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Looking Back at This Place Called Home

By Eugenia Jones

Seven years have gone by since I first began traveling the backroads (and main roads) of McCreary County discovering the “faces, places, and events” that make the place we call home special and unique. Each year, I’m amazed by the people I meet, the places I discover, and the things I find. I receive blessings from these experiences and learn valuable lessons from the folks I meet along the way. Most of all, I’m always reminded of the beauty and goodness in McCreary County.
In doing my 2017 look back, it wasn’t easy narrowing down a year’s worth of wonderful people, special places, and unique experiences to make a list of just twelve. However, because of limited space, it had to be done. So, here it is-a look back at twelve extra special features from “The Voice” in 2017.

1. “To Bear or Not To Bear”

Nose kissing a McCreary County bear cub in the wild after a tough trek up the mountain is a memory still etched in my mind. The minutes spent holding that precious, murmuring, little cub conjure up a memory -a favorite memory of my mother who never fully understood my grown-up passion for teddy bears. I remember the birthday when she finally gave in to my whim for bears by handing me a gift wrapped package and saying with a smile, “I can’t believe I’m doing this, but I guess no one is ever too old for one of these.” The gift? A beautifully soft, foot long, authentic looking black bear. My mom passed away many years ago, but she, her gift of a black bear teddy bear, and that little nose kissing bear cub up on top of that mountain will always be in my heart.

2.“Rocking It in McCreary”
With the simple objective of spreading happiness, love, and inspiration by creating painted rocks and hiding them throughout the community for others to find, Sherry Hatfield Ball brought a nationwide trend to McCreary County and started a county-wide craze that brought out the very best in McCreary Countians.

3. “A Generation to Remember”

World War II Veteran James Baker reminded me of the attributes of “the greatest generation”-the attributes of hard work, perseverance, sacrifice, faith, and dedication to family and country.

4.“Rockin’ Mama”
At ninety-seven years young, Lola Smith graced me with her smile and demonstrated the importance of faith, family, laughter, and fun.

5. “The Old Ways”

Photo by Eugenia Jones
Brandon Neal of Pine Knot is a young man determined to learn and apply all he can about the “old ways” of homesteading. Neal is shown shelling popcorn with one of his many “old fashion” tools. Neal grows wheat and corn to make flour and meal.

Brandon Neal, in fulfilling his promise to his beloved grandmother to continue learning the traditional ways of homesteading, showed us life is an experiment-and we should be excited by it!

6. “The Life and Times of Anna Mary”

Born in the 1920s, Anna Mary Creekmore proved that young women in McCreary County could fulfill dreams of education, career, and world-wide travel.

Anna Mary Creekmore portrayed a true example of someone who made her dreams come true while never forgetting her McCreary County roots.

7. “Gnome Man’s Land”

Neighbors smile when they pass by and see a tree stump made into an enchanting home for gnomes in the yard of Walter and Sue Crabtree. By building a fantasy world that brings joy to their neighborhood, the husband and wife team taught us the importance of doing something to help overcome the sadness in the world.

8. “A Survivor”

Photo by Eugenia Jones
Married for 54 years, Elmer Smith says his wife, Shirley, has been good to him.

Elmer Smith, never one to let physical limitations define his life, reminded us to always see the positive.

9. “A Ray of Light”

Photo by Eugenia Jones
Crossroads Community Baptist Church pastor, Grant Hasty, and daughter, Amanda are excited about the future of The Light Community. When completed, the neighborhood of tiny homes with offer low cost housing for those in need of stability. With strict guidelines, the community will offer residents affordable housees in conjunction with spiritual, emotional, educational, and vocational opportunities.

Crossroads Community Baptist Church began building and developing The Light Community-a neighborhood providing an oasis for those needing to start life anew. In addition to providing a landing place for those in need, The Light Community will provide economic benefit to McCreary County as a whole.

10. “Santa’s Helpers”

Photo by Eugenia Jones
High school students (grades 9-12) are busy constructing the North Pole, complete with Santa’s workshop, for the upcoming Polar Express rail production in Stearns. The high school choral and drama students will also participate in the production.

Hometown pride came shining through as the McCreary County Heritage Foundation, event organizers, students from the high school, and members of the community came together at the Big South Fork Scenic Railway to make the debut of Kentucky’s only official Polar Express a success. With nearly eight thousand passengers boarding the Polar at the Stearns Depot for a trip to the North Pole, the historic coal mining town of Stearns glowed as it welcomed guests from across the nation and around the world including the countries of South America, Switzerland, and Canada.

11. “From Tail Gunning to Teaching”

Veteran Gilbert “Gil” Vanover, with his lifetime of achievements, noted that a lot of folks take life too seriously.
“Be yourself,” he advised. “Don’t take it all too seriously.”

12. “Big South Veteran Hunt”

Photos by Eugenia Jones
The inaugural Big South Fork Veteran Hunt saw five combat veterans from Texas and Pennsylvania arrive in McCreary County for an all expenses paid deer hunt. The hunters were excited and surprised to receive all new hunting gear and rifles. Hunting on private property in the County, two of the hunters harvested deer.

Ricky Allen wanted to give back to fellow veterans by sharing the beauty of his beloved McCreary County. Working almost singlehandedly, Allen organized, funded, secured volunteers, and succeeded in hosting the first Big South Veteran Hunt. Thanks to the hunt, veterans from Texas and Pennsylvania got a bit of therapeutic recreation in McCreary County.

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