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Owen County Historical Society News: Society members share some of their personal history

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By Bonnie Strassell

The cool, misty rain enveloped the picnic pavilion at the Owen County Historical Society Museum, and the scheduled September picnic was moved indoors at the I.O.O.F. Hall. However, even the effects of a hurricane could not dampen the festive mood as over 30 people gathered to share a chicken dinner — what’s a picnic without chicken — and trade stories.
Owenton Mayor Doug West and his wife, Betty, were honored guests, and presented a check to the historical society from the city. Betty is a native of Lawrenceburg, but has lived many years in Owen County and exhibits true Kentucky graciousness.
The stories were varied, and each tale brought a bit of Owen County family life to light. Larry Dale Perry spoke of his father who attended school at Lusby’s Mill.
As a young boy, the elder Perry attached pins to the front of his shoes, and when all was quiet in the classroom, he would stick the person in front of him with the pins.
Christina Rice’s story involved her cousins, Chip and Mike Clark, who as young boys went camping with Christina’s brother, Stephen. They spent the night in a little cave situated on a cliff. During the night, Mike had dreamed that another cousin, Bobby, was eating up all the beans, and in an effort to stop the bean gobbler, Mike fell off the cliff. He awoke and realized he had been dreaming, and although suffering cuts from his ordeal, Mike’s bones remained intact.
One Halloween, while a young boy, Bobby Doggett allowed his sisters to persuade him to dress as a girl, complete with high heels and a wig. During their trek around the neighborhood to collect candy, a young man pinched Bobby which led to a punch from Bobby and a race back home to rid himself of his fancy feminine attire.
Sarah Strassell shared a story about her dog, Wrinkles, who ignores his many dog toys, and recently chewed his way through a bottle of black dye while relaxing on the forbidden couch.
Patty Rawlings talked of growing up in coal country. She was raised in Floyd County, the daughter of a coal miner. Though coal dust embedded itself in every possible nook and cranny of the town, the people who lived there forged a bond with each other, weaving a tapestry of love and concern which defines many communities in Kentucky.
Peggy Tisch reminisced about her childhood in a large family who lived at the end of a dusty road. Peggy was tenth of 11 children, and she and her sister milked the cows. One girl would milk while the other held up the cow’s tail. It was soon decided that if they tied the cow’s tail to a fence, one of them could play during the milking. However, Bossy wasn’t at all pleased with the solution, and the girls had to return to their positions.
At one time Jarl Lee Harris lived on Lake Charles in Louisiana. His house stood over the water and several alligators made their home underneath its piers. Not wanting his residents to go hungry, Jarl Lee fed them a daily ration of chicken legs.
Mary Lou Morrison told of the time in WWII when her father was fighting in the war and her mother had to work. Moving from Bowling Green, Ohio, to Toledo, Mary Lou and her siblings gained a real education of the world as they played on railroad tracks and in the city dump.
Tom Morrison told a funny story about a pig and described a fellow he met while in the airforce by the name of “Hey You, Jackson.” Seems the fellow was the 23rd of 24 children and his parents ran out of names.
Ruth Ann Hazlett talked of how her father raised her and her brothers. One day the three children picked up cigarette butts and decided to smoke them. Ruth Ann finished hers and went indoors where her father confronted her and asked if her brothers were smoking. Always telling the truth, Ruth Ann told her father yes, but neglected to tell him she also had been smoking.
Bush told how he and his siblings drove cattle on the roads in Owen County and his wife, Catharine Bush, talked of running home late one night from the movie house in Owenton. She had seen a movie on werewolves, and looking back over her shoulder, she didn’t see a cow standing in the middle of Perry Street until she almost ran into it.
Liz Dunavent related a story about taking a pig to the zoo and to Coney Island.
Darrel Baker recalled his grandfather telling how, in the spring, he moved logs from the North Fork of the Kentucky. He and his companions stopped one night at an inn and enjoyed a delicious meal of squirrel and dumpling stew. When making a trip to the outhouse that night, Darrel’s grandpa discovered a cache of cat hides in the bushes, and the so-called squirrel stew was in reality cat stew.
Norman Smith told of how his grandmother caught him and his brothers chewing a bit of tobacco they found. To discourage the habit, Grandma bought some of the strongest tobacco and told them to chew it. She then said they needed to swallow the juice like men. Doing so brought the contents of their stomachs up and cured their taste for tobacco.
Bill Kennedy worked on ranches out west, and he related tricks he pulled on some of his bosses.
Christie Kennedy reminisced about her summers spent here in Owen County with her grandparents and the memorable times with her friend, Susan.
Bobby Gibson’s story brought gales of laughter from the audience. One time when Bobby was around 6 years old, he was helping his daddy who worked for the funeral directors in town. The men had put a couple boards over the open grave and when the service was over they turned the boards on their sides and lowered the coffin into the grave. All of a sudden a scream thought to be that of a woman resounded from the grave. Thinking perhaps they had buried someone alive, the men hurriedly raised the coffin only to discover that a rabbit had given the squeal as the coffin came down upon it.
President Jeannie Baker recalled a Saturday shopping spree in Lexington when she stopped at a crowded restaurant for coffee and had to share a table with a businessman. When Jeannie went to the cashier to pay her bill, she was told she had to pay for the businessman also. When she refused, the man took his umbrella and hit Jeannie. Anyone who would like to hear the conclusion of that story will have to visit the museum and ask Jeannie.
Our last member to tell a story, Verna Catharine Payne, declined, for although she had many exciting tales, she said she saw me writing down everyone’s story and didn’t want my article to be too lengthy.
 Please remember to donate for the historic Karsner Air Field highway marker c/o Margaret Murphy, 1890 Point of Rock Rd., Owenton, Ky. 40359.
Plan on celebrating with us at 2:30 Oct. 2 at the museum for our dedication of the Kentucky River Room.