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Take pride in being from Kentucky

I sit here writing this column in the great Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.  I now come here a few times per year to assist training some of our nation’s finest law enforcement and military personnel.  On this trip I am assisting Mr. Mike Hull in leading a mantracking class.  A mantracking class gives us me the opportunity to assist these men and women in learning skills that they will take back to their respective units, agencies, etc.  The great things for me as I get to go up and down the mountains of Virginia, attempt to evade them, and give them scenario-based training opportunities.  This means I get an intimate look at the landscape and all that is in it.   This brings me to the point of this article.

Virginia is beautiful, and I do absolutely love it here, but I love my Kentucky home more.  For some reason most Kentuckians do not seem to understand how good we have it.  Here are a few of the reasons I believe Kentuckians should absolutely sing the praises of our home land. 

Kentucky has more miles of waterways than any other state in the US with the exceptions of Alaska.  That means you can go nearly anywhere in the state and find a river, creek, other stream to swim, fish, or paddle in.  Personally, I have caught a canoe full of smallmouth on both Elkhorn Creek and the Rockcastle River and spent nearly as much time paddling streams as I have hiking trails.

There is very good reason that many of the surrounding native American people utilized what we call Kentucky as a hunting ground.  The natural salt licks have always attracted wildlife to this state.  Whether you enjoy wildlife for simple viewing pleasure or you want to supply your dinner table with 100% organic protein, Kentucky has it.  Elk, bear, whitetail deer, squirrels, rabbits, quail, grouse, ducks, geese, sand hill cranes, all call Kentucky home.  That does not include the other non-game species such as opossum, groundhogs, coyotes and too many beautiful song birds to mention that are an integral part of the both beauty and sound ecology of our home state. 

I had spent the past month before coming to Virginia traveling from one end of this state to the other to teach programs for public libraries.  We have taught about 20 library programs in that timeframe.  I have met some of the finest people in the world on these trips.   It seems easy for us to get segmented and try to protect and hold on to our own little slice of pie wherever we live. I can assure you that outside the larger populations centers in the state, most Kentuckians would still give you the shirt off their back.  I always get folks offering to feed me, patting me on the back and so much more.  I am not saying that to toot my own horn.  I am saying that because it is a good example for all of us to follow.

Many know, others not, that Kentucky is not a state.  Kentucky (along with Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Virginia) are Commonwealths.  It is mostly just semantics really, but our state founders thought it important enough of a distinction to put that phrasing in our constitution.  I think we have gotten away from that a bit too much. 

Do me a favor.  Next time you take a drive around our community, or throughout our state, consider this.  The waterways, wildgame, and the people are something that are all important natural resources.  We should be good stewards of them all.  How much better would our community be if we spent as much time taking care of these vital resources as we do our yards, gardens and our homes?  I don’t have an answer for that.  I do know that I would love to chat with you about it sometime.  Hopefully I see you soon on, or off, the trail!