Sunday, March 25, 2018

Wild Bucks, Honky Tonks And Other Crazy Stories From The American South: Kentucky Fire & Ice And Deadly I-65

An On-Going Short-Story Fictional Series

By Galen A. Smith Sr.

     Joe began to slow down as he approached the blue flashing lights that shot out blinding beams of brightness from atop of the Kentucky State Police cars past just north of Elizabethtown, Ky., heading towards Louisville. As he approached the three car pile-up in the left lane, all he could see were three KSP officers walking around in the cold dark, morning and as smoke still rose from the from the engines underneath the hoods, holding flashlights looking into the severely smashed up and banged up cars to see if anyone was still alive in the vehicles.

     No emergency medical service vehicles, fire trucks and firemen nor tow motor trucks had arrived yet to clear the victim's out of the vehicles or removed the wrecked vehicles. It was an eerie feeling that Joe Rogan felt in the pit of his stomach as he was driving towards a seminar in Indianapolis. He had left Bowling Green, Ky., at 3 a.m. CST since he had to be at there in Indianapolis at 9 a.m. EST. Luckily, for Joe, he had arrived just in time before the traffic heading north would be backed up for miles and miles and hours. Because he knew that KSP and local authorities would have to "work the scene." In other words, they would have to recreate the accident and try to figure out what happened and they would to take all sorts of measurements for official statistics, legal reports, documents and records that would be available for Kentucky local and state courts, attorneys, insurance companies and the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, D.C.

      Even though Joe was now retired and in his mid-70's but he still liked to keep up on the latest news in his field of study and his career by attending seminars and giving talks to keep up with the current technology and findings in his field of archaeology. Today, he would be giving a talk to a group of other archaeologists from across the country and university professors on this particular day about Kentucky being known for its historic Indian hunting grounds. Finally, after passing the accident scene, he was shaken up a little bit because he still did not know yet if anyone had been killed. He began to more slower than usual and more careful because he knew that speed and driver inattention such as cell phones and texting were the major factors causing vehicles crashes and deaths on roads and interstates these days. Also, he knew weather factors can play a major role in accidents and deaths too such as rain, snow and ice. But instead of turning the radio back on, Joe's mind drifted back into the past.

     He saw himself as new graduate with an archaeology degree from the University of Kentucky in Lexington in 1965. He saw himself sitting behind a desk in a small basement room at one of the Kentucky State Capitol buildings in Frankfort smoking a cigarette. He was propped back in his chair with his feet on the desk thinking he had made it to the big time. He was already freshly out of college with a state job working as the newly appointed state archaeologist. The previous state archaeologist had suddenly died of heart attack in his mid-40's because he was overweight and a heavy smoker and drinker. Apparently, the previous state archaeologist had allowed let the stress of the job get to him.

     It was in the mid-1960's and the DOT in cooperation with the Commonwealth of Kentucky were in the process of building Interstate 65 from the Kentucky state line at the border of Tennessee all the way to the Ohio River bridge that crossed over to the State of Indiana in downtown Louisville. Joe had inherited a monster of a job and did not know what he had taken on or got himself into. No wonder the other Kentucky state archaeologist had died early with a heart attack and stress, Joe had quickly realized. Joe would be called out several times at week to Indian burial sites and encampments along the pathway of I-65 during its construction.

     One of the largest burial sites that the backhoes and bulldozers dug into was the north bank of the Green River in Hart County. Joe was called down to that site where he spent several days documenting and pulling out skeletons remains and bones as well all sorts of indian artifacts. He and his small staff of interns from the UK had to work fast because the state and the U.S. government could not afford to hold up construction and work on the interstate since it was on a timeline and deadline. He had strict order to "document it and seal it," so construction could start up ASAP. Especially, because of the crazy Kentucky weather, construction crews had to work extremely fast during the good weather conditions during the spring, summer and fall so they could get much as done as possible.

     Even though Joe considered himself to be a strictly a scientist and non-believer at the time, he later converted to Catholicism. Now, in his retirement years, Joe attends mass every week in Bowling Green where he and his wife decided to retired a few years ago, joined the Knights of Columbus and serves as a usher. He has had his house blessed by two priests from the Fathers of Mercy out at South Union, Ky., and goes to confession at least twice a year. Also, he prays the Rosary every so often also and says a "Our Father" prayer everyday driving down the road. However, he still feels some guilt and he is sometimes superstitious about the Indian burial sites because of his role in dealing with the sites that were covered up along the way of the building of I-65. He still hears rumors and tales that Indian spirits are roaming the woods surrounding I-65 and that many spirits are angry about what's happened to their burial grounds. The spirits being are blamed by some people for the hundreds of vehicle accidents and deaths on I-65 a.k.a. "Deadly I-65" every year. Joe says you can still hear talk about superstitious tales and rumors throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Some people claimed that the Commonwealth of Kentucky tried to cover up these Indian burial sites by hiding it from the press because they didn't want to the public find out about them. Because it could cause outrage with the public especially among the Indian reservations out West and it would slow down or put a halt on the construction of I-65. But Joe will often dispel these rumors as "hogwash" when people ask him about it.

     When Joe gives his talks at seminars and local churches and community organizations around the Commonwealth of Kentucky and other states, he will educate the groups about Kentucky being known as Indian hunting ground with many shell mound sites found along the Green River and where they also buried their dogs. At Kentucky's Indian Knoll site, he says that 67,000 artifacts were uncovered, including 4,000 projectile points, and twenty three dog burials, seventeen of which were well preserved. Some dogs were buried alone, others with their masters; some with adults, male and female, and others with children. He also says that Archaic dogs were medium-sized and stood about 14–18 inches tall at the shoulder, and are very likely to have been related to the wolf. Dogs had a special place in the lives of Archaic people. And he says that the Cherokee believed that dogs are spiritual, moral, and sacred and the Yuchi are another specific tribe known to have lived around the Green River.  Joe says that The Indian Knoll site is older than 5,000 years, and it is located along the Green River. He also tells them while there's evidence of earlier settlement, this area was most heavily occupied from approximately 3000–2000 BC, when the climate and vegetation were nearing modern conditions. The Green River floodplain provided a stable environment, which eventually led to agricultural development. The abundant food resources and nearby mussel bed made it ideal for Kentucky natives to permanently settle.

     After Joe gave his talk at this particular scholarly seminar at the Hyatt Regency Airport in Indianapolis, he went over to the bar afterwards and ordered a "Kentucky Fire & Ice." The bartender asked,  "What's that?" Joe said, "It's three shots of Kentucky Makers Mark bourbon and three cubes of ice." And the bartender looked at him funny and said, "We usually just call that a triple shot Makers on the rocks." And then the bartender asked Joe, "Where did you come up with that name?" Joe said, "You don't want to know."

“This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.”