The Slow Decay of a Heritage  

Posted by Brock Booher

On the banks of the Cumberland River just south of Burkesville, Kentucky, sits an old two-story house. The front porch has fallen down. Most of the glass has been broken from the windows.

The sideboards are bare and weathered, and the old stone chimney struggles against the elements like a lone sentinel left to guard a treasury that has long since been looted by progress.

At one time the house was a bustling home of activity and commerce.

It sat next to Neely’s Ferry and travelers heading north and south out of Burkesville would pass over the ferry in a stream of commerce. No doubt riverboat traffic also stopped at the house.

A bridge has long since replaced the ferry, and riverboat traffic has been replaced by the railroad or the interstate – neither of which came to Burkesville. Today the house is nothing more than a relic, and a symbol of the slow decay of a heritage.

The geography of Cumberland County Kentucky gave it a distinct personality. The hills and bluffs broke up any continuity and isolated small groups and families. The Cumberland River gave it life, and at the same time also divided, and destroyed. The misty woods provided an ambience of mystery. The winding roads slowed the pace of life and change. Because of the geography, small semi-isolated communities with distinct personalities like Black Gnat, Judio, Big and Little Renox, popped up within a few miles of each other. They were usually centered around a one-room schoolhouse and a simple church. Independence and interdependence were a necessity of life.

The isolation forged the framework of a thriving local culture rich in sharp angular features, contrasts, and blemishes like the knotholes in beautiful hardwood boards. A strange mix of hard-working independent folks that were honest and forthright mingled with moonshining outlaws until an outsider couldn’t tell the difference.

They centered themselves around the church and school, yet arrogant scholars considered them backwards and ignorant. They were folks that understood the essence of life better than most well-heeled and well-spoken city folk. Maybe they didn't understand the danger of a dangling participle, but they knew a charlatan in a heartbeat.

Proximity forced them to learn to get along. Long heated squabbles were counterproductive because of their interdependence, yet their feuds were legendary. It was a place where everyone greeted one another, and knew each other’s dirty laundry. Most were genuine when they expressed concern or sympathy over your troubles. Some, of course, were glad of your bad luck, even if they had the decency not to say it to your face.

I recently travelled the hills of Cumberland County, and I don't know if I've ever seen so many old homes going to waste in such a small area. Old houses and barns stood like ruins of a lost civilization – abandoned structures left to rot and decay while the inhabitants moved on in the name of progress. As river traffic became a thing of the past, the flow of commerce shifted. People picked up and moved with it. My father and his family followed suit.

Cultures are not distinguished by the soft overtones of interaction, but by the sharp angular features that protrude and jut from the group psyche. Differences define a culture, not similarities. As societies become more interconnected and communication improves, these sharp features began to blur until we finally become one continuous mass of human ubiquity.

This is not always a good thing.

When I was nineteen, I left home in the name of progress and never looked back. Sometimes, when people made fun of me and treated me as if I was inferior because of my heritage, I was even ashamed. I spent years trying to eradicate any outward evidence of my southern country upbringing. I smoothed the rough angular edges of my cultural background. Like the abandoned house on the river, I sometimes neglected my heritage.

That was a mistake.

The Danger of Dinking  

Posted by Brock Booher

A danger lurks at every corner. A danger we may not recognize or even know exists. It comes to steal productivity, damage our free time, and interrupt our hard earned rest. I’m talking about that notorious verb – to dink.

The verb dink (as I prefer to use it) comes from the sport of tennis and refers to a soft shot that drops just over the net. It isn’t a power shot that rockets the ball towards the opponent, or a cleverly placed volley shot that skips just inside fair play and then bounces out of reach. If you dink the ball, you hit it lightly over then net with little energy barely keeping the ball in play. This, of course, forces your opponent to rush forward and struggle for a shot before the ball is dead. Somewhere in the 1930’s this verb became symbolic of light action, or action without purpose.

Dinking means to fiddle around at unimportant things or waste time with light purposeless action. Dinking isn’t work, because work, by definition, is the effort expended with a specific purpose or result. Dinking isn’t rest, because rest, by definition, is the act of refraining from work or activity. Dinking isn’t exercise or sport (unless you “dink” the ball during your tennis game), because sports have rules and objectives. Dinking is not a hobby, because hobbies are something done during leisure time for pleasure. Dinking does not fit any of those definitions. Dinking is dangerous because it does not further our work, enhance our rest, or improve our exercise. It simply dinks.

Thanks to a variety of electronic devices, we have become professional at the art of dink in our day. We sit in front of the TV with no particular show in mind, pick up the remote, and began changing through the innumerable channels available in search of something captivating. Usually we find changing the channels more captivating than the content on the channel itself, so we dink away our leisure time without actually doing anything of leisure.

The computer is the perfect dinking tool. These marvels of technology come loaded with superfluous games to while away the time in between answering meaningless emails. When we are done racking up a new high score on World of Witchcraft or Somewhereville, we can dink the day away answering emails about free credit scores, magazine offers, regrowing hair, electronic cigarettes, and online sites to help our love life.

Of course the Internet is the ultimate dinker’s paradise. Online videos, chat rooms, blogs, games, social networks, twits, forums, misinformation, editorial content, and various other free sources of infotainment combine to form a veritable dinker’s black hole that pulls you into its grasp never to release you until your productive time has long been spent.

Earnest Hemingway said, “The time to work is shorter all the time and if you waste it you … have committed a sin for which there is no forgiveness.” Of course I found that quote while I was dinking around on the Internet with no intended purpose. I guess I will seek forgiveness in the next life.

Now, what are you doing dinking around on my blog? Get back to work!