Horsing Around in Kentucky

July 10, 2016

On our second day in Lexington, Kentucky for the Southern Legislative Conference we ventured out into the countryside. Amidst the green fields where Thoroughbreds grazed and galloped, there stood the Blue Grass Sportsmen’s League. Here, the LEAPsters were introduced to the unique sport of skeet shooting. Although most of us had already handled firearms before, never had we shot at moving clay targets shouldering a 20-gauge shotgun.

Skeet Shooting

After a safety briefing on the proper way to handle a gun and other expectations while out at the range, we headed towards the fields, all geared up with eye and ear protection. As we neared our station, the firing instructor kindly greeted us and demonstrated our “duck’s” path of flight, to prepare us on how to direct the movement of our firearm. Positioning ourselves at the station’s front, facing the field, hovering a right index finger over the trigger, eyes sighting over the barrel, calming our breath, keeping our arms sturdy and relaxed, checking our positioning to hold the butt of the stock close to our shoulder, we stood ready to call the clay’s pull. (This is work.)


After giving the mark, the orange disk would take flight, hurrying through the field resembling an escaping bird. After hearing a bang and seeing a smoking barrel, our hopes were that the projectiles would meet the clay target. However, more often than not the disk would fly pristine of any shattering and would only break as it landed on a tree or onto the ground, never having been grazed by our ammunition.


As we attempted, failed, and triumphed at hitting our “sim” ducks, our instructor took note of our gun handling and offered much-needed advice on how to successfully fire the shotgun.


Moving through every station with clay disks flying from left to right, from bottom of the field into the sky (forcing us to point our firearm at a 60 degree angle), to rolling on the ground, the number one rule was to direct the barrel with our left hand while following the target’s path.


Doing this would enable us to keep a more stable firearm, ensure that we properly sight the barrel with the target, and keep a more relaxed posture, all major contributors to skeet shooting success.


After firing the various wooden stock, single-action pump shotguns; synthetic stock, semiautomatic shotguns; and the classic over-under, break-action shotguns at the range, we celebrated our marksmanship experiences over a lunch of fried chicken and bread pudding. With beaten shoulders bearing red marks and bruises, some more severe than others, we boarded the bus back to the Lexington Convention Center to prepare for our next treat – a picnic break with some special guests at nearby Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park in Jessamine County, Kentucky.

My Old Kentucky Road Trip–A Conversation With Cameron Ludwick and Blair Hess


In April we began reading My Old Kentucky Road Trip by Cameron M. Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess to prepare for our own road trip to the Blue Grass State! From this book, we learned much about Kentucky, and we used the book as a guide to our time in The Bluegrass State.  Amazingly, the authors agreed to meet with us while we were in Kentucky, and our meeting spot was historic Camp Nelson, a former trading post between the Confederates and the Union during the Civil War.


We were excited to meet the two young women who had helped guide us on our way through the state.  We began our picnic-style rendezvous with the exchange of gifts – evidence that both parties were from the South. Coincidentally, we bought each other Kentucky-famous Bourbon chocolates…


…but they outdid us in also bringing Ale8, the official Kentucky soda. After a round of introductions, we proceeded to enjoy a fun afternoon filled with history, laughter, and most importantly, mentorship.


Did you know that Rabbit Hash, Kentucky (yes, that’s correct) has a dog for a mayor? Neither did we, at least not before reading about it in My Old Kentucky Road Trip.


Luckily, these Kentucky experts filled us in on fascinating facts that make Kentucky interesting and unique – and made us want to explore Kentucky even more.


One interesting place we discussed is in Louisville, the Waverly Hill Sanatorium. Waverly Hill is a former hospital for tuberculosis patients that was virtually a city unto itself, turned into a nursing home after the tuberculosis epidemic. Now, one can join a haunted historic tour (at night!). Testimonials have noted that it is the scariest yet most informative tour in the state.

The conversation throughout the afternoon was humorous and interesting. Blair and Cameron had a special way of telling stories. We clung to every word they said because they made us feel as if we had taken trips with them because of all the details they relayed in their book. We were thankful for the time they took to meet with us and share their experiences and encouragement.


A story can be a powerful tool. This pair has used their Kentucky road trip storytelling and insight to rebrand their beautiful state. We can hope – and practice – to write similarly: inspiring, and full of new experiences and opportunities.


Horsing Around in Kentucky

The last evening activity planned for this day (Sunday, July 10) was Family Night at the Kentucky Horse Park, “a working horse farm and an educational theme park.”


In true “Kentucky Derby” fashion, an enthusiastic trumpeter announced our arrival. We were directed immediately to the food, where we found authentic Kentucky fare like brisket, burgers and corn on the cob.


We were lucky to have enjoyed dinner at a table with Mrs. Leslie Hafner, currently Senior Advisor to the Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, and her husband – who has a political science degree! We had a pleasant conversation and discussed many current issues in government. Mrs. Haslam described her various job duties as a senior advisor to the Governor of Tennessee. She noted the favorite part of her job is being able to not just hear constituent’s concerns but to truly find solutions to be able to assist them.

 We also enjoyed telling the Hafners our favorite parts about our trip to SLC, some of which was directly through their home state, Tennessee, and we even shared some info about our organization, and our blogs, at which they insisted they look. (We were all excited about this since we put in quite a bit of effort!). After dinner with our pleasant company, we headed for the dessert table to sample ice cream and shaved ice. We all grabbed some dessert and began looking for the horse riding area. Sadly, when we arrived at the location of the horse rides it was too late to ride horses, so instead we took a few pictures and headed for the horse museum.


Located in the Kentucky Horse Park, the museum had various exhibits, including a timeline of the horse, breeds of the world, and horses in sports. Some of our favorite artifacts were the old carriages and the jockey memorabilia.


Bryan and Ryan even took the opportunity to continue playing the part they had started the previous night at Keeneland by dressing up in jockey gear.


We learned much about a variety of horse breeds from all over the world before running to catch the bus back to the hotel. Although our visit to the museum was short, we enjoyed learning more about Kentucky’s largest industry!


 After an entire day spent out, we were all ready for some rest, but not before we had a small birthday surprise for Beatriz! She turned 19 today and we (thanks to Professor Yawn) had a surprise “party” for the birthday girl. We all gathered to eat cookies from a unique place called Insomnia Cookies that just happens to deliver freshly baked cookies until 3:00am! We enjoyed ice cream and cookies and looked at the photos from the prior day before calling it another great day and heading to bed.


Author: mikeyawn

Mike Yawn teaches at Sam Houston State University. In the past few years, he has taught courses on Politics & Film, Public Policy, the Presidency, Media & Politics, Congress, Statistics, Research & Writing, Field Research, and Public Opinion. He has published academic papers in the Journal of Politics, Political Behavior, Social Security Quarterly, Film & History, American Politics Review, and contributed a chapter to the textbook Politics and Film. He also contributes columns, news analysis, and news stories to newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Stamford Advocate, Greenwich Time, Huron Daily Tribune, Laredo Morning Times, Beaumont Enterprise, Connecticut Post, and Midland Reporter Telegram. Yawn is also active in his local community, serving on the board of directors of the local YMCA and Friends of the Wynne. Previously, he served on the Huntsville's Promise and Stan Musial World Series Boards of Directors. In 2007-2008, Yawn was one of eight scholars across the nation named as a Carnegie Civic Engagement Scholar by the Carnegie Foundation.

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