An Ode to Lucy Lu – mayor of Rabbit Hash, KY (Small Town, Big Stories Podcast Script February 2019)

https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/anchor-podcasts/small-towns-big-stories

  • There’s been a lot of talk since the first of the year about ground-breaking females in politics. AOC. HRC. RGB. Nancy Pelosi owning the resistance basically. It’s been a banner year for women in politics.
  • I certainly don’t want to make light of any of their accomplishments – they have broken a lot of ground. And I’m sure that with the number of women entering the presidential race that’s only just begun, considering the president won’t take office for another two years, there is a lot more these women in politics will accomplish… But there was one small town,  female politician who passed away last year that doesn’t get enough recognition for her accomplishments – Lucy Lu Kayser.
  • We’ll talk about Lucy Lou and the small town she represented during her years in office here on Small Towns, Big Stories. I’m Liz Carey, and I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years. I love history and finding out the real story behind some of the legends you hear about placesll tales you hear about in small towns. When I published my first book, Hidden History of Anderson County, I wanted to write about all the stories I’d always heard about in Anderson County that I just couldn’t believe. Turns out they were, in fact, true. And when I talked to people about the book, what I found was that people from all over had similar stories about their own hometowns, that also turned out to be true. This podcast is all about those hometown stories. Be sure to comment below and to subscribe to our podcast, as well as drop us a line at lizcarey@charter.net. We’d love to hear from you.
  • And be sure to look for some of my other writing at The Daily Yonder, an online newspaper about rural issues; Business North, a business publication for the Duluth, Minnesota area; WorkersCompensation.com, an online workers’ compensation industry newspaper and on my blog at Hell’s Funny Belle.com, a snarky look at growing up southern, and Hot and Sour Sass, a look at hot and sour soup across the country… yes, I know… I’m a little weird. It happens.
  • Coming soon, on Small Towns, Big Stories, we’ll be talking about Paris in April; Nederland, Colorado’s love of frozen dead guys; and how Versailles, Kentucky started up because of water. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast now to get all of the upcoming shows, and drop us an email at liz@lizcareyllc.com to get our weekly newsletter.
  • So, Lucy Lu was the first female mayor of Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, population 315. After running on the slogan, “A bitch you can country on”, Lucy found nationwide fame and recognition. It was a slogan and office that propelled her into a life of public service and public attention that lasted most of her adult life. For eight years, she was head to tail the representation of all that made Rabbit Hash special, until health issues forced her to resign her post. Her best features – a winning personality, great grooming and the ability to fetch – will always be remembered in the little town on the Ohio River. Paws down, she was absolutely one of the top five mayors in Rabbit Hash history.
  • Yes, as you might have guessed by now, Lucy Lu was a dog. A border collie, to be exact. In her first, and only election, Lucy Lu beat out 10 other dogs, a cat, a possum and a jack ass for her seat. To be perfectly honest, that sounds like any other election to me, but… that’s another story entirely. But this story – the story of a little town on the banks of a huge river, and how its canine mayor brought it to national attention, is the story we’ll talk about here, this week on Small Towns, Big Stories.
  1. In September of last year, Lucy Lu Kayser died after some health issues. Lucy was forced her to step down as Mayor of Rabbit Hash, Ky in 2016. Bobbi Kayser, her owner, posted a tribute to Lucy Lu on Facebook to announce the news.
  1. “She was an astounding canine who brought joy to many more people that just her immediate family,” Kayser posted. “I’m so proud to have known her and shared these short years on earth with her. Run free and easy, sweet girl. Momma loves you.”
  1. Sorry, I get all teary eyed just thinking about that. I don’t know what I’d do without my dog, Chloe, and she doesn’t do much more than lay around and inadvertently pose for pictures to be posted on Instagram.
  1. Lucy Lu was a bit more than that – although I think she’d probably be an Instagram star now, given the opportunity. Who wouldn’t want to follow a dog who was mayor? People follow Jerry Springer, don’t they?
  1. In fact, Lucy Lou was the third canine mayor of Rabbit Hash, succeeding Junior Cochran, a black Labrador retriever. Goofy Borneman-Calhoun, the first canine mayor of Rabbit Hash, was elected in 1998 to serve a four year term. Goofy died in office in July 2001.
  1. After that, the post remained unfilled and un-thought of until the next election three years later in 2004. Junior assumed office and almost immediately garnered local attention when it was determined that his presence at the Rabbit Hash General Store was a health code violation. Junior’s owner petitioned the Northern Kentucky Department of Health to let him enter the general store since, well, he WAS the mayor and all…
  1. If you’ve never been to Rabbit Hash, you really should go. Located in Northern Kentucky, it’s just down the river from Florence and Burlington, Kentucky and consists of 12 buildings, 6 “structures” and 315 residents, for the most part. Started in the early 1830s, the town was originally called “Carlton” – like Carlton the Doorman from the 1970s TV show Rhoda? Remember? Or like the cousin of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? If you’re old like me, you’re now saying “This is Carlton the Doorman” in a monotone voice, aren’t you? And if you’re not old like me, you’re doing the Carlton dance in your head now, right? Mental ear worms and images like that will stick with you all day… HA!
  1. Anyway, Rabbit Hash was known as Carlton, and in the mid-1800s post office officials asked them to change the town’s name because they (and others) were getting it confused with nearby Carrollton. According to the town legend, the town got its name from the dish it served up to visitors – Rabbit Hash.
  1. In the late 1700s/early 1800s, the town was known for its abundance of rabbits. And if you’ve ever been out that way, you can see why, it’s just miles and miles of lush farm land next to the Ohio River. But, because it’s near the river, it doesn’t look like great farmland, probably because of flooding. So, if you don’t have lots of cows to eat, you eat what you’ve got right? And what they had was lots of rabbits…
  1. In 1847, the story goes, the residents were gathered in the country store in the center of town talking about what they would be eating for Christmas Dinner. One of the townsfolk said he’d be serving rabbit hash for dinner. Villagers thought it was a hoot and nicknamed HIM Rabbit Hash, but… later on, when it became a popular dish to serve to passengers on steamboats traveling up and down the Ohio River, the town became synonymous with the food it was known for, and Rabbit Hash was what people started calling it.
  • I just think that’s kind of poetic justice for bullies, but… that’s just my take on it, so I’m not sure that means much.
  • And because I know you’re wondering, Hash, if you’ve never eaten it, comes from the French word “hacher” which means “to chop.” In England, and many other parts of the world, money and resource-conscious wives would use as much of their leftovers as possible to make sure there was no waste.
  • Basically, when there was a need to use leftover meat, you would chop it all up with veggies, season it and throw it into a skillet for dinner. By the mid-1900s, Irish immigrants made corned beef hash popular in places like Boston, but “hash” was really a staple in late-19th, early 20t h century kitchens everywhere.
  • We all know some place that serves up corned beef or roast beef hash, right? There’s a place here in Lexington on Harrodsburg Road called Tack House Pub that I am dying to run up to. They’ve got a dish on their breakfast menu called The Giacomo, described as “Our soon to be famous corned beef hash with three eggs any style.” My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
  • I remember eating corned beef hash with my dad on the weekends my mother would go back to see her family in Ashland, KY. Basically, anything we ate when we were left with Dad was fried… fried eggs, fried baloney, fried apples, fried potatoes and skillet fried corned beef hash. Out of a can. Dinty Moore, I think. I don’t know for sure. But seriously, those weekends are why I love fried bologna, fried eggs, fried potatoes and fried apples for breakfast to this day.
  • Pretty sure none of that is allowed on any health diet anywhere, but damn does it taste like home to me.
  • Anyway, like what they call extenders with fried chicken, hash has always been a way to make more of a meal for those around your dinner table. Extenders things that “extend” the meal – so, like if you were to take some of the batter that you put on your fried chicken and mix it up with a little more cornmeal or flour and milk, and then fried it up, that’s an extender… Or you can think of an extended as the softened bread you add to meatloaf, or celery in tuna salad… It’s just a way to take a little something-something and add it to a dish so it will last all the way around the table, which means more for people to eat and consequently makes people’s plates (and consequently bellies) fuller. After all, the measure of a good southern hostess isn’t really what the table cloth and dishes look like, but how full your guests’ plates are. It’s true! I swear on my Aunt Sue’s Goulash recipe, it’s true.
  • With rabbit hash, the recipe is simple:  chop the rabbit into small pieces, add some diced potatoes and onions, season with salt, pepper and sage and fry it up in a little grease (preferably lard) in a cast iron skillet ‘til the potatoes are browned and crispy. This means mushing it down a little and leaving it alone until the veggies start to get browned bits on them. And that, right there, is why I have such a hard time cooking anything with the word “hash” in its title, namely because I have no patience for just leaving a dish alone on the stove for seven to nine minutes without futzing with it.
  • The funny thing though was that as I was researching “rabbit hash,” I found one recipe online that was supposedly from an old 1800s cookbook. Below the recipe there were a few comments, but one in particular caught my eye – “How do you modify this to feed 315 people?” it read.
  • Anyway, like I said, if you’ve never been to Rabbit Hash, you’re really missing out. You drive along country roads past Florence and Burlington along the Ohio River, until you come to a right turn in the midst of a few trees. The road to the right goes down and curves right, then left, and then the next thing you know you’re in this little town. There’s the general store and a picturesque little field next to the river, and a few other buildings, but really there’s not much else – or at least there wasn’t when we were there.
  • Back then, and this was probably 2004, there was a general store and a barn. When we were there last the barn was serving as the town’s meeting place. There were a few posts down the middle of the barn, with a counter-like shelf that connected all of them. On one side of the barn there were chairs, and on the other side was a band and dance floor. In the middle, on the shelf, appeared to be, what I can only describe as a motorcycle gang pot luck.
  • Everyone came in off of their motorcycles and set down their dishes, and it was like “help yourself, then come dance!” I was a little taken aback when I saw it honestly. First, you never know what other people’s kitchens are like, and I’ve seen enough people cook to know that not everyone washes their hands when they cook as often as I and most of my friends do. It’s not every day that you ponder whether or not the dish you’re about to eat ever came into contact with insects traveling over 65 miles per hour…
  • Anyway, beside the barn was this field that led straight up to the water. We took the kids there and watched the steamboats go by, and then let them play in the playground a bit before turning back to the dancing andmusic. The band was playing. People were pulling their favorite beverages out of coolers. We headed to the General Store to grab cokes and fruit punch for the kids. It really was a great time.
  • The General store has always been a draw to the area, not only in the early 2000s, but in the late 1800s as well. It was a popular place for river boats to stop. The flat field that led to the river looks like it would have made a natural stopping off point. But, there’s really little known about the early years in Rabbit Hash. Floods in 1884, 1913 and 1937 destroyed many of the town’s records. All that remains is a little mud in the attic of the general store where the Ohio River crested at 79.9 feet during the flood of ’37. Homes, a creamery, a tobacco warehouse and a blacksmith’s shop were washed away in that flood, but the general store stood, thanks to iron bars that anchored it to the ground. Having lost previous buildings in previous floods, the townsfolk decided it would be best to anchor the general store down, I guess.
  • Sixty years later, in 1997, when the store was in need of repair, the townspeople decided to hold an election. A fundraising election. In order to be mayor, you had to win the election, and it was $1 per vote. Residents and visitors were encouraged to vote early and vote often. And the ballot consisted mostly of people’s pets. Honestly, who would want to run against a dog… can you imagine how hard it would be to say you lost to the family pet? That’s how Goofy won his office – by raising the most money. All the money raised during the election was used to make repairs to the General Store.
  • Similarly, the election of 2004, when Junior won, helped make repairs and changes to the General Store. Junior died in office on May 30, 2008.
  • It wasn’t until August 31, 2008 that another election was held to fill his substantial paw prints. Lucy Lu was elected and became the town’s first female mayor.
  • Now, whether it was because she was the first female mayor, or that someone needed something interesting to write about, or just that it caught the main stream media’s attention at the right time, Lucy Lu started making waves for Rabbit Hash. She had a “Talking Points” walk with Bill Geist on CBS Sunday Morning. She was named Best Elected Official three years in a row by my former employer Cincinnati City Beat. She received a $1,000 stimulus check from Readers’ Digest as part of their “We Hear You America Tour.” She appeared as part of a Canadian television series “The List.” And she served as the grand marshal of the Covington Paw-rade.
  • In 2015, Lucy Lou’s office, propelled by her fame, we’re sure, announced that she was considering a run for President… I’m sure she could have taken Trump in a debate. Bobbie Kayser, Lucy Lou’s owner and then campaign manager, said at the time “All the other candidates are dogs, why shouldn’t a real one run?” Sadly, Lucy Lou was forced to step down from her office and from her presidential campaign due to health issues. She was the only mayor so far not to die in office.  
  • During the latest election in November 2016, a pit bull named Brynneth Paw-ltrow won the mayoral seat left open by Lucy Lou by raising more than $3,000 for Rabbit Hash.  
  • That election raised more than $9,000 for the restoration of the General Store, Kentucky’s oldest. Unfortunately, the General Store was caught up in a fire in 2017.
  • Of course, Rabbit Hash isn’t the only place in America with an animal mayor. I’m sure that comes as a shock to no one who has paid attention to anything remotely newsworthy in America lately.
  • In the late 1990s, the people of Talkeetna, Alaska, population 900 or so, elected Stubbs the cat as mayor via write-in vote. The story goes that a handful of residents didn’t like ANY of the candidates running, so the encouraged the write-in vote and Stubbs, a big orange tabby, won. Stubbs was mayor for 20 years before his death in 2017. Sunol, California residents voted in Bosco, a Labrador-Rottweiler mix, who served for 13 years as mayor. Bosco gained international fame when the communist publication “The People’s Daily” used him as an example that democracy didn’t work. Revolutionaries in pro-democratic China used him as a symbol of pro-democracy in a rally outside of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
  • In Lajitas, Texas, voters put a goat named Henry Clay the 3rd in office as mayor of the small town. Clay is the third in his family to serve as mayor. His grandfather started the political legacy back in 1986 when he was elected mayor. Now, the current Clay spends most of his time beating the heat of the small southern village by drinking beer, Mental Floss reported in 2012, mostly provided by tourists. Would I travel all the way to Texas to buy a beer for a goat? Uhm…. In a word? Yes.
  • One of Bryneth’s competitors, Bourbon, an Australian shepherd, raised came in second in the 2016 election. Lady Stone, another border collie, came in third. That year, for the first time ever, Rabbit Hash gave runners-up Bourbon and Lady Stone official positions, and they now serve as Ambassadors for Rabbit Hash and are ready, in case the mayor is unable to fulfill her duties, to step in as needed.
  • Like the results of the election, Rabbit Hash is changing too. Now, thanks in part to Lucy Lou’s national, if not international, influence, the town has begun to upgrade a bit. There’s a new place to stay – the Hashienda – that offers river views and porches from which to listen to music. The General Store now carries Bybee pottery and all things Kentucky. And the town is a little more popular these days, serving as a refuge for everyone from bikers to bongo players and from musicians to the middle aged.
  • Was Lucy Lou DIRECTLY responsible for all of this? I wouldn’t say that she did it all herself. But her presence, as well as those of the other dog mayors on the national stage certainly opened up people’s minds to Rabbit Hash and made it a much more known place in Kentucky… I mean, surely you’ve heard of Rabbit Hash more than you have nearby Big Bone Lick or Sugar Tit, am I right?
  • Well, that’s it for this time. I’m Liz Carey and I hope you’ll join me again next week for Small Towns, Big Stories, when we’ll talk about how Honea Path, SC helped to change the face of labor in America. Give us a shout at lizcarey@charter.net, or check us out on Facebook at Liz Carey, writer. Or leave us a comment here! We’re always interested in new stories about small towns and what to expect if you go there. Until next time, remember, its’s always the little things in life – be it towns or women – that make life extra-ordinary… (says the five foot four chic…) Thanks for listening to Small Towns, Big Stories!
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