Friday, November 12, 2010

A Tribute to My Favorite Reader

I do a Library article for the Cumberland County News each week. I thought it only fitting to use the space this past week to pay tribute to my favorite reader.
Curtis Turner was a farmer and a teacher for much of his life. He never made a lot of money doing either, but he enjoyed both nonetheless (well, maybe not the paperwork, as many High School and Central Office staff members have told us over the past few days). He was a farmer who loved his horses, cows, dogs, and cats almost as much as the three little pony-tailed girls who likely drove him crazy for 32 years with pleas of pony rides – both actual and the occasional “buckin’ bronc” game in the living room – , fishing trips, and opportunities to hang onto ropes and “ride” the horse walker. He was a good teacher (based on my own experience and on those that others have been kind enough to share with me), one that could make us laugh with some dry, offhand comment and scare us in the same breath with both his knowledge of “a little bit about everything” and with the pointy toes of those classic cowboy boots. He was a teacher that cared about one’s gender, race, or class even less than he did about that paperwork Jill, Ellen, and Margenia pulled teeth to get. He doled out praise and discipline to the “good ‘ol boys” in the same manner as he did to those admirers who took his class primarily because of his “pretty blue eyes” (according to one visitor at the funeral home, and by implication of much of the hospital staff, Curtis Lee was “eye candy”). And, this is why we loved him – we knew any of us could earn his wrath or his appreciation on any given day.

Come sundown, though, Dad was neither farmer nor teacher. He was a “eat supper with my wife and kids” man. He was a “help with homework” man (even if that “help” was often in much more practical terms than the formulas and theories proposed in textbooks – he often said, “now think about this in real life,” and then proceeded to explain math concepts based on the distance from the house to the barn). He was a news watcher. He was a reader. He loved to sit in his big brown chair in the living room, often with a dog squeezed in right beside him, and pull out his favorite Wendell Berry collection. He enjoyed horse magazines just as much as books of political theory. He appreciated Kentucky authors. He had an affinity for collections about agriculture, sustainability, and simple pleasures in life. He was open to trying poetry, although it wasn’t his favorite and sometimes invoked a little eye-rolling or sarcastic comment. And, this is one of those everyday things that I will miss everyday – walking by and hearing him repeat some line he found particularly interesting or ridiculous, a line he was able to read only because he had not lost his incredibly dirty glasses that given afternoon – but one for which I am incredibly grateful. I appreciate the love of reading that he instilled in me and I feel so fortunate to be in a position now where I can share that love, Tuesday-Saturday, with those of you who feel the same.

Thank you so much to those who made a contribution to the Cumberland County Public Library in lieu of flowers. The money will go toward books in his honor that I know either he would have enjoyed himself or those that we think he would have enjoyed reading to Isabella Kurtys.

Classic pick of the week: The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry (who, by the way, will be speaking at Centre College in Danville on Monday, Nov. 15; it's free - if you live nearby, take advantage)
Dad always liked Alan Jackson. This song reminds me of him.


  1. Liza, you described your dad so well and you are like him in so many great ways. I'm thinking of him and all of you today.

  2. Liza, thank you for sharing that. It's almost like you brought us back in time into your house for a visit with the man and his family. Thank you for the kind note. You are all in my prayers still.

  3. LIza, that was perfect. He was something else and I'm so blessed to have you and your family in my life. You are so much like him. I can't wait to stop in the library.

  4. Thank you all so much for your kind comments. I'm really glad all of you had a chance to know him.