Churchill called the organizer of victory in World War II.

One of our newest residents, author and marathoner Bob Yehling has written articles on Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, Jefferson Starship musician Marty Balin and singer Carrie Underwood.

Rip Wheeler and Roy Little of Marion were actually at the Battle of the Bulge, which basically broke the Germans’ final offensive and their will in World War II.

Gordon Guess, retired president of Peoples Bank, was treasurer for the Kentucky Republican Party during the Watergate Scandal in the early 1970s. His records were subpeonaed as part of a federal investigation of CREEP (the Committee to Re-Elect the President). All of Guess’s records were clean, but CREEP’s tactics eventually led in-part to Nixon’s resignation.

Jeremy Wheeler, a former Marine from Marion, was part of the team that protected the president at Camp David.

Down around Sheridan is a farmer named Alben Barkley III, the grandson of former United States vice president Alben Barkley.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Views from the editor's desk

By Chris Evans

It looks like Graves County is emulating our school system. Crittenden County Schools implemented a drug testing policy last year that requires periodic checks on students who want to drive to school, play sports or participate in extracurricular activities.

Now, Graves is doing much the same thing and you can expect others to follow suit. Crittenden wasn’t the first to react to a drug problem among teens, but we were certainly ahead of most.

Now, it’s time to go a step further and find a way to test 100 percent. From my understanding, there are legal questions regarding testing everyone, but to me it sounds more like discrimination when you single out a certain group and test only it.

Not arguing the law, just can’t imagine that there isn’t some creative way around it. Students who are not involved in school-based activities are probably those at greatest risk for drug abuse.

We also need mandatory testing for all teachers, staff and bus drivers. It just makes sense.


The Crittenden County documentary that is being promoted by Fohs Hall and a group of area historians is gaining some momentum. Filming has been underway for various segments and other interviews are being planned for the coming weeks. Producer Sam Koltinsky of Princeton was at Hurricane Camp Meeting and the recent Marion High Reunion gathering footage.

Judy Winn, one of the coordinators for the project, says Crittenden County is losing its history every time someone passes away. She stresses that it is important to capture the knowledge of our elderly population while there is an opportunity.

Filming the documentary is expected to cost about $50,000. Winn said fundraising has been going well, but the group is still about halfway toward its goal. To make a donation, contact Winn or mail it to Fohs Hall, PO Box 1, Marion, KY 42064. Please denote in the check memo that the donation is for the documentary.


What you will hear on television:
Football star Michael Vick has been indicted for putting two dogs into a ring and betting on which one would win the fight.

What you won’t hear on television:
Don King and other fight promoters have been making millions for years by putting two humans into a ring and betting on which one would win the fight.

What you will hear on television:
President Bush’s approval rating is currently at 31 percent.

What you won’t hear on television:
The approval rating for Congress is about 15 percent.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You are what you eat

By Chris Evans

“You are what you eat,” as purported by an age-old saying.

Does that mean I’m a shrimp or a blackberry?

I like to think of myself as a bowl of sherbet – maybe a little oozy on the edges, but firm and cool in the center.

While the literal interpretation of that adage is quite difficult to show, it’s easier to swallow once we understand the metaphoric thesis of the phrase.

In other words, what it really means is that we are perceived by how we conduct our lives, because how we conduct our lives shapes who we are.

We are what we do. We are where we work. We are how we talk. We are how we vote. We are where we go at night. We are where we go to church, if we do. We are how much we drink or how much we swear. We are whatever we do.

Because we live in a society that considers certain people – because of what they do, who they are or where they work – public individuals with fewer rights to privacy than the average mill worker, then we must conduct ourselves more deliberately in order to avoid embarrassment. In assuming certain roles, we must accept transparencies uncommon for the common man.

In actuality, what we do in our private lives is no longer our business.

What we find is that our bedrooms are not a refuge from public scrutiny, our habits are held in public display, old scars are never allowed to heal and politics and money drive everything including Aunt Daisy.

Public people can’t afford to make mistakes as can the average Joe. Good, bad or ugly, that’s the cold stark reality of a free society that’s evolved through the Information Age. There’s no room for a stubbed toe in a world of kick-ball mentality where the game is viewed on slow-motion replay at 6 and 10.

Last week, the woman selected to be Kentucky’s next education commissioner declined to take the position after increasing scrutiny from the media. She blamed news reporters for the so-called “noise” that affected her decision to not accept the job. Barbara Erwin, whom the state Board of Education selected in May, said she would retire rather than start her new post in Kentucky amid such a circus. Questions about a missing personnel file and a police investigation at her old job near Chicago had been raised by reporters over the past few weeks.

Despite the investigative reporting and her subsequent resignation, state education officials said they still believed she was the best person for the job.

For Erwin the stakes had become too high. She recognized the treacherous road ahead and took a different path.

For all of us, there are roads to success and roads to disaster. They are not clearly marked. Safe travel along the public roadways requires near-divine self control – retroactive to pre-adolescence – cautious steering in heavy traffic whether you commute through a big city or along rural highways, and it takes a whole lot of luck to get home unscathed.

As the parable of Job tells us, there are pitfalls and rocky roads even for the righteous. The ultimate judgment is not granted by friends, neighbors, kinfolk nor news anchors.

No, mere mortals cannot rule on the big question, but they can darn sure publish a stinging appraisal that lasts a lifetime. The piling on mob-mentality sometimes seizes public control of public – and private – scrutiny and compels some to act as though they might not normally.

What we, as civilized individuals should do, is answer the question of whether we have compassion for the sinner along with that natural contempt for the sin. For without empathy, we are guilty of casting an unfavorable first stone. And sometimes, they bounce back.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Islam outpacing Christianity

By Chris Evans

From a colonial superpower to communism and then today’s religious extremists, the United States has been at odds with some part of the globe since its very existence.

Understanding the world and how it reacts to U.S. political policy and culture is very important in an every shrinking global society.

For those interested in learning more about Islam – the fastest growing religion on earth – there are countless resources from the Holy Koran to the Internet. Recently, I attended a program on the Islamic culture. It was very enlightening. Although I had studied the religion a good bit over the past six years, I found many new aspects.

Islam is a rapidly growing faith based on the teachings of the prophet Mohammed. It was founded in the early seventh century generally as a peaceful, loving doctrine that parallels early Judaism in some respects. The more radical sects of Islam, however, have given rise to worldwide caution regarding Muslim extremists. Last weekend’s bomb scares in England are among the latest episodes.

The current strife between Muslims and Jews and Christians started well before the terrorist attacks of 9-11 or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It really started about 1,000 years ago with the Medieval Crusades in Europe and the Middle East. In fact, one could argue that it goes even farther into history, back to the prophet Abraham and his sons Ishmael and Isaac.

We can’t blame a single president or one political party for what’s going on right now. Extremists don’t care if the “infidels” are burrows or elephants, Aussies or Anglo.

What we must do, as Americans, is to educate ourselves regarding the beliefs and spread of Islam worldwide. Currently, there are about 2.1 billion Christians on earth. There are about 1.3 billion Muslims. However, the Islamic faith has increased over the past decade through births and conversions at the rate of 245 percent. Meanwhile, Christian numbers have gone up just 47 percent. Those are the two largest religious groups on the globe, well ahead of Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism.

In fact, the third largest group of people is those who are secular, nonreligous, agnostic or atheist. They number just over 1 billion. Imagine that host of people as Independents in, let’s say, a political season. The major parties are each fighting to lure them in, attract them into their own fold. Welcome to Earth 2007.

If a religious group is fishing for men, you can bet they’re casting into that sea of current non-believers.

In Europe, Islam is spreading through France and Britain and soon could declare a political and social majority in most European countries. The same could happen in the United States over the next 20-30 years.

In America, private Islamic schools are common in some states like Minnesota, California, New Jersey and Florida. Minnesota, which has the highest density of Muslims in America, last November elected Keith Ellison of Minneapolis to Congress, the first Muslim in the nation to go to the U.S. House. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who is one of the Democratic favorites to become the next President of the United States, lived in Indonesia as a child and has acknowledged attending a Muslim school.

There are certainly moderate Muslims worldwide who are fighting to prevent a backlash against their religion because of recent links to terrorist activity. Radical fundamentalists, however, believe they are in a global Jihad, or holy war, against the infidels and America is squarely in the center of their crosshairs.

To a large degree, most of us in Crittenden County do not understand the influence of Islam on the United States. It will impact us more and more in time.

In 1970, there were about 100,000 Muslims in the U.S. Today, there are about 10 million.

Understanding the Islamic religion and its culture is terribly important. This is not the first time I have written on the subject, and it will not be the last. I urge you to do your own research and make up your own minds. The better your understand what others are planning and doing, the more apt you will be to deal with the matter once it crosses the county line.

Chris Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press. You can reach him at