For those of you who don’t live in the eastern United States of America, my state Kentucky considers itself a part of the South (that’s a capital S, yes). This has to do with the American Civil War, even though that happened about, oh, 150 years ago. The thing is, Kentucky was a border state… for the Union. Sure, our loyalties were conflicted and there were groups of Kentuckians who fought for the Confederacy, but I find my state’s connection to the South just a little amusing. If you look at a map of the United States, you’ll see that Kentucky is not really all… that… southerly. Frankfort was the only Union state capitol to be captured by Confederate forces, though (very briefly, mostly to be snarky).
I live in the northern Bluegrass region of my state, where we are, in actuality, more like Ohio than the south (blasphemy, I know). This area was settled by French trappers a long time ago and we’ve never quite been like the rest of the state ever since. Louisville is more like Indiana, for that matter. Yet these facts do not diminish the sense of connection I have to the South, oddly enough. Lynyrd Skynyrd, cornbread ‘n grits, pickup trucks, country common-sense wisdom, these are all a part of me despite what I told you just above. The influence is powerful, elemental almost, and it reaches all the way up to the northern bluegrass of Kentucky. I love the folk aspect of my state, I love that I can look out the window or drive down a street and be surrounded by trees, I love the space and familiarity afforded by a small town. Even though I didn’t manage to be a simple man as the song would instruct, I can appreciate the message and get the song stuck in my head for days at a time (hence this post).
Queen Anne’s Lace graces the highway
that lazily flows through the hills like a river
shaggy trees overcome with life
unabashedly bare their manes, barely quiver
in the breeze.
pickup trucks float in this river as boats
taking wide turns to go easy on the dog
who rides in the back like an emperor, head high,
his chariot surveying the wind
the town winds down around 10 PM
as the shadows stretch out and the money wears thin
to journey these roads in embrace of the night
is a Zen master’s moment of pure, calm delight
steel guitar drifts from an open window
as a voice croons of loss and patriotism
I accept the conservatives of the land I love
despite my best judgment, reality’s schism
is part of us
would that a blue moon could cure our ills
or that a fried chicken could pay our bills
or that running horses would bring us respect;
for all of our flaws, though, my heart would select
I sing Kentucky.