Dressen hangs on the very close fringe of Harlan, just off Ky. 421, just after the railroad tracks and just before the exit to Ky. 72. It's so minor yet so flavorful a community that it is sometimes referred to as Upper Sunshine. That's because Sunshine is the larger suburb and this collection of trailers, apartments and a strip mall are just upper of that, if you think south is upper, and apparently folks do.
Oh, sure, 20 years ago the town's claim to fame was Jack and Denny Ray's Drive-In and a rundown K-Mart but developers got all busy "fixing Dressen" which led to all this progress.
Admittedly, it is now a cramped little town made up of lots more diverse parts -- a Western Sizzlin', a Save-A-Lot, a Do-It Center, a concrete company, a one-way bridge, a tennis court and a 4-year-old on a trampoline. Good ingredients, given enough attention.
It's kind of like Carolyn Pennington's Thanksgiving dressing recipe, which will fill the dozen or so folks who will drop by today to dine. Because some things don't need fixing, she'll prepare her family recipe -- a stale biscuit, cornbread, white bread crumble mixed with butter-fried onions and celery kissed lightly with sage and tossed with nicely cut up gizzards and then peppered and baked in the oven. Pennington considers anything foreign, like oysters or pineapple in dressing, to be progress in the wrong direction.
No, she isn't part of that crowd that calls it "stuffing" either. Something about that word screams "store-bought."
Which is another way progress went in the wrong direction. The native Dressenite has seen it all in her 59 years in this coal camp town. Carolyn used to have to walk to Harlan on a Saturday night for a good time.
Now she can get a pizza, a hammer and a loan without so much as losing sight of the grandkids playing on the swings.