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Bob Dixon

Agency Manager


Middlesboro, KY 40965


Go Big Blue!

STEVE FLAIRTY: Celebrating The People And Culture Of Kentucky

Editor's note: This column by Steve Flairty first appeared in

Kentuckians are always looking for ways to find out more about their people and culture, and it often starts with reading non-fiction books. Here are a few I’ve read recently, along with summaries of each:

I Was Born When I Was Very Young: A Memoir By Bill Cunningham (Cunningham Books, 2021)

What does a former Kentucky Supreme Court justice have in common with all of us? Easy. We were born when we were very young. And for Bill Cunningham, the foundational aspects of birth and upraising are worth the full-scale writing of a memoir.

That’s what he did with his latest book, I Was Born When I Was Very Young. Son of a lockmaster on the Cumberland River next to the Kentucky Penitentiary at Eddyville, the author noted that his family “lived on my father’s job site.” And except for a period when the Cunninghams moved to Tennessee for the job, he grew up in West Kentucky in the area near the prison.

It was a childhood of enriching experiences, with hard times, fun times, and perhaps most importantly, learning times. Cunningham shares those times generously, ie. joyful adventures on the river, rebellious times in church life, terrible temper episodes on the basketball court, experiences with bad teachers, and a continual assurance that he was loved by his family and an assortment of nurturing community neighbors.

Sharing little, if any, of his adulthood accomplishments that are widely known, Cunningham writes with a winsome, folksy style and excels with what he does best—being authentic. And that’s the element all of us would love to have in common with the author.

From the Rafters of Rupp: The Book By Kyle Macy, with Dr. John Huang (Acclaim Press, 2021)

Kyle Macy has a secure place in Kentucky Wildcat basketball lore, especially for the generation who watched him lead a star-studded group to the 1978 NCAA championship.

Now, Macy’s authoritative knowledge and passion for Big Blue, along with his probing interviewing skills, has led to more success. His engaging television program, From the Rafters of Rupp, has spawned a book version, and it likely is a slam dunk for those who can’t seem to get enough of their favorite UK hoopsters.

Macy, along with Dr. John Huang, presents a good-looking coffee table book with colorful pictures and nearly two dozen interviews with past and present players and others associated with the program. Deceased players from the very early days of UK basketball are portrayed with pictures and statistical charts.

Macy also writes a personal introduction to each interview, with his remarks about Coach Joe. B. Hall particularly enlightening regarding Macy’s transfer from Purdue to UK.

Former Wildcat broadcaster Ralph Hacker sets the table for Rafters with entertaining Wildcat remembrances, including referencing the “magnetism of Kyle Macy.”

Enacting Love: How Thomas Merton Died for Peace By John Smelcer (Naciketas Press, 2022)

Kentucky’s iconic Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, was one of the most influential religious writers of the 20th century. From his humble place of seclusion at the Abbey of Gethsemani, near Bardstown, he gained an international following of readers inspired by his spiritual teachings.

“Father Louis,” as Merton was often called, died in 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand, while attending a monastic conference. It was reported that he expired from an electrical accident. Some believe that the reporting was inaccurate, and instead, was a nefarious act — murder — perpetrated by the United States government for political purposes. John Smelcer, author of the book, Enacting Love: How Thomas Merton Died for Peace, is one who takes that view as a strong possibility.

Smelcer relies on information he received from, the book asserts, a “fellow monk and a nun who had been Merton’s friend and acolyte,” this coming after the author gained possession of Merton’s worldly possessions, later donated to organizations for public viewing.

The author provides a well-researched accounting of why he, and others, believe Merton knew of his approaching execution and the motivation for it.

A History of Harrodsburg: Saratoga of the South By Bobbi Dawn Rightmeyer (The History Press, 2022)

Just ask Bobbi Dawn Rightmyer if you want to know about the city of Harrodsburg and Mercer County’s history.

Rightmyer has been busy writing about it regularly and is preparing for the 250-Year anniversary celebration in 2024, sharing much in the process.

Recently, Rightmyer released an informative book about the early spas and hotels in the area. A History of Harrodsburg: Saratoga of the South features the community’s strivings to bring tourists and economic benefits, starting in the late 1700s and through 2019. The author begins with a helpful timeline, then divides the book into four sections commensurate with historical periods.

Readers may find particular interest in the origin of the iconic Beaumont Inn, a destination attraction still thriving after over a century.

Well-researched accounts of such popular resorts as Greenville Springs, Harrodsburg Springs and Garden Springs add an interesting perspective of the first European heritage town west of the Allegheny Mountains. Added are dozens of black and white photos of relevant historical aspects of the area, along with a section of bibliographical notes.


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