Thursday with Townsel in Letcher County, KY

Bad roads in Carcassonne, Kentucky

I presented the Idea Friendly Method to several groups in Letcher County, KY.

The group from Carcassonne talked about bad roads being a problem. By bad roads, I mean they have two lane traffic on a one lane road. In the mountains of Kentucky. There are places to pull over every so often, but only locals know where they are. So if you meet a vehicle on the road, one of you has to pull over. There are no guardrails, and one mistake you are careening down the side of a mountain.

How to address the problems of these roads in an Idea Friendly Way?

The DOT would need to be involved eventually, but what could happen right now, what small steps could they take? After discussion at their table they:

  • found out that one of the mines owned the road and they could ask them for a right of way, maybe. They’d have to build their connections and research just what the mines could do or not do.
  • decided they could drive the road and find some places where they could put signs up. Perhaps saying things “pull over 1 mile ahead” or “11 miles to the square dancing community center.” There’s plenty of trees along the road that would hold those signs. They would only be temporary, but small steps don’t always have to be permanent.
  • agreed to gather their crowd and get to work right away.

Townsel offered to drive me around the county and look at some of these roads. We ended up spending the day talking about challenges, possibilities and ideas he could take.

Square dancing every week

The Carcassonne Community Center was originally a school built in 1924. It’s been used for square dancing, quilting and a community center for a lot of years. It is the oldest running square dance in Kentucky, providing food and live music. Townsel asked if I wanted to see it, because he did have a set of keys. That made me laugh, there is always someone(s) in a small town that has keys to all the buildings.

Looking for a building and we find another school

Townsel liked the story about the Old Geezers in Akron, Iowa who started a maker space. They brought all of their woodworking tools to one location and now have a maker space. This story got him to thinking. He knows quite a few woodworkers. What if they could come together and make furniture and start a business? And help others? 

Of course I encouraged him. So off we went to look at a building he thought might be good. It was an old parts building with five bays in it. It had been flooded out, and was now housing a church group that was giving out supplies and food to people after the flood. We had a nice visit, and Townsel gathered some information to pursue later. 

Isom Parts Store

One of the women working there, Liberty, was from the Doty Church just down the road. They were originally giving things away from the church, but outgrew it. So they arranged to be stationed in the Parts Store. Liberty had this idea that they needed their own kind of community center. She envisions a commercial kitchen, a place for people to come and have coffee, maybe do some work. There could be workshops in it, and a place for the church to help others. So she bought the old Doty Creek School Building. Her dad just retired as a builder, and now he is repairing the old church.

She offered to show us the building, and we said yes, let’s go!

Blackey, KY folks have an idea

At the workshop, a group of people from Blackey, KY, population 120, showed up ready to get to it. They had their tshirts on, and were the first to volunteer to work through an idea. They would like to create a place to honor their ancestors and do more work around geneology. 

Blackey Folks

Townsel made sure I got to see their small town too. When you look at these pictures, imagine these buildings as being underwater. It’s why the community center, the library and the old bank are not open and need lots of work.


What visit to Kentucky would be complete without a stop where they made moonshine?

Kentucky Mist Distillery in Whitesburg, KY is owned and operated by a couple of young people. It got flooded too, but they have cleaned it up. It’s one of the places that received less than $1000 to repair the place. Yet, they figured it out. I sampled the peach moonshine. The first thing you taste is the actual moonshine. Liquor. Strong. Almost like Everclear. But the kick is the peach! Now that’s an aftertaste.

These folks have opened 2 more locations in Myrtle Beach and one in Alabama. Their Whitesburg location has grown so much, they needed to purchase a building across the street.

Strip Mining

Townsel worked for the mines driving various equipment for many years. His last years were in reclamation. The politics of coal and strip mining are not something I want to talk about. I’m not educated enough to have a smart conversation about the pros and cons. I wanted to know how it worked, and what’s the next steps.

Strip mining is the removal of the soil over a seam of coal. First they clear the vegetation. Then they take out the coal by drilling and/or blasting if needed, removal of the coal and then reclamation. One thing Townsel pointed out was that reclamation could be planting trees in the area after the coal is removed. In these pictures, the vegetation returned naturally. Imagine if walnut trees had been planted. There’d be work and income for people.

The bottom two pictures are the gates to a ranch and you can see the ranch house in the 2nd picture. This property owner is raising cattle, planting trees and doing his best to improve things.

It was a busy day in beautiful Letcher County, KY. Fly into Tri Cities, TN, rent a car and head to Kentucky. They’ve got plenty of airbnb’s and plenty more to see. Find yourself a Townsel.

That’s the best way to see a community, with a local.