Let’s build our young people to match our Eastern Kentucky Mountains, match our Red River Gorge

bring-me-men-to-match-my-mountainsIn 1967, on my first 14,000 mile bicycle trip, I visited friends in Sacramento, California.  As I was leaving, I rode by the Capitol building and other state office buildings.  Across the marble top of one of those state buildings was written, in two-foot tall letters, a poetic quote.  Over the years, I forgot what the quote was, but I remembered that it had made an incredible impression on me at the time.

Two years ago, I flew to Sacramento and visited that family again.  At breakfast I told them the story about the quote carved on the building and that I couldn’t remember what it said.

B.J., who had been a child in 1967, said, “Then let’s drive to the Capitol and find that building.”  We circled the Capitol and other state buildings and in just a few minutes there is was, high up on the State Library building in huge letters: “BRING ME MEN TO MATCH MY MOUNTAINS.”  Wow!

A couple of nights ago I was talking to Chris and Mandy Chaney about this.  Instantly, Mandy found the poem on her iPhone from which the quote had been extracted.  The poem is Coming America by Walter Foss.  It not only says “Bring me men to match my mountains.”   The poem also says, “Bring me men to match my forests; bring me men to match my rivers,” on and on.Rugged Red 2

Here I am, talking to two young Powell Countians, Chris and Mandy, both of whom are community leaders. (Mandy will be the race director of the Rugged Red this year.) Then I recalled the forty-plus young men and women who are members of the awesome Mountain Rescue Team.  Those team members, from Powell, Menifee, and Wolfe counties took care of the trail runners in last year’s Rugged Red Trail Half Marathon.  Those young people make up one of the top mountain rescue teams in all of North America.

Creation FallsThen I began too recall all kinds of different groups of young people who make this place thrive and function.  Over a hundred volunteers helped us in The Rugged Red and also helped with the cancer drive.  Additionally the young people at the high school were invaluable in different kinds of good projects.  I have worked with Eagle Scout Trevor Faw and some of his friends.  It is incredible what they have done at the Stanton City Park.  And then there is the natural born leader Janice Odom, who has brought several thousand dollars in grants for projects into Powell County.  Many of those projects involved high school and elementary students.

Instead of asking someone to “bring us men to match our mountains,” I think we older folks should concentrate more efforts into building and developing our young people into men and women who match our Eastern Kentucky Mountains, young men and women who match our awesome rivers, who match our Daniel Boone National Forest.  Let’s help build our young people to become the men and women who will match our Red River Gorge.

Writer’s Workshop: Gurney Norman

March 1st was a first for us.  We hosted a writers workshop.  The author that ran the workshop was a famous Eastern Kentucky writer, Gurney Norman.  We had over 20 writers from all over Kentucky.  Janine Musser from Wolfe County brought the workshop to the Bowen Farm.  She and her husband David ran the web site and all of the many details of the 14,000 mile Unbridled Spirit bicycle trip throughout north America in 2005 and 2006. I had already enjoyed working with them and she did equally good job at putting together this writer’s workshop.

Gurney Norman is a native of southern Appalachian Mountains; has a degree in Journalism and English. He is a recipient of the  Wallace Stegner Fellowship in Creative Writing at Stanford University;  studying with Irish short story writer Frank O’Connor and the literary critic Malcolm Cowley. He is the author of Kinfolks, a collection of short stories, which won the Berea College’s Weatherford award. He also penned the novel, Divine Right’s Trip. Gurney Norman is currently the Director of the English Department’s Creative Writing Program. He is also the Senior Writer-in-Residence at Hindman Settlement School‘s annual Appalachian Writers Workshop. Not only is he a writer, but also a filmmaker and cultural advocate for advancement of Appalachian culture and arts. Gurney Norman served as Poet Laureate  for the Commonwealth of Kentucky 2009-2010.

It was an extraordinary event and all that attended can attest to that. I am very honored to have had Gurney Norman and all the writers who attended. It was great to see the ideas steaming and words brewing in everyone’s mind as they put pen to paper. I hope this can be a yearly event or even a quarterly one.

Gurney Norman was kind enough to write in my guest book: “Joe, that was a great conversation last night; and I slept the best in years. Living in the city, you forget what fresh mountain air is… and the stars. They were so bright and seemed so near. They were vivid in the night sky, reminding me that our planet is just one more star floating in the universe. Your wonderful place here, and the peace we feel, allows our minds to rest so we have an environment that encourages us to think and feel deeply. We begin to recover something that gets lost in city life. I feel restored after just one night as your guest for which I thank you.”