Saturday, June 13, 2020

Let's Get Together (And Do It Right)

There is too much noise in the world right now that is producing a level of adrenalin rush never before seen in my lifetime, and most likely yours. Raised blood pressures, accelerated heart rates, stressed out to the max, hypertension overload that is increasing the risk of strokes and heart attacks. What are we doing?

If ever there was a moment for an awakening, it is now. It happened once before, you know, and it could happen again.

It was in the spring of 1966, when a group known as The Youngbloods signed with RCA Records. Later that year they recorded their self-titled debut album. One of the songs on it had been discovered several months earlier after singer and bass player Jesse Colin Young had gone out looking for a place to rehearse. As he entered a club in New York City, folk singer Buzzy Linhart was on stage rehearsing a song. He was filled with emotion by what he heard.

“Love is but a song we sing, fear’s the way we die, you can make the mountains ring or make the angels cry, Though the bird is on the wing and you may not know why, Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"

It was in that moment that Young had an awakening. He ran backstage and asked Linhart who had written the song. The answer was Dino Valenti, whose real name was Chet Powers. He had written the song in 1963.

“Get Together” had been so tightly arranged during The Youngbloods' rehearsals that in the studio no one with RCA dared to do anything to it. It was a pure and self-contained piece of art, whose sacred nature was apparent.

But in New York the song didn't go over very well. It wasn't until the band took it's tour to San Francisco that it's popularity began to rise. It was 1967 and the "Summer of Love."

People then actually wanted to learn to love one another. Imagine, today, a world where peace and love are the counterculture to what we have become, a place where everyone gets along. We need that awakening.

"Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another right now"




Wednesday, June 10, 2020

J.H. McKinley was Bozo Texino


Pleasanton City Cemetery in Atascosa County, Texas is where Clinton County, Kentucky native J.H. McKinley lies buried. Born at Cartwright on March 25, 1893, he was an early-20th-century train man who was also a railroad car graffiti artist, someone who marked up freight cars with pictures and messages in text.

For a long time the identity of Bozo Texino remained at least semi-anonymous. The mythical character McKinley created began leaving his hobo chalk-drawn graffiti/artwork on the sides of boxcars from Maine to California as early as 1919. In the photo you can see his graphic signature and the simple bust of a pipe-smoking character in a peaked hat with an infinity-shaped brim. In 1939, he told a reporter he had adorned a quarter-million or so boxcars since bringing Bozo Texino.

James Herbert McKinley worked for Missouri Pacific, first as a fireman then later as a locomotive engineer. He was known to sometimes wear a checkered shirt, a bow-tie and a derby hat with his denim railroad overalls and is remembered by his peers as one of the wildest engineers who ever worked for Missouri-Pacific.

As I mentioned, Bozo Texino's identity wasn’t exactly a secret. For more than 25 years he wrote a humor column called “Bozo Texino Sez” for Missouri-Pacific magazine and occasionally would write a piece in Albany's New Era newspaper.

"When I was a teenager," he wrote in 1953, "and used to climb the steep grade from the foot of the 76 Falls, I didn't know that some day I'd go to the top of the falls in a boat. When I used to swiim in the 7-foot swimming hole on Ind­ian Creek I didn't know that some day it would be a 77-foot swimming hole. No one could have ever made me believe that some day I'd catch a fish 100-foot above Aunt Ann Ellen Grider's chimney.

Born March 25, 1893, McKinley left Clinton County when he was barely 17 and moved to San Antonio. In 1914 he was hired to work on the San Antonio, Uvaloe and Gulf Railroad, then two years later on the IGN. Both of those railroad companies were eventually bought by Missouri-Pacific. McKinley was promoted to engineer in 1928, but it was his penchant for humor that made him well known and admired through­out that part of the country.

"I remember when very few people trusted a bank and buried their money under the hearth in front of an open fire­place or under a haystack," he wrote in 1954. "Ev­erybody trusted and loved one another and nobody would tell a lie until they started trading coon dogs."

James Herbert McKinley was the son of Charles Ellis and Rachel Neathery McKinkey. He died in Pleasanton, Texas, just outside San Antonio, on February 26, 1967. Several of his relatives live in Clinton County.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Day the Civil War Came to Albany, pt. 4, "Blessed are the Peacemakers"


It was during the late winter and early spring of 1862, as the civil war was now in full swing, that the Union and Confederate factions of the Upper Cumberland attempted to reach a peaceful compromise in order to prevent the raids that were occuring in Fentress and Overton counties in Tennessee, and Clinton County in Kentucky.

Murder, theft and arson had become commonplace during the absence of regular soldiers who had gone off to fight in the war. It was decided that a peace conference should be held in hopes a solution might be reached that would end the senseless acts of guerilla warfare. It was agreed the meeting would be held at Monroe in Overton County.

The Northern side was represented by men from Fentress and Clinton counties. The Southern side was represented by men from Overton County. Since confederate guerilla Champ Ferguson was committing the largest number of atrocities, he was invited to the conference to represent the Confederate interests of Clinton County. It would prove to be a big mistake.

Even though the parties agreed to stop the raids into adjoining counties, on the way back to Clinton County, Ferguson and his men killed four Overton County men. Before the wars' end, most of the Union men who had participated in the peace conference were killed, while others were pursued but only terrorized. Those killed were James Zachary, Thomas Wood, William Johnson, Robert Martin, Joseph Stover, Louis Pierce, Eli Hatfield, Parson Joseph Dalton, John McDonald and a Mr. Taylor. Another was my third great-grandfather, Elisha Koger.

Elisha had been a member of the home guard in Clinton County. On the morning of Sunday, June 1, 1862, just as the sun was starting to rise, he rose from his bed and headed out to the spring that ran beside his home at Oak Grove, with his wife, Nancy, by his side. Shots rang out as a band of men appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Nancy screamed for him to run, but it was too late as Champ Ferguson overtook him and shot him. Elisha threw up his arms and said something, but Nancy couldn't make out his words because the couple's children were screaming.

As shots continued to ring out, he ran toward a fence some fifty yards away. He reached the fence and tried to cross it, but Ferguson and nine other men rode up to him and continued shooting. By the time Nancy reached the fence, the couple's 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was holding her daddy in her arms, covered in his blood. Elisha gasped once, but never spoke. He had been shot more than 30 times. Nancy knelt beside her dead husband's body as Ferguson and his outlaw gang ransacked the Koger home.

Seven months earlier, on Nov. 1, 1861, Ferguson had killed Nancy Koger's brother, William Frogge, as his wife Esther, also watched in horror.

On October 20, 1865, Ferguson was hanged for the brutal murder of 53 people. Nancy and Esther were two of those who testified against him at his trial.

The historical significance of the peace conference rests upon the premise of what might have been, a story of reasonable men who searched for solace during unreasonable times.

For the record, I had family members on both sides of the Civil War conflict who were both persecuted and harmed over what they believed in.

I Come From A Long Line Of Musicians

Anthony Bassano, a 16th century musician who is buried in the churchyard at All Hallows by the Tower, the oldest church in the city of Lon...