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One part quixotic and one part humor

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By Joe Yates

I don’t have the time to do this, but I have to.  That’s what kept going through my mind as I was debating whether to commit to the challenge of a regular newspaper column. For aspiring writers of any age, an opportunity like this is exciting as well as intimidating.

Although I do not define myself as a writer, it is often part of my job to persuade a judge or a panel of judges that my version of the law isthe law. Writing — or, attempting to write well, I should say — has never been easy for me; staggered bursts of typing come after much head scratching.

Apart from my professional life, I have, on occasion made my personal views known.  One of the folks who responded to my last round of correspondence in this very newspaper saw me on the sidewalk recently and said: “Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you.” Just kidding. Groucho Marx actually said that. Not to me, of course, but I digress.

I have lived most of my life in Henry County. I raised my children here.  I have practiced law for almost 30 years, and in that capacity I have had the honor to represent a number of boards, councils, commissions and to attend their meetings. As a result, I have been witness to many of the changes that have taken place in our corner of the world over the past few years, some good and some not so good.

On the positive side, I have seen the implementation of countywide planning and zoning and the adoption of a preservation plan in our county seat. We now have a thriving farmers’ market. But what alarms me most — and perhaps it is this concern that made me decide to tackle this column — is observing the slow and painful decline of our greater community.

I grew up in New Castle when the county board of education andthe offices for this newspaper were actually in the center of town. I remember when there were five—count ‘em, five — grocery stores.

As I write this, I can hear my children giggling. “Come on, Dad, tell us again about that old black and white TV and those rickety rabbit ears.”

People actually had businesses or lived in the upper floors of downtown buildings, not only in New Castle, but in all of the towns in the county.

There was a well-stocked hardware store, two poolrooms, a fine jewelry store (believe it or not) and three gas stations, all within the city limits.

The county seat of Henry County, Kentucky has, for the most part, come to this: a bank, a doctor’s office, a small restaurant and a few lawyers’ offices. The local drug storewherethe overhead sign once proudly proclaimed ‘Holland’s---Since 1906’—is now a dead man walking. 

Down the road, the center of the largest city in the county looks like the back lot from a Terminatormovie. This newly gouged moonscape awaits, so we’ve been told, the arrival of a shiny new brick island in the middle of an asphalt lake, beckoning jobs that are a notch above minimum wage. Drive-thru window? You betcha! Pedestrian friendly facades?  Not so much. This once proud railroad town will soon be indistinguishable from any other burg with a box store and a couple of fast food joints.

Okay, enough doom and gloom. While community issues are dear to my heart, sometimes I’d just like to make you laugh or tell you an interesting story. So, with that said, welcome to the first installment of my (more or less) bi-weekly column in the Henry County Local.

I plan to tilt at some windmills and might, if the situation calls for it, step on some toes.  But I’ll do my best not to bore you.