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A Writer’s Dozen

A look back with a “writer’s dozen”-thirteen stories
illustrating the uniqueness of McCreary County in 2019.

By Eugenia Jones

In January, we took a trip down memory lane with Ruth Vanover and Milton Morrow as I dished out a “Taste of the Past” highlighting two local restaurant chains once popular in McCreary County. Today, the two restaurant chains, Druther’s and Scottie’s, no longer exist as franchises and operate in only a few limited locations as independent eateries. The only remaining Druther’s Restaurant in the world is located in Campbellsville, Kentucky. The four independent Scottie’s are in Caryville, Powell (outside of Knoxville,) Etowah, and Pikeville, Tennessee. The sole remaining Druther’s and the Scottie’s in Caryville and Powell are within a short distance of McCreary County-close enough for a day trip for those who get a hankering for a taste from the past. Chatting with Ruth Vanove and Milton Morrow was a special treat. With both known county-wide for their experiences in food-service, Vanover oversaw sixty-nine Druther’s restaurants simultaneously in the l980s and became the first female regional director of the chain. Morrow served Scottie’s famous little burgers with signature grilled onions, pickle, and mustard in the l970s before beginning his own successful catering business and Milt’s Burger Hut. The views of Vanover and Morrow concerning the many changes that have occurred in the business world throughout the years were both educational and entertaining.
It was a joy to share the touching story of the Bridgeman family in a “Chain of Unbroken Miracles.” The story, which ran on January 31, 2019, chronicled the births and early journeys of David and Candice Bridgeman’s twin daughters, Micah Ann and Miyah Arlene, who were born prematurely at twenty-five weeks. The Bridgeman’s give credit to God, faith, prayers, and “an unbroken chain of miracles” for their daughters’ remarkable journeys.
In February, I delved into the subject of love. Specifically, I asked our readers to share their experiences of being on the receiving end of loving gestures-simple gestures that, when received, defined the true meaning of love. Our readers did not disappoint as they shared stories with heartstrings attached.
I’ve only once received a call concerning a member of the third largest tortoise species in the world munching on dandelions while roaming unrestrained in Stearns, KY. Yes, you read that correctly. I got the call and when I responded, that’s exactly what I found-a runaway African spurred thigh (sulcate) tortoise enjoying a tasty meal of springtime dandelion blooms while roaming in downtown Stearns. For obvious reasons, “The Runaway Tortoise of Stearns” in the April 4, 2019 edition was one of my favorites.
I finally learned a little bit about coon hunting when I met up with McCreary County’s prize winning coon dog, Heavy Metal Homer, and his owner, Larry Douglas, and handler Andy Strunk. The April 11th article, “Unsnapped,” gave a glimpse of a sport that is more complex than one might think.
Jeff and Jessica Shoopman made my list with their turkeys-especially their pet turkey, Gus. When I visited the Shoopmans in April, they were busy collecting spring eggs from the hens’ nests while selling some eggs and incubating others. Despite caring for about a dozen turkeys, the couple always made sure to spend some extra special quality time with Gus-the Shoopmans’ pet turkey who follows them around like a dog and loves to cuddle. One can definitely say the Shoopmans are wild about their turkeys.
When United States Senator Rand Paul hosted a field hearing in Stearns last spring to encourage better access to thousands of acres of federal land in McCreary County and to encourage better communication between federal government agencies and local residents and leaders, I examined the United State Forest Service (USFS) in their mandated role of being the “multiple use manager” of the Daniel Boone National Forest (DBNF.) Unlike other government agencies such as the National Park Service that are primarily dominant use agencies, the USFS must balance multiple needs of a diverse public with the multiple needs of the forest. Since the USFS’s role as a multiple use manager requires them to simultaneously support preservation, conservation, economic development for the local community, recreation, and other needs, there can be conflict. The two part series, “Stearns District Forest Service-Managing the Daniel Boone for Many Uses,” which ran in May 2019 explored the unique benefits and distinct challenges faced by the USFS in managing McCreary County’s portion of the DBNF. I was pleased with the outcomes of the articles and multiple reader responses.
In the June 13, 2019 article, “Just a Girl and Her Chickens,” seven year old Kenzie Grace Clark proved that the old adage warning us against putting all of our eggs in one basket can sometimes be wrong. As a matter fact, Kenzie found “egg”ceptional profits when she invested twenty dollars of money earned from doing household chores into her very own chicken and egg business.
After writing articles throughout 2019 anticipating the return of McCrearyFest/Parade, it was nice to see locals once again enjoy the local October tradition. After several years’ absence, the event drew a large crowd.
In the October 24, 2019 edition, we met kudzu chewing goats who reside in Park Circle next to the Stearns Golf Course. Stearns resident and businessman JC Egnew purchased the goats locally in an effort to clean up invasive kudzu vine spreading throughout the area. Although the friendly and curious nanny goats have not been christened with individual names, the bond between hoofed creatures and their owner is strong.
Sharing Michelle Perry’s “Operation Hope (Jeremiah) 29:11” project in our November 28 edition touched my heart. After being cancer free for a year in 2014, Perry finally felt well enough and wanted to give back to others. Acting on that desire, Perry, her family, and a few volunteers began preparing holiday and monthly meals for patients (and caregivers) staying at the Hope Lodge which provides free lodging for patients travelling to Lexington, KY for treatment of cancer. Perry and Operation Hope 29:11 were highlighted in “The Voice” as they began preparing for their December meal with gift giving at Hope Lodge. Perry’s group of volunteers has grown throughout the years, and her organization recently completed five years of visiting with and serving monthly and holiday meals to those battling a terrible disease.
Beyond the goodness of home-cooked food, the desire of Operation Hope 29:11 is it to provide a moment of comfort and respite to those who face a new normalcy following a diagnosis of cancer.
“We serve up more than a just dinner to fill the belly,” Perry shared. “We create a moment where laughter fills the air, and cancer isn’t the focus. Our goal is to share love and kindness while understanding the fear one faces while dealing with cancer. Love has no limitations and helps restore hope. That’s why we became “Operation Hope 29:11.”
Thank you Michelle and Operation Hope 29:11 for offering moments of love and laughter to so many facing a new normalcy with their diagnosis of cancer.
Finally, the article, “A Day of Celebration,” was newsworthy and significant as the ribbon cutting ceremony for the opening of Fibrotex drew dignitaries and representatives from around the world. Our editor did due diligence in reporting the significant local economic impact of the international partnership between Fibrotex and Outdoor Venture. However, on a lighter note, it was also an interesting experience for me to flash the camera and photograph Donald Trump, Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle for the local news. Definitely not a paparazzi moment, but still, a moment in a small town worth remembering.

One never knows what one will find while roaming the McCreary County countryside. However, one thing is for certain- McCreary County is definitely home to some of the best faces, places, and events. In 2020, if you know of a unique McCreary County face, place, or event, give me a shout here at “The Voice.” With your help, I can keep sharing the unique, the interesting, the controversial, and the best of McCreary County with our readers in 2020.

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