Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Formerly Dry Counties Don't Shy from Liquor Purchases

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Formerly Dry Counties Don't Shy from Liquor Purchases

Article excerpt

The Kentucky that I grew up in was defined by a dichotomy of religion and liquor. Preachers pronounced certain damnation on those who would partake of the state's signature beverage, but yet the lure of the forbidden was so strong it produced a state of paranoid schizophrenics otherwise known as Baptists. The weirdness was always well capsulized in the old saw that you could legally buy liquor in Christian County but not in Bourbon County.

The state's abundant churches were credited with keeping the Commonwealth "dry" and godly. That never was true, of course. The Kentucky I have known has always been about as "wet" as any other place. You just had to know where to look. And as for godly, I suspect it was no more so than any other place.

My introduction to the no man's land of where liquor and religion meet came early in life. I remember as a child visiting at the home of an uncle, who was a Baptist deacon, and being allowed to accompany the men when he led them out to the barn. There in a machine shed, he'd lift the top off a seed box on an old, two-row corn planter and produce a fifth of Old Grand-Dad, Old Crow, Very Old Barton or similar Kentucky-made bourbon.

The men would pass the bottle around the circle a time or two and then head back inside where the women waited, having turned blind eyes to such excursions, preferring to believe their husbands had been out looking at cattle or hogs or tractors.

Depending on where such gatherings were held, the bottle was sometimes found in a smokehouse or the trunk of a car, but it was always there. I don't ever remember, though, it being inside the house.

My first taste of the fiery liquid came in one of those settings when I was probably no more than 8 or 9 years old, and it satisfied my curiosity for a long time.

For most of my life, the region of Western Kentucky where I live has been dry.

Alcohol was available legally only at Paducah, Hopkinsville, Henderson and Morganfield. The good residents of the surrounding desert have kept liquor stores in those communities in business for as long as I can remember. Anyone running for elective office in my home county would have done well just to station himself at old Lakeland Liquors on the road coming out of Paducah to hand out campaign literature. …

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