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