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23rd of February

Monticello Beauty: a hometown meditation


Things which captivate me still, regarding my hometown, Monticello, Kentucky:

 

Blackberries growing along the edge of Sally Burnett Road

Cheeseburgers simmering on Main Street’s Pool Hall grill

Turtles stepping on one another to get pellets at Conley Bottom Resort

Shane Blevins shooting a 3-pointer, the subsequent swish

Cornbread recipes shared at Mill Springs Mill

The word ‘Pull!’ being shouted in a field, followed by shotgun blasts

Horses swimming in an open pond in summer

Church bells ringing at Elk Ridge Baptist Church

Harold Turpin preaching 1 Corinthians 13

Baptism with six friends in a creek one, crisp October

Dennis Wheeler leading a choir on Sundays

Cardinal couples darting from branch to branch at the park

A skier dropping a ski between New Fall and White Oak Creeks

Lake Cumberland reaching into the trees after a rain

Losing a teammate to that same pool one year

Kelda Stringer sharing the Wayne County Outlook with all

The doughboy looking on

Dad driving like Steve McQueen between Delta and Hwy 92

The roar of a Chevy Nova getting me to Bell Elementary

Grandma’s suppers on Tuesday nights

Family reunions at the Memorial Park shelter house

Bus rides to and from Cave Street with Ingrid Coffey

Basketball double headers on Fridays

Kickball tournaments in the Miniard auditorium

 Veteran’s Day parades and our pride in hometown heroes

Open lunch at South Creek Mini Mart

Paul Stringer reading Harper Lee aloud

Jimmy Cooper obsessing over his desk

Mountain View Camp and Chrysalis – God’s very movement

Menville Dishman on our family doorstep, inviting us back to church one more time

 

 

(*image by Mitchell McGuire, Art Deco rendering/design)

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20th of February

In 3 Months: My New Novel, Swimming the Echo


Hey all!

In a little over 3 months (5.30.17), my newest novel, Swimming the Echo, will be hitting bookshelves, and I wanted to give you as much notice as possible.

This novel will delve into more backstory of the fictional town of Seton, Kentucky (first featured in my story collection, Baptisms & Dogs (2014)), and the adventures of one youth who takes it upon himself to explore the terrains of love and loyalty.

Here’s an early synopsis:

IT’S AN ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME.

When a summer job to explore Mammoth Cave lands in Cade Rainy’s lap, he doesn’t think twice.

THE TEEN FROM SOUTHERN KENTUCKY MAKES A BREAK FOR IT.

But when he finds his dad is connected to a man working at Mammoth, Cade discovers there’s more to this trip than meets the eye.

THE CAVE IS JUST THE START.

Cade sets out to map the real route of twisted lies through fissures and stalactites, battling claustrophobia and bats.

EXPLORE. ADVENTURE. DON’T DIE.

EXPLORE. Don’t die.

don’t die

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13th of December

Kentucky Above & Below Ground


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I recently came across Kristen Radtke’s work titled, The Safest Place in Kentucky in an issue of Oxford American. The title caught my eye, and the graphic storytelling blew me away. I’ve copied the work below. Please enjoy this beautiful summary of the Bluegrass State from above and below ground:

 

 

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Categories:  writing tips
29th of September

Lake Cumberland – KY: Hometown Pride


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Recently, Wayne County Judge Executive, Mike Anderson, mentioned a fact I hadn’t heard about the Lake Cumberland – region…ever.

Something that restored some hometown pride.

Being happy with where you’re from on this planet is important, right?

Lake Cumberland – KY.

Great people. Beautiful spot on God’s earth.

 

And not to say I didn’t believe Mike 100%, but I had to look up the recognition myself. (No offense, Mike.) Just wanted to see it.

And there it was: (#4) on USA Today’s 10 Best locations for Recreational Lakes on a list featuring Havasu, Tahoe, and Big Bear Lakes respectively.

Impressive!

 

My heart swelled a little bit in reading that. And as tourism returns to this great area of southeastern Kentucky, there will be opportunities for the business owner, the parent, and neighbor alike. My prayer is that God will continue to use the fine people of Somerset-Monticello-Russell Springs-Albany-and-London to create new opportunities, encourage development, and utilize resources for helping others.

Thanks for sharing Mike, et al.

Time to get ‘TOWNS‘ on these lists in 2016. Just like Danville has done, let’s get this region to a status where people want to retire here.

 

 

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31st of August

The Changing Face of Monticello, KY


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Knowing there’s positive development in my hometown is a wonderful realization. It’s like Christmas but shared collectively rather than the recent American way (self-indulgent, greedy, Black Fridayed).

I found out the fine community of Wayne County is undergoing changes for a new public library!

I love knowing this is happening.

Books. Readers. Future pupils and stories to share amongst family members.

It gladdens a person’s spirits in September, especially when the school year is underway, and it’s easy to forget about anything but the task at-hand. But, this is future planning…and for good reasons!

Imagine: the next generation discovering their favorite authors on the Hwy 90 bypass in Monticello, KY. A middle school kid flipping through a copy of a YA novel (let’s say, The Hunger Games) and saying to themselves, “Hey, I can do this!” and by this they mean, writing a series of prose and sharing it with their family members.

What a cool NEW feature of town!

I’m glad to know this is coming (along with countless other avenues of business being added to town, plus, Lake Cumberland being voted 4th best spot to vacation in the U.S. this year). It takes time, but effort is always the first step.

With this new library going in, it’ll mean:

  • programming via Wayne Co. schools
  • access to titles (popular and obscure)
  • story time for children, theatrical performances (possibly)

 

The Wayne County Outlook has the story here. Click. Read. Share.

Thanks!

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Categories:  brianltucker thankfulness
24th of August

Monticello, KY: Sinkholes and Higher Ground.


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Recently, my hometown suffered a total collapse of Main Street and closure of traffic into, and out of, downtown Monticello.


Fact: Wayne County sits atop the list (apart from Warren County, I believe) as being the most cave-heavy counties in all of Kentucky. And Kentucky boasts the largest cave systems in the world. So, I’m no engineer, but it’s safe to say that building above ground can sometimes have repercussions like this one from a few weeks back in my hometown.

The sink hole on Main Street is a nice comparison to seasons of our lives.

There are times when the ground seems firm, non-cavy. Then, there are times when the road literally collapses beneath our feet (or vehicles), and we’re stranded…or, worse still, devoured by earth and caves.

I say all of this to say–I often forget about my place in the world-at-large.

I mean, I know I’m a citizen of the U.S.A. I know God loves me more than I ever deserve. But, I guess, on a more selfish level, I forget where I’m even standing. Really. The ground I’m walking upon. Day-to-day treading.

Whether it’s Monticello, KY or outside the Taj Mahal in India, there are similarities inside each and every person’s day-to-day existence. There are caves beneath us and risks of falling through at any moment. Our footing might feel firm, but the ground can still give way. Much like an earthquake and it’s destructive capabilities in a matter of seconds, the earth can swallow us whole.

Should we live in fear? No, of course not. But, should we remember where we stand? I wholeheartedly believe so.

Each day is a gift. For a million reasons, I should give thanks. And if for no other reason than just this one at the moment, I give thanks for not being swallowed by the ground I walk upon…not yet anyways.


 

(For funny, continual updates on the progress of the Monticello sinkhole, feel free to follow him/her/it on Twitter @Monticellosink1  Apparently, the sinkhole has a lot going on. Enough to warrant Twitter updates.)

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12th of March

Hat Fetish.


I have an obsession with hats.

See Figure 1 below for proper em-phasis (on the right syl-lable).

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Call it temporary, and I’ll show you a progression. This is compliments of Facebook and its record-keeping self. (Scary, I know.)

2004: (80s party)

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2005: (Halloween shindig with JT and Adam at Campbellsville University)

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2006: (Residence life at UK and Burger King at 2, 3, or 4 am)

1910092_518873466380_2775_n and 1927681_518631561160_1863_n

2007: (Pool table at Casa de Silvers)

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2008: (Honeymoon on the open seas and dry land and Illinois with the Mrs.)

1909712_582937671200_9580_n and 1909712_582935061430_652_n and 1929655_521086905824_118_n

2009: (Halloween in Monticello at the Pyles’ residence)

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2010: (Mexico and Ohio)

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2011: (Mexico again)

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2012: (Gun range with sister-in-law and Florida and Kentucky)

317564_10100347720681890_390089136_n and 391541_10100838067492950_1127156725_n and 394869_10100471228291650_1548253637_n

2013 – Present:

Is, of course, still being written. The lesson learned from the above images?

I have entirely too many hats and…have worn them all to the best of my ability.

I’d like to thank Facebook for this field study in accessorizing. (Maybe the first one ever completed via social media.)

It has helped me learn 2 very important lessons:

1.) All hats are not created equal

2.) There’s a right time and a wrong time to wear a straw hat. There’s NEVER a wrong time to break out the Viking helmet. EVER.

*The Viking helmet shown above was worn during the Writer’s Residency in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. However, it was also a helmet worn during the cruise of January 2009 and was a great conversation starter.

**The golfer hat above was worn during New Year’s celebrations with friends in Lexington, KY.

 

Do you have a hat that you wear almost every day of the week? What makes this the “go-to” hat?

I know I write this with light-heartedness and humor, but I really do look back fondly on all of these silly excursions and appreciate the times shared with good friends.

May you find any (and all) opportunities possible in 2015 to be yourself and celebrate the “less formal” arenas of your life.

God bless!

 

 

 

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10th of March

Mission-minded…Eventually.


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Not but a few weeks after that “Me, Myself, and Irene” experience in the summer of 2003 (see, Playing Possum), I had the chance of a lifetime…
To go to Brazil!

 
Imperatriz, Brazil. Population 250,000, and the second largest city in the Maranhao state. Its hottest and coldest months both occurring during what are our summer months here in the States. It was a truly tropical experience complete with Amazonian rainforests, cave iguanas, and a few pythons along the way. (I still can’t believe that tour guide didn’t tell us about one he saw, while Allison was injured. She definitely would’ve been the weakest link had things gone awry.)
Anyways…this was more than just a luxury trip.
It was a trip with a purpose. No one on the team had taken it lightly. Its duration was 2 weeks from beginning to mid-August, and most importantly, it was a mission trip. (I’d even been blessed enough to have someone support my costs for the trip and pay my way for it!) So, there was great focus within our team going into Imperatriz with willing hearts.

We arrived in Brazil, and it was hot! But, hot in a good way. Have you ever experienced a good heat? I know. I usually hate hot temperatures, too. But, I can safely say this was the first (and only) time in my life where the temps climbed well above 90-100 F, and the sun baked a person rather than microwaved them. There was coconut milk served directly from coconut vendors and plastic straws poking from the tops of them.

 

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There were tarantulas just chilling on the park lawns where couples looked longingly into one another’s eyes unconcerned. (I was educated that big spiders to us were just babies to Brazilians and harmless if left unbothered.)
Then, we met the people. The Brazilian people were the BEST! I can say that, because I grew up with some of the nicest folks in the entire US in southern KY, and I’m being honest. (No offense Mom!)

 

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Brazilians were happy about everything. As a culture, they hugged. You couldn’t be introduced to someone new without expecting open arms to receive you. It was something we all (even the most reserved of us…even though most of us were pretty outgoing) grew accustomed to by the trip’s end.
We returned hugs, laughter, and smiles. The Imperatriz village– where we had revival–accepted us every night for testimonies and sharing our life stories. It was a tremendous blessing. (Remember, I had just survived NYC, the VHS incident with my old Coach, and my letting one of my mentor’s down, see Playing Possum).

 

Then, my antics returned. I lost my head.

 

Maybe it was the 100-degree heat, or, JT waking me up with his humming in the middle of the nights in our hotel. Maybe it was the authentic Passion Fruit juice that we all drank before heading out into the villages each morning without knowing it was, in fact, a sedative. (That would explain the concerned looks that the locals gave us at breakfast time each morning when we drank it by the gallons.) Maybe it was the beans and rice, although I highly doubt it. I loved all of it: Brazil. Even the steakhouses. Especially the steakhouses!

 

But, no, it wouldn’t be something that objective.
It was simply my ego.

 

Do you have one of those?

 

Sure you do. And I know it’s not always as weird as the Freudian label it wears. Plain and simple…it’s one’s self, one’s awareness of self and its comparison to others.

 

Well, I thought I was doing fairly well with my self/ego/what-have-you, when I discovered that the Brazilian’s altruism and compassion seemed to be unending.

 

As others would return from the villages and share the updates of their talks with families and bonding and witnessing, I would keep hearing locals talk about how similarly me and another in the group resembled the locals’ favorite US pop artists at the time. (It is important to state that Brazilians loved US pop music of the 80s and early 90s variety, and it was still basically current to them in 2003.) And, a large part of our mission held singing and skit components, and I vividly remember us walking back to the tour bus…like the Beatles or something and kids shouting at us through the bus windows.

 

They yelled things at Jennifer in our group, and we finally understood they were chanting “Amy Grant! Amy Grant!”
to her.

 

They pointed at me, and again, the ego took hold of me. Unlike Jennifer, I didn’t quite resist the urge to wave and remain on the bus. (That would’ve been too sensible, remember?) So, I listened to their chants and I heard, “Justin! Justin Timberlake!”

 

Without knowing what I was doing, I was back off the bus and waving like an ignoramus at the kind, affectionate crowd.

 

I still remember our preacher’s soft, reaffirming word in my ear, as we re-boarded the bus that day, “Brian. Remember why we’re here. OK?”

 

I heard him. I mean, genuinely, I did. But, I couldn’t turn down the fans. Right? I was too naive (no, immature fits better). Even later in the week, while Jennifer took the high road, I kept on pursuing my fame and not-so-much fortune. I answered to their calls of “Justin!” and even sang a few NSync songs for the kids.

 

Disgusting, I know.

 

The real clincher in this whole charade. Worse than the pretending to be a celebrity, egging it on, and not following Jennifer’s lead the first 15 times was the final reminder.

 

We’ll call it an eternal one for added emphasis.

 

We arrived back in the States. Pictures were developed. Oh, don’t you love how pictures can truly encompass where we were (good or bad) at any given moment in time? Pictures were developed using a very cool, modern option called 1-hour photo. Remember that?

 

And what do I find but a picture of my buddy, our preacher, and me all smiling. Then, I see that it’s been developed using an even cooler feature of 2003, the panoramic photo feature. So, off to the side of JT, a boy he’d just led to Christ, and Coy, you see me. –> A goofy sticker stuck (for some reason to my face), a big cheesy grin, and an ink pen in my hand.

 

What am I doing you ask?

 

Signing an autograph.

 

On our mission trip.

 

Where countless decisions were made inside those 2 weeks that were life-altering for friends in Imperatriz and JT took this picture as a memory. And you have me putting my John Hancock on a card to a small boy who undoubtedly thought I sang “Bye, Bye, Bye” for a living.

 

 

I look back on this knowing that JT and I have laughed about this picture 100s of times. Not because it’s something that should be encouraged, but because of how much we (and yes, I) didn’t know about life. Clueless. The picture still rests on the mantel above the fireplace at home in Monticello. Mom displays my highlights and lowlights alike. And, I love her for it.

 

If you encounter praise or shame, and I know most of us could already fill several books with our experiences thus far, let it be what it is, and work through it. I think of that picture and laugh every time. JT doesn’t find it quite as funny, but he still laughs.

 

 

 

To: Justin Timberlake, you have my sincerest apologies for impersonating you during the summer of 2003.

 

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26th of February

Underdogs Must Win.


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Saw McFarland, USA in theaters today.

Was reminded of the amazing story of the underdog.

Kevin Costner plays coach Jim White (based on a true story). He moves his family to a predominately Latino community of California and takes over within a P.E. teaching capacity, which, in turn, leads to him creating a track team. The local players we discover do so much more than just compete, as it’s shown how they wake up, work in the fields, run to and from school, and participate in practices after school.

Their work ethic is unparalleled to other athletes across California, and the movie showcases how the coach’s family becomes immersed in a community that embraces them, even when he is reluctant to plant deep roots.

Like many true stories, this one reveals its scope to be larger than the 2-hour film itself. It was uplifting and inspiring sure. But, this one had more than most sports classics. I’d put it in the elite category of sports film greats like–Rocky and Hoosiers.

The underdog story rang true with a lot of life lessons thrown in, and (as is often the case with good intentions) Jim White’s family gained more from the move to McFarland than those they lived alongside that first year.

It called to mind a formative, final year of high school basketball for me. I remember the 2002-2003 senior year at my alma mater (Monticello High School) and playing basketball, as if it were yesterday.

We had a small squad, only won 1 game all year, and that season was the hardest of my life. I remember losing a game and our record moving to 0-10, and I felt like the world had stopped turning at that tournament in northern Kentucky.

I remember our coach not taking it out on us; he knew it was just nearing the middle of a tumultuous storm that wouldn’t let up until mid-February. Going 1-25 was less than ideal…but he stayed with us.

The illnesses, wearing out 3 pairs of shoes, experiencing bad foot problems, broken bones, and broken hearts were just the beginning of what would be the longest year of our lives. But, I was thankful for the teammates I had.

I watched those 7 runners from McFarland High School, and their perseverance made me reflect (if you can believe it…I hardly can) fondly on my own torturous year. FONDLY. Yes. You read that right.

We lost and lost and lost some more. But, somehow our team learned something in the midst of all of those beatings: we were some tough sons of guns.

Some nights we were down 30 points by half-time and some games we lost by a last second 3-pointer that was partially blocked. But, lost we did until the last game of the regular season (and my last home game ever) at MHS (same initials as McFarland, too).

McFarland’s perseverance was in overcoming all of the negative opinions other districts had of them and balancing the hard livelihoods that their families expected of them.

Our perseverance, at Monticello, was similar in regards to the poverty aspects, because we were listed as being the 2nd poorest district in the nation. (Today, we are officially closed as a school system. Our school didn’t have a place to host our 10-year reunion in 2013.) Yet, we didn’t face the finality of not being able to go to college or work in places that we could largely pick on our own accord.

Our options were still fairly limitless.

I’m thankful for the underdog story of McFarland, USA, and it reminded me that my own Monticello, USA story is unique and apart of me, no matter where I go.

Now if I could just get Costner to lace up his Nikes and play Coach Shane Blevins on the big screen we’d be in-business. Does someone know where he can be reached?

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20th of February

God made Dr. James Naismith, and Naismith begat basketball.


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Every March, basketball reigns supreme for many across the US. You won’t see much else on TV from now until mid-April.

It rains 3-pointers most of the year in my home state of Kentucky. In-season, out-of-season, and summer league all seem to run together. We played the game even when we didn’t have a proper ball growing up. (I remember using volleyballs, soccer balls, and even kick balls to throw through hoops during the years of grade school.)

Nowhere will you see such ravenous basketball fans than those that support BBN! Many of us have to remind ourselves that it is (truly…painfully) just a game. Not an idol or any such business to be adored more than it should.

But…it sure is fun to watch.

I see it as a gift.

Glad that God made James Naismith who, in turn, made the game of basketball. Sure he was from Canada, founded another program we don’t speak of too much in the bluegrass state *ahem* KU, and held a less than impressive 55-60 head coaching record in his time, but Naismith got this invention right.

Sure, stress levels are through the roof and the work productivity from Monticello to Covington to Paducah to Pikeville slows to a crawl each year, but the game is amazing to behold.

Questions we find ourselves asking: Will the sophomores step up like they did last year? Can Booker shoot 50% from 3-pt range? Does Cauley-Stein have enough mean bones in his body to be a dominant big man in March? All valid questions and equal to asking things such as: “Should we call off school today because of bad weather or not?” and “How’s your mom doing?”

I love the stress. It is something akin to the fear one has before taking off in an airplane. It’s unsettling and fun all at once.

To quote Mr. David Bowie, “Let’s dance!”

 

 

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