Aug 022012

The lower Red River

By Wesley Houp

June.  The early morning rain tapers off.  My eggs, sunny-side-up, are runnier than I normally like.  But I don’t complain, masking the mucussy whites beneath a hard triangle of buttered toast.  It all goes down to a good spot.  Danny lords over his sausage melt and home fries (“covered and smothered”), glancing furtively out pane-glass at neutered clouds.  Dad, our shuttle-master, sips his coffee and polishes off the last bite of biscuit from his modest breakfast set.  Wafflehouse on the Winchester Road exit of I-75 is abuzz with grizzled truckers, rough couples trapped in leather with inexplicably demonic tattoos—in from a Friday night of god-knows-what, and harried moms with their wild-eyed, towheaded children suckling up more syrup than hotcake.  People on the go, people on the edge, people on the run, all people on the fringe of town…and us: just more wide-eyed people on the fringe of what comes next.  But this morning we’re aiming to plush that fringe with the green distance of the Mountain Parkway.  We’re Red River-bound.  So we sop up yolk and thank the waitress while Dad pays the tab, a treat he erroneously predicts as our last “hot one” for a few days.  At 72, with his river-ratting days mostly behind him, he’s forgivably unfamiliar with our new-fangled, compact, culinary technologies.  To echo Lexington crooner Chris Sullivan, we can make a three-course meal from a worn out shoe.  Continue reading »

Jun 282012

Storm drain art revived

NoC News

“This is exactly what this whole project is about: getting a dialogue started about the storm drain system, what it does, where it is. Once you get people talking, they’ll remember—and they’ll talk about it.” –Claudia Michler

Talking, and looking at them, the painted drains that is. So much so that when some of the paint capitulated to the weather (as the artists knew it would) art watchers started to request touch-ups.

Blake Eames and Claudia Michler are the artists responsible for the painted storm sewer drains around downtown, neighborhoods near UK, and the near north side. Made You Look!, their project, won an EcoART grant from the city to help with the storm sewer public education campaign. Eames and Michler have now been granted limited funds to revive some of the painted drains. Continue reading »

Apr 042012

Elkhorn to Lockport, part 2

By Danny Mayer

“Thank you for showing me Gest today, the two lock houses facing Cedar Creek those bureaucrats will soon raze.”

My breath flashes vapor at each line. Nearing late-afternoon on the Kentucky River, the sun has only recently asserted itself in the sky, somewhere near Stevens Branch on pool 3, four river miles past. This would have been before the portage at Gest, Lock 3 across from Monterey, and before the exploratory amble up the hill to see the two Gest lock houses in decay, the result of a strategic decision by the state and its people to abandon upkeep of grounds and water. Before the ham and cheese on bread, before the piss breaks, before reloading and shoving off, one-by-one from the remnant pad below the lower lock gates, to ferry back into the main-stream (eddying overnight at Severn Creek) on our way to Lockport.

Say, three hours ago. Continue reading »

Feb 092012
Audio from the November 1, 2011, performance of Rat Shed Radio, held at Homegrown Press. Other Rat Shed Radio paddles can be found here:  the Fabled Canelands and fair Jessamine.
High, high, yes when I die
there’s untold millions
standing next in line.

Wes Houp, “Up on Chenoca”

When development came to the bluegrass, it came from the east. From Fort Pitt at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers on past the Kanawha, speculators from James Harrod to Johnny Appleseed floated the Ohio in search of available productive land. Harrod, like many of the early illegals who explored the region as citizens of invading British and American nations, came into the bluegrass by turning left at the mouth of the Kentucky and paddling, upriver, as far as Leestown. Later, by the 1780s, new arrivals to central Kentucky would shorten this trip immeasurably, by disembarking at the settlement of Limestone and then taking the southern road toward the growing frontier town of Lexington. Continue reading »

Dec 312011

Late-submitted notes from Lexington, KY, the longest continuously running occupation in North America.*

“The city now known as Lexington, KY, is built of the dust of a dead metropolis.”
George Washington Ranck, History of Lexington Kentucky: Its early annals and recent progress(1872)

Monday, early

The caravan leaves, late, from Occupy Lexington at 9:48 AM for the Santa Clause press conference in the governor’s office 30 miles away in Capital City. Clause is in town to speak to Governor Beshear over what a recent North Pole press conference cited was “a litany of Christmas-killing coal initiatives that the Kentucky governor endorsed during his first term in office.”

We arrive in time to hear Steve Beshear’s office secretary tell Santa, some of his elves, a few media and Don Pratt that the governor will not be able to meet with them today. He is out of the office, does not carry a cell phone, and is generally and otherwise unavailable to hear what Father Christmas has to say. Undeterred, Santa merrily asks that Beshear receive the gifts of coal and switches he has brought. Continue reading »

Oct 122011

Don't worry Dallas. We'll give you the skinny about Rat Shed Radio on November 1.

Kentucky Rat Shed Radio: Where local first reaches from Harlan to Carrollton.

A reading and musical performance of the Kentucky River Watershed

Featuring the music, voices and words of Warren Byrom, Dan’l Boone, Beth Connors-Manke, Wes Houp, Danny Mayer, G.W. Ranck, Gortimer T. Spotts and others

Tuesday, November 1, 6:00-8:00 at John Lackey’s Homegrown Press Studio, North Limestone and Sixth

Tickets $25. Fundraiser for North of Center. Limited Availability.

To purchase a ticket or make further inquiries, contact Danny Mayer at


Watching the river go by

Watching the river go by

Watching the river go by in the evening.

John Hartford

Aug 242011

A paddle through Capitol City

By Danny Mayer

Photo by Troy Lyle

Oil Can and the other vessels.

“In the summer, I bathe about every two weeks. Otherwise, I just braid my hair and go go go.”

I have arrived with Josh, my partner in canoe, to a small towhead on the Kentucky River in Frankfort. Only a straight-away into our 9-bend, 2 night, 20 mile voyage through the state’s capital, down lock #4 and on to Elkhorn Creek, and we are already bringing up the rear. Our vessel, a green 17 foot Coleman canoe nicknamed “Oil Can” that I purchased off eBay upon my 2000 arrival to the Commonwealth, plies the slackwater of Kentucky like a pointy tipped log. We are no match for the much faster fleet of one-man vessels operated by the rest of our party. In 15 miles time, a distance that will include an overnight camp-out in a soybean field, we will operate Oil Can with the efficiency and tracked gait of a steam engine while chasing mid-day shade along the riverbanks. But not right now. Right now, Josh and I paddle irregularly and out of sync, my captain’s seat squeaking arrhythmically at each downstroke and the boat rolling haphazardly from starboard to port. We are more interested in drinking beer, talking rivers and waving to the locals than in coordinating strokes, and have subsequently fallen well behind the rest of our six man party. Continue reading »

Aug 102011

Friday at Castlewood Park

By Will Rush

On Friday, August 12, the typically tranquil Castlewood Park will be alive with the festivities of the second annual Cane Run Watershed Festival.  The event, hosted by the Cane Run Watershed Council, will raise awareness of the problems facing the watershed and help teach the community how to protect their delicate waterways.

Although most people are familiar with the term “watershed,” many do not fully understand what a watershed is.  All water, whether it comes from the sky, a sprinkler, or your toilet, must go somewhere, and a watershed is the area of land that drains into a single stream, river, lake, or other body of water.  The Mississippi River watershed, for example, is roughly 1.2 million square miles and is made up of countless smaller watersheds, including the Cane Run. Continue reading »

Jul 132011

Dear Gortimer,

Returned is your wonderful manuscript, “The phantom map,” with some minor GUM revisions in thick red ink. You may be interested in the story behind the demise of the great South East Coal Company that you mention us passing nearby Cubbard’s Rock.

The company was incorporated in 1915, when Henry LaViers, an immigrant from Wales, secured the mineral rights needed to organize five coal camps. The most well known of these, apparently still generally intact, is located at Seco (renamed “South East Coal Company Operation 1” upon its purchase in 1915), on the banks of Boone Fork, a tributary of the Kentucky River’s North Fork and not far from Whitesburg in Letcher County. Continue reading »

Jan 192011

A beaver tale

By Northrupp Centre

Northrupp Center

Walking up Jessamin Creek

“Paint what I see, simply.”

Harlan Hubbard, November 1959

Looked at from the perspective of the heavens, as one would look at a map, Camp Nelson lies just above the southernmost point of the Kentucky River’s 60 mile long southwest detour around southern Fayette and Jessamine Counties, a sort of convex riverine parabolic arc that begins near Winchester at Lock 10, turns and pivots north and west at Lock 8 a couple miles from here, and ends somewhere around Brooklyn Bridge just past Lock 7 as the river paces itself toward Frankfort and the wide, flat lower stretches beyond.

Continue reading »