KENTUCKY VOICES
Posted on Thursday, 24 July 2003
Lexington Herald-Leader Kentucky.com site logo

I Second the Motion to Return Boone's Name to Parkway

by Bob Sloan

CONTRIBUTING COLUMNIST

If you didn't see author Silas House's commentary in the July 13 Herald-Leader, you missed an interesting opinion piece.

In a boxing ring, House would be a welterweight at best, but he controls words the way a young Muhammad Ali mastered anything on two legs.

House's novels  - - Clay's Quilt and A Parchment of Leaves - -  have established him as a true heavyweight in the literary world.

In the commentary, House used his linguistic skills to ask how it happened that a road named for one of Kentucky's greatest heroes was rechristened to become the namesake of a garden-variety politician.

The road, of course, is the Daniel Boone Parkway, and the politician is U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of the 5th District.  I stand with House on this one.  It's a change that makes no sense at all.

A Kentucky Transportation Cabinet press release dated June 20 indicates that Transportation Cabinet Secretary James C. Codell III credits Rogers with eliminating tolls on the parkway by way of $13 million in federal funding.

That's an insult to citizens who for decades dropped nickels, dimes and quarters into toll booth hoppers, in the belief that they were paying for the road.  The parkway opened in 1971, and Kentuckians coughed up tolls for nine years before Rogers made it to Washington from Somerset.

How many times do you reckon the road was paid for without $13 million in federal funding?

In the press release, Codell lauds Rogers for "the great things he's done for southern and Eastern Kentucky" and says "we are thanking him today by renaming this road the Hal Rogers Parkway."

Lemme see.  I assumed that was why Daniel Boone's name was put on the road in the first place  - - because he did "great things for southern and Eastern Kentucky."

Like opening up for settlement millions of acres that until then were an unknown, unmapped, unexplored, ill-defined piece of geography hanging loosely off the western end of Virginia.

Like leading groups of settlers through the Cumberland Gap so there could be a Kentucky.

Like coping with fierce and fearsome aboriginal tribes who thought the notion of white people on this side of the Gap was a very bad idea.

Like seeing his friends, even his children, die in the course of making Kentucky a reality.

Rogers, on the other hand, is just another master of pork-barrel politics taking credit for what fellow citizens  - - whose names won't ever be in a press release - -  did.

I've been all over the world and, a long time ago, learned that when you tell people on any continent that you're from Kentucky, they know one thing about you.  You're from the same place as Colonel Sanders, where Daniel Boone used to live.

A little old woman in Hong Kong once looked up at me after hearing me say "Kentucky" and pronounced "Colonel Sanders" and "Daniel Boone" in a way I didn't think they could be pronounced.  She knew who they were, though.

In my years of going overseas with Uncle Sugar's Canoe Club, no one ever asked where I was from and then murmured "Hal Rogers."

House mentioned in his commentary how Boone's lore and legend have represented the best of Appalachian virtues:  loyalty, courage, independence and integrity.  In a world that too quickly accepts Li'l Abner and Jed Clampett as representations of our culture and people, we've been able to say, "That Boone boy was one of ours, too."

Renaming the Daniel Boone Parkway for a garden-variety politician required nothing more than replacing dozens of signs bearing a proud, noble name with new ones, emblazoned with that of a politician.

To Codell:  In the name of all that's fair and rational, for the sake of history and pride in who we are, put things right.  Give us back a proud name for the road thousands of us travel every day.  You can name a culvert or rest area for the congressman.

Daniel Boone died in 1820, and someday Rogers will face his own end.  Wait 184 years.  Then, if people in Portugal and Hong Kong, Turkey and Japan remember Rogers' name, it'll be time to put it on a road.


columns by Bob Sloan:

Roadblocks  (2/27/2003)

Political Penises  (3/24/2003)
A Good President  (4/24/2003)

Un-Social Discourse  (6/19/2003)
Boone vs Rogers  (7/24/2003)

Boone vs Rogers II  (8/28/2003)
Toy Bugle at Vet Funeral  (3/1/2004)

Forgotten Young Soldiers  (6/14/2004)
Flynts Hard to Beat in Court  (8/08/2004)

Homeland Security?  (12/6/2004)
For Love of Kentucky  (5/02/2005)

I Love Mountains  (02/2006)