Unless you’re a fan, you’re probably sick of the University of Kentucky basketball talk. You know, the 40-0-best-team-ever-assembled-in-college-basketball-history kind of talk. I understand, although I am a huge UK fan. It can be a little much.
It’s indicative of a bigger thing, though. Bigger than what a lot of states in this nation of ours understand.
I grew up in northeastern Kentucky. As most teens do, I dreamed of “escaping” once I graduated college and going somewhere else. I did that by moving to the middle of five huge cities on the eastern seaboard, in Virginia. As a small-town kid from northeastern Kentucky, that was quite a culture shock for me. I loved that city and area (and still do), but I quickly learned that there’s no place like home.
More specifically, there’s no place like Kentucky.
Sure, I may sound crazy. But I’m in good company. The love for the Commonwealth of Kentucky runs deep in many people. I join the chorus of people like nationally-known writer (and Kentucky-born) Jesse Stuart who said, “If these United States can be called a body, then Kentucky can be called its heart.”
It’s true. I love Kentucky. The entire state, from Pikeville to Paducah and from Covington to Corbin, holds a special place in my heart. Not to sound too sappy here, but the natural beauty contained within these borders is difficult to find in other places. Whether you like mountains, plains, plateaus, hills, or anything in between, you can find large lands of it in the Bluegrass State.
More than that, the people of this Commonwealth are a unique group. I am one of them. We’re proud of our part of this nation. This is why the University of Kentucky is such a huge deal for us. When we have the best college basketball team in the nation, we’re not just screaming at the top of our lungs for a game. We’re going crazy because, once again, the spotlight of this land is upon our Commonwealth, and we get to showcase just who we really are. Proud, loyal, and sometimes stubborn.
This is also the reason we get so worked up when other states like to poke fun at us. Anytime I travel out of state and tell people I’m from Kentucky (and especially when I say eastern Kentucky), I get the same jokes:
“How did you read the road signs?”
“You’ve got shoes on!”
“How does opossum taste?”
And the ever famous, “Did you marry your cousin?”
Yeah, it gets old. Quickly. And, I must tell the truth: it angers me. Kentuckians are a proud people, and when we hear things like this, we get defensive. We get angry. And we know it simply isn’t true. Because of one article in a newspaper, or one misguided news report from a New York City, our entire state is shunned.
However, Kentuckians are resilient. That’s why some have lived in the same hollow, road, or around the same creek bed for generations. It’s also why some people would never dream of leaving this Commonwealth.
I think it’s very fitting that Kentucky was founded by guys like Thomas Walker and Daniel Boone. Their spirit lives on in our land. Kentucky is full of pioneers, dreamers, creators, and the like. There’s always something brewing in Kentucky.
If I never move out of Kentucky again, that’d be alright with me. What Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler said was true: “I never met a Kentuckian who wasn’t either thinking about going home or actually going home.”
Kentucky is important. The dreamers and builders in this land are invaluable to the nation, and the pride we have in our Commonwealth drives us to be better than yesterday, but not as good as tomorrow. This is probably why Abraham Lincoln said during the Civil War, “I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”
Yeah, I love Kentucky. I’m proud of my Commonwealth and I cheer the loudest when the Wildcats are on the national stage, just so the rest of the nation can catch a glimpse of what we experience every single day. I love to think that this Commonwealth is mixture of the minds, spirit, and bravery of its people like Jesse Stuart, Daniel Boone, Thomas Walker, and Abraham Lincoln.
And to answer any questions that come my way: Yes, I wear shoes, I’ve never eaten opossum, and my wife isn’t my cousin. Also, I sure am proud to be a Kentuckian.