The first time I ever learned anything about Kentucky I was in the third grade. My teacher at the time, Mrs. Olswang, was a Kentucky native. Like me, she was short in stature, huge in personality, and I really looked up to her – both literally and metaphorically.
Back in school, I was what some might call a “brown noser” or a “teacher’s pet,” but that’s not how I saw it. My fascination with learning started at a young age. I was three when I first learned how to read. It was a steady sailing ship from there. Reading, writing, classes – learning was what I loved.
When it came time to pick what state I would write my third grade American history state report about, the choice was simple. I would do Kentucky because that’s where my teacher was from – that and … it was the only state not taken already.
Fast forward to my junior year in high school – my best friend thought he was a cowboy. Some think that’s strange. I however loved it, still love it, and it is one of my prized memories of my first 18 years of life spent in Chicago.
You see, my friend Brad’s dad was from Kentucky. Brad and I were of the “less popular” crowd. We liked loud music and were slightly “out of place.” So we confided in each other along with our friend Claire for what turned out to be a pretty solid trio of friendship for many years. During that time, I rode around in Brad’s Jeep while he wore the boots, Wranglers, the hat, spoke with a slight drawl on occasion for fun, all while blasting Charlie Daniels Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Bill Monroe throughout the downtown streets of Chicago.
Yup, we were definitely out of place. But we loved it.
Brad outside of Claire's house in 2005
Claire and me in Dublin, Ireland in 2004
Brad went on to school in Lexington, Kentucky at the state university there. Claire went on to a multitude of things, but continues to ride horses throughout the country. I am in our Nation’s capital, but tomorrow I make the trip to Kentucky.
It will be my first time there and I’m going on business (also a first for me as a young working woman).
You better believe I’ll be thinking of the good old days of high school the entire time. I always thought my first time in Kentucky would be with Brad and Claire. Oh well. I’ll just have to take a lot of pictures so I can show ‘em at our five year high school reunion in the fall.
And now – as a gift to all of you and myself – I leave you with the top five country songs our trio from high school relied on to make us smile while cruising down Lake Shore Drive:
5. "Mississippi Kid" - Lynyrd Skynyrd
4. "Long Haired Country Boy" - Charlie Daniels
3. "Simple Man" - Charlie Daniels Band
2. "That Smell" - Lynyrd Skynyrd
1. "Blue Moon of Kentucky" - Bill Monroe