I’ve lived in Kentucky for almost 2 years now, and I can honestly say that I love it here. I’ve also learned a lot in that short time. For instance, I’ve learned that all cities in Kentucky (“Versailles”, “Yosemite”, and “Athens” for example) are pronounced exactly as they are spelled, rather than in the less correct way that the rest of the world would believe (the only notable exception to this rule being “Louisville”, which, other than beginning with an “L” sound, is pronounced nothing close to the way it is spelled).
I’ve also come to realize that fully half of all cars in Kentucky don’t have mufflers, and the other half have been modified to sound like they don’t. This is apparently a state law, and fortunately most residents seem to be in compliance.
But I’ve also learned some facts that I doubt most native Kentuckians even know. For instance, we all know that today Kentucky is known as the “Horse Capitol of the World”, but did you know that it wasn’t too long ago that it was known instead as the “Squirrel Capitol of the World”? That may seem strange, seeing as how there aren’t too many squirrels around here these days, but there was a time a century or two ago when herds of those furry little tree rodents scampered around the countryside with reckless abandon, upsetting bird feeders in every corner of the state.
And then, quite without warning, an unthinking and rather arrogant European arrived and introduced what would become the bane of the squirrel kingdom to our fair state - the horse – and within but a few short decades, Kentucky’s squirrel population was all but wiped out.
The problem is that squirrels are natural prey for horses (I learned that early on in public school), and without a natural enemy of their own, horses multiplied in record droves as they feasted relentlessly and without check on the smaller, natural inhabitants of the state.
Many people don’t know the truth, but contrary to popular belief, when you see horses with their heads bowed to the earth - ostensibly “grazing” on bluegrass - they are in fact actually sniffing & rooting for squirrels, which, upon finding one, they then snort up in a flash through their overlarge nostrils.
I can’t tell you how many times I have driven past a horse farm only to see one of these vicious brutes prancing about with a squirrel tail still sticking out of it’s nose, and my heart breaks as I think of that poor furry little creature – shivering and scared – stuck in the sinus cavity of a horse too high, mighty, and unfeeling to even consume it properly.
Personally, I think it’s high time to affect a change. That’s why I will soon propose a bill to the Kentucky legislature that would introduce another animal to our state that is, like the horse, not native to the area. An animal which will, for the first time in our history, provide the horse with a natural predator of its own, and ultimately help re-balance the scales of nature.
While this legislation and the change that would result from it will take decades to be fully realized, the promise that it would provide to all future generations of Kentuckians should not be underestimated. I love living in Kentucky, and I - along with the other 3 people who agree with me on this - want to do my part in making it a better place for our children.
Imagine if you will, perhaps in as little as only 20 years into the future, a time when every visitor driving into the state of Kentucky will be able to look up and see the sign that so proudly & boldly proclaims: “Welcome to Kentucky, the Mountain Lion Capitol of the World”.