Monday, June 12, 2017

Oh, Madisonville

It was quite a weekend in Madisonville. Somebody beat up Wayne at Ferrell's on Friday night. The Lady Maroons won the state softball championship in Owensboro on Saturday afternoon. And there was an LGBT Pride event downtown Sunday morning.

I don't really know much about Wayne. I speak to him a little, and we always wave at each other. But that's no big deal because Wayne speaks and waves to most everyone when they're downtown. He lives somewhere down there, and he tends to show up at city parades and fairs and what-not--sometimes in costume as Batman or Superman. He waters flowers with the retired city manager sometimes. Sometimes he works around the downtown restaurants. I don't believe he drives. Anyway,  when word started spreading late Friday night around the Facebook locals that Wayne was in the emergency room after he had been beaten up at our town's 24-hour hamburger joint (since 1929), there arose a tremendous outpouring of support for the familiar face, testimonials to how nice of a fellow he is and a lot of dire talk about taking the business to whoever it was who did it. Well, thankfully, word got around pretty early Saturday that Wayne was doing OK and that someone had been arrested and charged in the crime. So, that elicited a lot of praise for the police, and we'll see where that story goes from here.

School has been out for a month, but they're still finishing off the 2016-17 KHSAA season. Our McCracken County High Mustangs play in the baseball state semifinals Friday, and they just finished the softball tournament on Saturday. The Madisonville-North Hopkins Lady Maroons won! It's a grueling, double-elimination affair played over three days in the June sun across multiple fields at Jack C. Fisher Park in Owensboro, and it almost always seems to go--as it did this year--very late Thursday and/or Friday nights with an extra-innings game or two and the maximum distance into Saturday evening with the losers-bracket winner extending things by winning the first game against the winners-bracket winner. Madisonville whipped through the winners bracket with 10-1, 12-0, 2-1 and 9-0 wins. But then Louisville Male beat the Lady Maroons, 5-1, to set up a winner-take-all final pitting the two one-loss teams, and I was nervous! I put the whole deal out of mind and enjoyed a giant pool party with steaks and cake in the Shake Rag area of northern Hopkins County, and then I was thrilled to discover when we got home Saturday evening that Madisonville held on to beat Male in the final, 5-3. 

Also, it turned out that the city was organizing a fire-truck escort through town for the team bus when it returned from Owensboro about 9 Saturday night. We talked about going. But my wife would be preaching at Providence Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) on Sunday, and all of us were tired from swimming and partying in Shake Rag. We decided it was best to get to bed at a normal hour. Nonetheless, I talked with my wife about this parade route through town. She played flute in some of the Marching Maroons' 3A-state-championship-runnerup bands back in the 1990s, and she told me that, when they did those bus tours, they'd be met by the fire trucks in Nortonville and then come straight up U.S. 41 on through Earlington, the south part of Madisonville along South Main Street/Frank Ramsey Drive, across downtown and up through the north end of town and out to the high school. However, the band championships were contended in Richmond, Lexington or Bowling Green, so the buses came home on the Western Kentucky Parkway, which enters Hopkins County at its south end. The Lady Maroon softball bus from Owensboro would, of course, enter Hopkins County from the north; indeed, Twitter reports were that the fire trucks intercepted the bus at the Hanson outlet mall's parking lot, escorted it south into downtown Madisonville and back out north to the high school for a pep rally at the school softball field

Madisonville has had a high school since the 1800s, and, by 1907, anyway, it was playing interscholastic sports and using the nickname "Maroons"--it had never won a state championship in any sport until Saturday.

So then came Sunday morning and the Pride event. It was one of several first-ever events in towns around Kentucky. There is some talk about trying to get a local fairness ordinance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination, but, among grassroots chatter among participants here, the primary purpose of the Madisonville event seemed to be simply a joint declaration of presence--we are here, and we matter, too

I didn't make it. The announcement I saw indicated that the event was to carry on until 2; I got downtown about 1:30, and everything was wrapped up. I came home and caught up on the happy Facebook reports, and it turned out that a 50-some-odd-year-old friend I go to church with spoke. He said he has lived in Madisonville his whole life. He said he talked about his kindergarten teacher warning his dad that the 5-year-old boy was "a little too in touch with his feminine side," about being called "every ugly word" (sometimes to his face), about threats of physical harm, about feeling cast out by his boyhood church home (twice) and about his mid-30s thoughts of suicide. "I know in my heart that God created me, that God knows my heart and that God loves me and who I am. And here's another word for you--God loves you, too."

I am humbled by my friend's courage; I am embarrassed to think about my own sins of commission and omission that have made other LGBT people around me feel isolated and lonely, and I am mostly struck at how sad and scared I would've felt living in a town that so often (or even once ever) rejected me for merely being me. I hope for 50 more years for my friend of feeling loved and supported in his Madisonville hometown, and I imagine I'd be game for whatever legislation would help him feel that way.

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