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There's a storm coming
Smells of fresh barbecue and the site of homemade desserts

The air was heavy. The weight of sweat, dryness of breath and feeling of clothing clinging to the body all lent themselves to help frame the event. This was the annual Cayce United Methodist barbecue picnic fund raising event. 

As Mary and I left Clinton for the ten mile drive to Cayce, I noticed that the temperature reading on First Community Bank read 97 degrees at 4:30 p.m. That meant that the heat index was more like 105 degrees.  No matter. We were on our way to a political happening. Rand Paul was going to appear at the First Methodist Church in Cayce for dinner on the grounds.   

Cayce is a crossroads of Kentucky Highway 94 (from Hickman over to Murray, Kentucky) and State Highway 123 from Clinton down to Tennessee State Highway 22 going into Union City.  The crossroads now serves to only frame a point of reference. What had been a small self sustaining community a generation ago is now a sign post in the starkness of a few homes, small churches and miles and miles of open farm lands. 

Only the faithful stayed behind through the years to maintain the community spirit. And on this day, late in the day, 400 people braved the heat to stand in line for barbecue.  

Hot!!! Hot!!! All I could think of at that exact time (4:55 pm) was how much I relished the breeze from the two commercial fans working their little hearts out to thrust a semblance of a breeze into the tables set up for the hungry crowd. There were six more such large fans located on the grounds.  

By this time, Mary was in line with over 175 people to buy the first wave of food tickets. I decided to stay put in one place long enough to visually take in the entire scene. 

The fans were moving a stiff hot breeze through the waiting crowd of people subjected to smells of hot mutton and pork prepared by the volunteers. The smell of West Kentucky barbecue rode the heat over the human bodies, leading the senses into a mild stupor of food fantasies. 

cayce picnic line 2010A quiet rumble from the polite line of hungry Methodists, punctuated only by the loud thumping sound of a master barbecue cook cutting pounds of fresh cooked meat as if he was cutting tobacco stalks.  

Thump! Thump! Whop! Whop! A large meat cleaver tore into the waiting hot pork and mutton splintering them into small mounds of dark and light meat to be scooped up into waiting hot trays to be placed on the long outdoor serving tables. 

As I sat underneath the massive maple tree (at least 80 ft tall with a limb structure covering over 75 ft in any direction) I had the desire to throw the entire cup of unsweetened tea into my face for some cool comfort from the heat.  

It had been that kind of day, week, month, three months. Ever since the mid part of May, our daily weather pattern for most days was by 9:00 am 90 degrees or higher. By noon, the temperature reading on the First Community Bank would stand at 100 degrees. Some days at 103 degrees. By late afternoon, the temperature would fall to 91 to 97 degrees. The heat index ranged around 105 to 108 degrees. 

In the summer of 2009, we had this same pattern for three weeks during the last part of August and into September. However, in 2010, this pattern was now going on for three months. 

The heat attacks most of the old buildings in the small towns of West Kentucky. Buildings in Clinton, Fulton, Arlington, Bardwell, La Center, Mayfield all suffered from the lack of any modern system for combating the heat. Older generations of heating and cooling machines behind these buildings would be working around the clock to pump cool air into dark caverns of old brick and mortar.  People’s nerves were beginning to fray. Shattering like a small crack inside the window shield of a car. With each day you could watch the lines of fracture deepen and widen. 

This year of the oil spill, chronic unemployment, no jobs, lack of insurance or  medical care, higher utility costs, forever wars in the Middle East , and now it seems, forever heat indexes over 100 degrees each day, is taking its toll on the spirits and souls of Western Kentucky residents. People are mentally and physically tired of what is being called the “new normal”.

Old timers in these parts say that the heat will break when a massive series of storms flushes the region, bringing long lasting relief. Maybe they are right. As I watched the arrival of Senate candidate Rand Paul take his position alongside the waiting line of people, I began to feel a stirring of awareness. This one is different. This one will break the system.

Paul shakes hands. He meets each person as if they were his newest best friend. Firm hand shake, direct eye contact. Firm voice with a direct no thrill, common sense message about how to reform America, He talks in sound bites of hope and a better tomorrow. The people listen. You can see in their eyes, as they whisper to each other “This politician’s come to hear from real people.” 

All at once, from all directions, Paul is surrounded by the media. In their herd instincts, the media moves as one animal, in a pack. Print, radio, internet, TV, all converge on Paul’s position. The Paducah Sun stakes out a short interview. An Associated Press has traveled down from Central Kentucky to witness this Rand Paul meeting with the church members. Radio stations out of northwestern Tennessee thrust their recorders into the mix for sound bites. Mary Potter stands her ground next to Paul and asks questions for the readers of our West Kentucky Journal. 

Paul is gracious and polite. He takes all comers. He answers most questions straight on. No script, just honest held values and beliefs as to what is the role and nature of our state and federal governments. 

Funny that there are no local media from the surrounding local newspapers or radio stations. Such is the nature of small town news reporting. This is a church event, not a news story. 

Yet, as I watch this spectacle unfold and see the candidate dressed in khaki pants and a long sleeved oxford lavender button down shirt with contrasting light beige tie, I see the One Cayce picnicker: I voted for your dadresemblance of an image from either Robert Penn Warren’s All the Kings Men or William Faulkner’s  Great Gatsby, where bold men took on their times in order to forge a new structure for living.  

In the 100 degree heat, Paul looked cool and sounded as if his plan would lift all in a better tomorrow with a common sense approach to government. Enjoying the food on the grounds were 400 Republicans, Democrats, and Independents all held captive by this geography and this place of mind. 

For the Democrats, many wondered aloud, “Where was Jack Conway?”  When had he ever come this far into the Jackson Purchase to bring his message of what his tomorrow would mean?  

For the Republicans, many wondered aloud, “Who was this man?” How did he defeat our best traditional standard bearer to now lead them into battle? 

For the Independents, many wondered aloud, “Should they trust this stranger to the future of West Kentucky?” Could he be the one to lead them out of this corporate big government mess where Republicans and Democrats sound and look the same in the insane world of Frankfort and Washington DC? 

As I watched all of this interaction, I noticed the storm clouds rising to over 50,000 ft. Massive storms were coming. Would the fact that Paul saw fit to travel over 400 miles in one day from his base in Bowling Green to a little cross roads of a former town called Cayce be the start of political revolution in west Kentucky? 

Could this meeting and juncture of good West Kentucky food with the call for unity against big government and big corporations set the stage for a new political and cultural movement along the edges of what passes for civilization in far Western Kentucky? Will the Democrats choke on their attempts to organize the west through a series of TV commercials without ever hearing the witness of the people’s concerns? 

In the past 5 years, the West has endured a hurricane, three ice storms and a 1,000 year flood. Cycles of the religious Great Revival of 1804-08 and the great debate over the gold standard of 1898 could lend creditability that a third massive realignment of political power and culture is coming with the elections during the 2010 through 2020. 

On a hot night in July, at a little crossroads of rural America, down a state highway where a small church stands, in the shadows of great maple trees and greater spirits of common people, as massive storm clouds formed overhead, something new on the political frontier stirred. Some new beast of political courage was being born.  

Winds picking up. Air temperature dropping. Old, young, middle lives tasting the richness of the hot pork barbecue with thoughts of how their world was becoming different. On the backs of these church going people, the descendants of the early frontier, they are no strangers to living on the edge of modern America. 

They listen as a group, as a collective church family, in one to one talks with the stranger.  Around the shades of the giant maple tree, the people talked of his words and wondered what they meant for their families.  These good people have learned to deal with great storms. They come back from them to rebuild. The question is: Is Kentucky and America ready and able to undergo a great storm of Paul’s “common sense” and less government in this time, in this place we call Kentucky and America? 

Could this gathering along the back roads of far Fulton County, Kentucky, where cotton is still grown, be part of a much greater wave of energy that will manifest itself into a massive storm of harsh reality that washes over our current broken political system ? 

From Cayce Kentucky to the Washington DC, is America ready for this 100 year storm of redefining the course and philosophy which should frame the next cycle of the American experiment? 

Whatever happens beyond this small rural crossroads called Cayce Kentucky, the storm is gathering strength. Soon it will engulf all of us.  

Will history name this storm Rand Paul?

              


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