Category Archives: Life

Coming Home to the Mountains: Elkhorn City, A View through Fresh Eyes

This is a guest post by Cheryl Ramey-Barker.  Cheryl left Elkhorn City, Kentucky when she was 16 and recently came back to visit for a few days.  I asked Cheryl to write down her thoughts on Elkhorn now vs what she remember and give us some ideas on what we could do to improve Elkhorn City and its growing tourist industry.  Her thoughts are very relevant to our current Trial Town Project and what little things we can do to be more tourist “Ready”  Here is what she came up with!

I was raised in small town in Eastern Kentucky. As a child I couldn’t wait to leave it. I was convinced that there was something bigger and better out there, just waiting for me. I left Elkhorn City in 1984, I was 16. I moved to Lexington, graduated high school and upon realizing that there was no money for college, I joined the Navy.
I traveled the world and saw the sights that most people still long to see. I lived in several places. I once lived in 5 different states within a six-year period. But that is the “Military Life.” In all of my travels and in all of the places I lived, there was always something missing. I realized that I missed the small town, the mountains that surrounded it and the people who made it “home.”
I recently traveled back to Elkhorn City. I was so happy to be home. It felt like it always had. A warm, friendly place with a slower pace that what I have become accustomed to. The scenery has changed somewhat. Businesses and homes that I expected to see were no longer there. There were a few new businesses but not nearly enough to replace the revenue and jobs that have been lost. This was once a quite busy little town. There were several restaurants and full service gas stations and even a motel. The gas stations are long gone, replaced by a convenient store with gas pumps. The motel is closed up with vines taking over the exterior of the building. And the restaurant that I remember has been replaced with The Rusty Fork Cafe. It’s the social gathering place for the town. It’s where the men come for their morning coffee and conversation to discuss current events and local politics. I remember as a little girl referring to this as the “coffee club.” The food was even better than I remember and it was a warm feeling to see that the coffee club still holds its regular meetings.
Several new businesses have popped up in town. I saw a new pizza place. Thank Heavens-who could live without pizza! There is also a new theater with plays and musicals. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the current play, “Greater Tuna,” but the reviews I have read state anything on stage there is a great show. There is also a new gift store in town, The Pine Mountain Outlet. It’s definitely more of a boutique than a gift store. At least it’s not what I expected, it was a great shop, but I was hoping to see some Appalachian Crafts for sale in there. I know the local women are extremely talented with their sewing and quilting projects and their canning of jams and jellies.
I guess what disappointed me the most was that there wasn’t a single item to be found that referenced Elkhorn City in any way. I know bumper stickers and refrigerator magnets and t-shirts may sound cheesy to some, but I want people to ask me about my home town. I want them see my t-shirt and say “Elkhorn City, where on Earth is that?” I want to tell them that it’s where the mountains meet the sky and the most beautiful place on Earth. It’s where the people are warm and treat strangers like family. I want to tell them about the River Walk, the Blue Line Trail, the ACT Theater, and the delicious food at The Rusty Fork. But there was nothing that I could find to elicit such a question. So for now, I will take my opportunities as they come and break out the pictures on my cell phone or my laptop whenever I can squeeze it into the conversation. But a bumper sticker or a t-shirt sure would have made it a lot easier!
I have often hoped for Elkhorn City to have new businesses to support the local economy. I honestly believe that tourism is the way to grow and sustain the town, especially with the renewed interest in the Hatfield and McCoy Feud. I am pleased to hear that the white water rafting expeditions have taken off so well. I would like to see a sporting goods store of some sort there, selling kayaks and paddles, camping supplies and the like and possibly renting equipment for those who weren’t prepared or forgot their gear. Even a new motel so folks don’t have to stay in Breaks (unless they want to). I think about a soda fountain designed like they were in the old days complete with a soda jerk serving up ice cream floats and sundaes. There are several open store fronts that would make a nice place for an Appalachian Crafts store. Maybe the local ladies could offer their crafts on consignment. A store similar to the old “What’s it Shop” would be a great souvenir shop. It could offer t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc bearing the Elkhorn City logo or city seal. Hopefully someone will open a souvenir store and be ready for business before the town celebrates in centennial in the fall.
I can imagine that having the capital to open a new business is one major problem. I work in property preservation and know that vacant properties deteriorate more quickly than occupied properties. I would hope that some of the property owners would be willing to donate business space rent free for one year; they could require the tenant to be responsible for utilities and minor repairs. It would be a win-win situation. It stands to reason that the property owners are paying up keep and taxes on the vacant buildings so why not give someone the opportunity to use that space to contribute to the economy while maintaining and preserving it? Providing a rent free space for a year would allow the business owner the opportunity to get the business off the ground and possibly create additional employment in the area while allowing the property owner some credit on their taxes. There are also places where the city purchases business space and gives a grant of free rent for a year. After the first year, the tenant signs a new lease agreeing to the amount of rent and paying it directly to the city….just some thoughts.

Cheryl Ramey-Barker


Evernote; Don’t search for Lost Treasure without It!

 Every fall I love to get into the mountains and enjoy my favorite hobby of treasure hunting.   One of the unique uses of Evernote I have found is  to organize my treasure  hunting research.   Weather I am out in the mountains, in the library, or at  home all my treasure hunting research is always with me in Evernote.
     For the past 30 years I have  had a hobby of looking for John Swift’s Lost Silver Mine.  Searching for  the silver mine began when my grandfather and I would take long walks in the woods when I was in my early teens.  Since  that time I  have kept notebooks, copies of articles and stories and maps of the many geographic areas concerning the silver mine legend.  Keeping track  of all the research and stories concerning the silver mine has been a  very tedious task.  In the early 1990’s I began keeping all the notes  in a  word processing program and retyping a lot of the print material into the word processor so I could search my data by key word.  I also had hundreds of photographs that I have taken of unique rock cravings and treasure signs, that were stored in photo albums.  Then came Evernote!
     With Evernote all this became a simple process.   I began using Evernote in my law practice and day-to-day life, then one day it occurred to me to put all my “Swift Stuff” into evernote.  It was actually an easy because I had been  scanning a lot of the articles and other materials into PDF files ever since I bought my ScanSnap scanner about 4 years ago.
     First I scanned  every piece of paper and picture I had regarding the silver mine with the ScanSnap.   I even scanned my hand written journals and notes.   Evernote’s  software will even search your handwriting.   Evernote also allows you to create an image note, so I loaded all my photos of rock cravings and places  associated with the legend.   Then it  is a simple  matter of sending it to Evernote or just dragging and dropping it into the Evernote desktop.
     I have Evernote  on my Android Phone, my iPad, by laptop and my office computer and they all sync seamlessly.   Perhaps one of the best  uses of Evernote is taking a snapshot (picture) directly in Evernote with my phone and then being able to view every photograph I have when I am  in the mountains searching for the Swift Treasure.   I can get to my whole Swift Treasure reference library from anywhere.
     Evernote is great to use while doing research on the internet.  When I find that great article for an old  newspaper or magazine online I can send it right into Evernote.  Evernote has a web clipper for most browsers that allows you to clip web pages  directly into Evernote.
     You can also share your notes or whole notebooks with others, even if they do not have an Evernote account.  A link to one of my Swift Notes can be viewed here straight from my Evernote account.
     If you want more information on the Swift story you can find Mike Steely’s excellent book here.  Also Ed Henson has written an excellent fiction novel entitled Swift which you can find here.
     Evernote is free for the first 60 Mg of data for every 30 day cycle, but you can upgrade to the premium account.  Personally, I have never needed to upgrade,  but I can see it happening soon because I use Evernote for  everything!

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Cover of On the Duty of Civil Disobedience I have been learning the ends and outs of my new ipad. It has totally revolutionized by GTD system and work (another post on that later) as well as the way I … Continue reading

Come see the Pretty Water

Breaks Canyon, located in Breaks Interstate Park.
Image via Wikipedia

On a beautiful Sunday morning in April, at 8:30 am I hear …”Pre wa wa daddy” …. “Pre wa wa daddy.”  At first I can’t make out what my, two year old, Tymee Jo is saying.  She just turned two on March 17th and single words have started to become simple sentences.  “What, baby girl?” I said.  “Pre wa wa, daddy!”  It then dawns on me that she wants to go see the pretty water.

She and I  have been taking a short drive up to Ratliff Hole on Saturday mornings, since the warm weather has begun,  and I have told her to look at the Pretty Water.  Ratliff Hole is the local name for the Breaks Interstate Park, river access area about a mile east of Elkhorn City, Kentucky.

She enjoys it and is content for up to half an hour setting in my lap and watching the in the pretty water.

Upon reflection, I have realized that she is content watching the pretty water because I am content watching the pretty water.  There is a cleansing that comes with watching the pretty water.  It seems that the ups and downs, bumps and bruises, and stress and strain of the week float away with the rush of river.  The sound of the water is soothing and the smell of spring is invigorating.

Often, time slows down when Tymee Jo and I go watch the pretty water. The hour we spend together at the river is a source of renewal and strength for me and an amazing time of wonder and discovery for her.  I sometimes look at Tymee Jo’s red hair reflecting against the clear green river and realize that all is perfect at this time in this place.

So if you ever need some time for reflection and renewal come and see the pretty water. You will probably see Tymee Jo and I sitting by the river.

The pretty water in this post is the Russell Fork of the Big Sandy River.  It is the

The Russell Fork with Pine Mountain in the background

most pristine waterway in the Commonwealth of Kentucky form the Virginia state line through Elkhorn City, Kentucky.  The Russell Fork is a destination for thousands of boaters, paddlers, fisherman and pretty water watchers like Tymee Jo and I.

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George Anderson was in the Arena. How about You?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt spoke the above words in a speech on Citizenship in 1910.

The Elkhorn City community lost one of its citizens on December 3, 2009.  One of the many words that defined George Anderson was citizenship.  George was perhaps the most community service orientated man I have ever known and it shown in his daily work and deeds.  George’s life is one that we all can and should learn the basic truths of citizenship.

George supported Elkhorn City in every way possible.  He served his church, the Elkhorn City Church of Christ in endlessly.  He served Elkhorn City as a leader in the Elkhorn City Volunteer Fire Department, as a business leader, and he served with his friends Bill Ramey and Rodney Ruth as the force behind the Elkhorn City Park Board.  He also, served the Elkhorn City Area Heritage Council in every project that we pursued.

The bottom line was … if anything got done in Elkhorn City, George was a part of the project.

He had a knack for knowing what needed to be done on a daily basis to improve our City and our community.

George was engaged in the Community of Elkhorn City …he was in the Arena.    How about you!