Over Easter weekend, I went back to my old Kentucky roots and spent a little time in my hometown of Cynthiana. In Kentucky, you are known by your county, not your county seat. Just after we’d crossed the state line, we fueled up. When the gas station attendant asked “where y’headin?” we told him Cynthiana and his face became a question mark. I remembered and corrected. “Harrison County,” I said. “Oh, yeah!” he replied.
The Kentucky you may know is all bluegrass, and horse farms, and the best two minutes in sports held the first Saturday in May. And though I’ve sipped a mint julep at the Kentucky Derby, and donned my racing hat at Keeneland, and driven past white-fenced farms a million times, my Kentucky roots look a bit different.
My Kentucky is marked by burley tobacco barns—ancient relics standing tall—where farmers and their families work tirelessly “putting up” tobacco each fall. It showcases farm houses built beside creeks with chickens pecking in the yard and cows grazing in the field beyond. It’s about back roads kids gathering together on snow days to sled down rolling hills, careful to wipe out before they reach the fence. It’s neighbors bringing dishes on Easter Sunday to a picnic at the country church. Most of all, this place is about family—the one you’ve been born into and the one who claims you as their own.
It’s been twenty years since I’ve lived in my hometown. I love my life as it is now: I’ve traded the Kentucky Bluegrass for the Virginia Blue Ridge and couldn’t be happier.
Still, sitting on the porch of my parents’ cabin early one morning as I watched woodpeckers knock for their breakfast on hardwood trees, deer walk through the foggy bottom field, and heard the coo of the morning dove and the bellow of cattle on the adjacent farm, I enjoyed a peace I haven’t felt in a long time.
And that’s reason enough to come home every once in a while.