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Some of us remember when it was this dry and more . . .


. . . It was as dry as it is this year. Drier. In 1936
. . . and when Mr. Jim Goff's Whippet got loose and didn't know what "Whoa" meant

By Ed Waggener
Quoting liberally from stories Mr. Joe Russsell Barbee knows
So many people are noticing the dry weather we're having. David Herbst, who is now the head country agent for a vast area in Western Kentucky (which officially starts when you turn the corner in downtown Edmonton to head toward Glasgow), said that corn is way up in the Kentucky's cornbelt around Christian County, but it is not getting any rain, and is already twisty.

That's a bad sign.Many people, younger than Grover Gilpin, Lyle Smith, Sam Pelly, Joe Russell Barbee and me are saying this is the driest they have every seen it here.

But it ain't so.


Joe Russell Barbee remembers a year that was drier still. It was 1936. "I was 16 years old," he said. "I remember it well." There was practically no rain that year. It followed a really bad winter of 1935 and 1936.

Tobacco was the main income, even with low prices. "We were just coming out of the depression," Joe Russell Barbee remembers. "There wasn't any money much. We depended on our gardens and our tobacco."

"Tobacco just didn't grow that year," he recalls. "It got up from ankle high to knee high. My daddy had an acre and a half which was raised by two fellows who got half. When cutting time came, they came to Daddy and asked if he'd just take their half as it was, in the field, for $1.50." He said his father wasn't quick to take them up, but finally agreed to do so. "And he didn't come out on it, at that."

Gardens didn't make it that year, either. "And there weren't any berries," he remembers.Today, while it is bad, it isn't that bad, though it is a little disconcerting to see places, like the Taco Bell on Jamestown Street, where the decorative Yucca is thriving in the desert parking lot, making Adair County look more like Waco than Kentucky.The buddies are going to inspect Adair County farming today

Mr. Barbee will be looking inspecting the drought situation today with two lifetime buddies, Mr. Sam Pelly and Mr. Lyle Smith. All of them were born in 1920, attended school together, and were in World War II. Lyle Smith is a little older, by a few months, than Mr. Joe R. In fact, Lyle Smith will be celebrating his 87th birthday this week.

I asked Joe Russell Barbee to find out more about the Star/Durant dealership which operated as Smith Motor Company in Cane Valley one time. He remembered the automobiles. "Miss Mary Lucy Lowe had a Star," he said. "It was navy blue," he recalled. And he remembered Mr. Ray Flowers Durant dealership on Campbellsville Street.

But the story it brought to mind was not so much about Durant automobiles, but about the time Mr. Jim Goff's Whippet got away from him.

The Whippet was parked headed down Campbellsville Street with it's wheels turned completely to the left, along about where City Hall is now. "Mr. Jim gave the car a quarter turn with the crank," Mr. Barbee said. "The Whippet was in low gear and took off on it's own. Mr. Jim jumped out of its way and the Whippet started making slow circles in Campbellsville Street, while Jim Goff stood there with the crank in his hand yelling, 'Whoa! whoa!' again and again.

The car had a mind of its own, but on about the third defiant lap, it banged into the gas pump at the Durant dealership owned by Mr. Ray Flowers, which was on the other side of the road. That was enough to make it stop," Mr. Barbee remembers.

For years, Mr. Barbee said, nobody forgot the incident, and "Whoa! Whoa!" could be shouted anytime two Columbians got together and the story of Mr. Goff and the runaway Whippet would immediately come to mind, and bring instant shared laughter.

Mr. Goff, he said, was never allowed to live the incident down, either.

For years, Mr. Goff ran a furniture store on Campbellsville Street south of Fairground Street, and was an early and principal advertiser on WAIN radio, delivering all, or most of the ads in his own inimicable voice. All prices ended in "9.99." They were $9.99, $19.99, or $99.99, $199.99, and so on. Mr. Jim's delivery was rapid, and with a real good Adair County Mumble, $199.99 would sound like ahunderdninenineninenine. Boys at ACHS got as good as doing that WAIN classic as they did selling "a 1952 Chevrolet coupe, a real clean unit" the way the late T.P. "Cotton" Phelps sold all automobiles as units.One can almost imagine Mr. Jim Goff offering to sell that runaway Whippet for ahunderdninenineninenine, between the "whoa! who!" hollering.


This story was posted on 2007-06-03 09:44:33
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