I found myself guilty of complaining about something last week while others were actually doing something about it.

I publicly asked why people aren’t talking about the water problems which have faced people in nearby Martin County since 2000. I was reminded of the situation when I read that bottled water is “as good as cash” in some places, as part of a report about musician Tyler Childers heading up a water drive for Martin County.

If you receive a water bill in Martin County, it includes a warning that old people and children might not want to drink the stuff. While I was whining about how wrong that is, teachers statewide had already put out a call to action and were collecting and delivering bottled water to Inez and surrounding communities.

Clearly, the teachers are leading by example and I want to follow. Instead of continued complaining about it on Facebook, I’m going to seek ways to route water to collection points at West Carter Middle School, East Carter Middle School, and Carter City Elementary.

I also want to bring more attention to the problem. As one of the educators loading water at the KEA office Saturday said, “It seems everyone knows about Flint, Michigan but no one knows about Martin County, Kentucky.”

Three holes in the rock wall

Be careful when you encourage an old man to tell tales from his childhood.

I was overwhelmed at the reaction and response to my recent Christmas-Day memories of growing up in the community of Thelma, near Paintsville, Kentucky.

I also sparked a bit of a controversy with a theory about the origin of three shallow caves near the entrance, where the road follows the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River.

I grew up thinking the shallow caves had been blasted out with dynamite, and used as a place to store road-building equipment. Later in life, I was told the trio of caves were actually the place where workers mined the stone which was then cut and used to build the Paintsville Country Club, as well as the Paintsville Independent Schools office.

I was not the only one who had questions about the accuracy of that information, as the rock used in those structures does not seem to match up with that left behind.

“I've heard that story among others as to the origin of those ‘caves.’ It's really the story that makes the least sense because sandstone is literally everywhere here,” wrote Scott Wells of Johnson County.

“Mining straight into a highwall instead of simply going 100 feet up the little holler right beside that sight and clearing the brush and topsoil so as to harvest the stone in a much less dangerous and time consuming manner would make much more sense. I myself was told by someone who is usually ‘in the know’ about such things that a university (he did not know which) created the caverns to ‘take samples’ of something that was unearthed when the highwall was blasted out … but who knows.”

Wells, who admitted to being a bit of a “rock hound,” agreed the stones don’t seem to match.

“The sandstone in the country club walls is high in iron content, thus the ‘brownish’ hue. Out there at Thelma, the sandstone is white, which is indicative of a higher calcium content.”

Wells said the storage theory is also weak, since that nearby hollow (where a couple of mining operations have come and gone) would have been better for that.

“The subject has always had an appeal to me. As to the notion that the ‘caves’ were quarried for railroad signal stations, I don't think so … simply too much rock removed for such small undertakings. Thousands of tons of stone taken from those three caves. It seems very odd to me that there are so many stories and legends surrounding what is clearly manmade caves and should have a commonly known explanation. One thing is for sure, all the stories can't be true!” Clearly, we needed the assistance of a local historian. I contacted journalist/musician Waylon Whitson, who almost immediately passed along a response from Eddie Hazelett.

“I believe those were cut to gain stone for the signal houses for the railroad. The same cuts are on the hillside below the road on the section of 1428. My dad said many people always thought it was a mine under the road that caused it to sink but it was stone cuts for the block. I believe the golf course stone was taken from the hillsides on Davis Branch. At least that was the story I remember,” Hazelett said. “The same stone at Paintsville’s board office appears to be same at old city hall and golf course building.”

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