Redefining diversity and riches; loving Pike County

Contributing ColumnistJune 8, 2014 

Larry Webster

Pat Mulloy is a credit to his race. There are two kinds of affirmative action. The good kind is what Pat did, secretly paying the tuition of a highly qualified young black woman so that the college Jefferson Davis went to could be integrated. The other kind is pretending that Maya Angelou was a good poet.

I entered that college the same year and brought diversity myself. Transylvania was unaccustomed to unmannered farm boys with bad clothes and no money. Mulloy was a farm boy, Elmendorf Farm, but our place in Owen County was nameless and thin of soil, bereft of racehorse. I started out with nothing and now, 50 years later, still have most of it.

Riches, to me, are such things as having Mulloy as a friend, and having had Charles Holmes, whose passing occurred last week, teach me English. Holmes, the essence of mild manners, lived 90 gentle years and led many of us at Transy to, as W. H. Auden put it, "commit a social science." He had abandoned chemistry for literature.

Let me report some manners of a different kind. What follows is said to have actually happened and is taken from a news account, last month, in our local newspaper in Pike County, and sort of shows why I like living here.

A 37-year-old Pike County man was in the middle of his wedding vows when he noticed in the audience two former lovers of his bride, one named Little Roy. He didn't take this well at all and proceeded to interrupt the nuptials to argue with his betrothed.

He went to his car, according to police, retrieved his trusty pistol, first "wharped" the bride in the head with it — a word she used under oath — and then pointed it at her head and pulled the trigger. But his trusty pistol did not go off. Witnesses heard, instead of "I do," a click.

Frustrated with the progress of things, the groom then took a "yellow oil can and set the house on fire," the house containing at the time several people. One presumes the friends and lovers of the bride and friends of the groom were seated on opposite sides of the house, and gathered on opposite sides of the yard where they fled to watch the house burn down. When the police arrived they found eight adults, all of which, except for one, the bride described as being drunk, and seven children, mostly not drunk.

The news account did not reveal whether the preacher actually concluded the ceremony and certified the union. However, by the time of the first court hearing, the bride had forgiven the groom, and offered various explanations for his errant conduct.

This story has many morals: Don't invite ex-lovers to your wedding. If you do, hide the gas can. If you are a guest, take a portable fire extinguisher. Don't get drunk until the reception.

Pike County is the wildest place I can tolerate and the tamest place I can be tolerated.

Reach Larry Webster, a Pikeville attorney, at

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