Motorcycles, JFK, Elvis, Steve McQueen and My Father

Growing up around motorcycles can teach you a thing or two about life.

Our father was a motorcycle cop in the San Antonio Police Department when my mother checked me out of my third grade class on November 21, 1963.

The night before, Dad had taken us to see “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” at the Trail Drive in Theater on S.W. Military Drive. Today, we were going back to Military Drive towards Kelly and Lackland Air Force Bases.

JFK motorcade in San Antonio

“We’re going to see Daddy and the President,” she announced. “He’s escorting him today.”

While we drove to the corner of  Military Drive and Zarzamora, President Kennedy was dedicating the new Aerospace Health Center at Brooks AFB. It would be his final official act.

For three years JFK spoke about a New Frontier. Addressing Governor John Connally, senators, congressional leaders and others, he emphasized “This is not a partisan term, and it is not the exclusive property of Republicans or Democrats. It refers, instead, to this Nation’s place in history, to the fact that we do stand on the edge of a great new era, filled with both crisis and opportunity, an era to be characterized by achievement and by challenge.”

“It is an era which calls for action and for the best efforts of all those who would test the unknown and the uncertain in every phase of human endeavor,” he said. “It is a time for pathfinders and pioneers.”

Although honored to see President Kennedy (his hair was more red than I imagined from photos) and First Lady Jacqueline (white dress, matching hat and red roses), I was more excited about Dad waving to me from his motorcycle next to them in the motorcade.

That afternoon, I reflected on seeing JFK while watching my favorite television show, “Supercar.”

This episode was entitled “Mitch For Space,” appropriately titled to support Kennedy’s space program. The shows protagonist was launched into the stratosphere in a space capsule like the Mercury rockets from NASA.

The next day, Gillette Elementary Principal Willis Raines announced on the public address speakers Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

My father had a shop during my teenage years at his car lot and later on our property on the Southside of San Antonio is the 1970s. But in the 60s it was common for our family to all ride on Dad’s ’59 Royal Enfield Indian cycle.

Sister Bobbi would set just behind the handlebars in front of him. Mom followed, with me bringing up the rear.

Dad looked forward to trailoring motorcycles to the Daytona 200 in Florida with other policemen, including Leroy Ferry and Doyle Soden. He enjoyed being on the pit crew for Ferry who raced several times in the late 1960s-early 70s. Founded in 1937, the 200 mile race was on the beach until 1961, when it moved to a paved closed circuit.

Being an Indian man, Dad was particularly proud when it was announced in 1967 that 68-year old Burt Munro made motorcycle history by setting a new official land speed record of 184.087 mph (with unofficial top speed of 205.67 mph) when he raced his heavily modified 1920 Indian Scout Streamliner across the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Burt Munro

He loved motorcycles so much that he and Soden hired a mechanic and opened up for repairs at their used car lot in 1969. Later, Dad built a larger 30′ × 60′ shop at our property on Petaluma.

It was common to see policemen, some stopping by in their patrol cars or motorcycles, alongside bikers sharing technical or philosophical wisdom in the shop. Their shared passion was a uniting force.

“I like my women like my Harleys,” one old timer, Leon, who looked like he should have been a ZZ Top member before the band discovered beards, once grinned “About 20 years old with lots of problems.”

Mechanic extraordinaire and electrician Archie Maybry, was full of one-liners:

“Sometimes it takes a winding, crooked road to get your head straight.”

“I can tell the difference between people who come in here just toying around as a hobby. The hobby cats buy a new motorcycle and pretend. Real passion are those that are dovoted to keeping their old rides running.”

Dad took us to the Trail Drive In Theater almost every Wednesday, because police officers were discounted. We were always there to see every Elvis Presley movie. One of our favorites was Roustabout in 1964. Elvis played a motorcyclist who joined a circus.

In 1972, Dad was part of the protection and motorcycle escort team for Elvis from the San Antonio International Airport to the Hilton Palacio Del Rio for his April concert at the Hemisfair Arena. He also did the same at Presley’s August 1976 concert.

One of the most iconic motorcycles to ever appear on the silver screen, was the 650cc Triump R6R (disguised as a BMW 75) that Steve McQueen road in The Great Escape, one of Dad’s favorites.

By the Spring of 1972, Dad was a Detective-Investigator and had a special assignment he would always cherish: providing security for Steve McQueen during the making of The Getaway. Some of it was filmed at the old Sunset Train Station and the River Walk.

“By the time they finished filming in Huntsville (at the Penitentiary), he had already made his moves on Ali McGraw…and she fell for him big time–hook, line and sinker,” Dad said. “Well, she was married to a movie big shot, Robert Evans and it was important to him that we keep people away because they were at it hot and heavy.”

“Evans hired a private investigator and even flew to Texas himself because he knew something was wrong,” he continued. “But he (McQueen) didn’t give a flip about it.”

In San Antonio, McQueen and McGraw stayed at the Holiday Inn on Durango Street near IH-35.  The actor had one of his many motorcycles brought in so he could “ride it around and around the basement” of the hotel.

“I guess he was trying to work off some steam,” Dad said. It was apparent they both had motorcycles in common. After his shift one night, he had a couple of beers with McQueen.

“There is no doubt he was smitten by Ali McGraw,” Dad revealed. “He told me they were originally going to sign on Cybil Sheppard, and then Stella Stevens. There was a lot of problems between studios, producers, directors until finally everything was in place. He was real happy they hired her (McGraw).”

“There was an actor who played in The Godfather (Al Lettieri), that you could tell he wasn’t getting along with either.”

“One night we took them to a small party nearby downtown,” he said. “He was drinking pretty heavily and I thought they (McQueen and McGraw) were going to get into a fight. Right in front of her he started coming on to these two women–they were good looking women.”

“She didn’t say a thing. I could tell she didn’t like it one bit, but he kept on. It was obvious he was making a play for them. We finally took them back to the hotel. They had rooms upstairs next to each other, and I’ll be damned if I didn’t see those two women come into that hotel and go right on up to his room.”

“I heard later after they were gone the next morning, he had Ali come over and cook him some breakfast.”

“He needed to ride that motorcycle,” Dad noticed. “She had her young son, a toddler with her and I guess this was his escape. He was riding and drinking down there to stay out of trouble and work off tension. Yes, he was in love big time and later they married.”

Director Sam Peckinpah later talked about an incident on the first day of rehearsal in San Marcos: “Steve and I had been discussing some point on which we disagreed, so he picked up this bottle of champagne and threw it at me. I saw it coming and ducked. And Steve just laughed.”

Dad said they also talked about guns and he shared a couple of true police stories with him.

“He asked about robberies, guns, and how we approached and handled robbers and shootouts,” Dad recalled.

Packinpah talked about McQueen’s knack with props, especially the weapons he used in the film.

“You can see Steve’s military training in his films,” the director remembered. “He was so brisk and confident in the way he handled the guns.”

It was McQueen’s idea to have his character, “Doc McCoy” shoot and blow up a squad car in the scene where he holds two police officers at gunpoint.

His love for motorcycles and racing spawned two notable quotes from McQueen:

“Racing is life. Anything before or after is just waiting.” And the one with McQueen’s picture with his motorcycle in The Great Escape. hanging up next to Dad’s tool room door: “I would rather wake up in the middle of nowhere than in any city on earth.”

Other words of wisdom seen or heard over the years included:

“Got a $5 head? Get a $5 helmet.”

“Life might begin at 30, but it doesn’t get real interesting until you reach over 100 on the highway.”

“I believe in treating others with respect, but first you have to get their attention.”

Dad sat on a motorcycle his last time on a trip my sons Jack, Brady and I took to Dallas-Fort Worth from San Antonio on an Amtrak train the summer of 2012. At a wax museum in Arlington, there was a Harley-Davidson set up in the lobby-retail area. He couldn’t resist! It’s a smile I’ll always remember.

Walter “Corky” Dennis died the following December.

Rest In Peace Daddy.

Things My Policeman Father Taught Me

Some of our regular readers know, my father, Walter “Corky” Dennis was a policeman, homicide detective for the San Antonio Police Department for decades.

He was in the motorcycle detail that traveled beside John F. Kennedy’s limousine in the Alamo City motorcade the day before the President’s assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963. After SAPD retirement, he was employed as a U.S. Marshal and worked on the Federal Judge John H. Wood, Jr. assassination case in 1979 and early 1980s.

One proud moment was when we found out he and I made it in the world famous Ripley’s Believe It or Not cartoon together.

Although Dad taught me a good deal about investigation, forensics, criminal psychology and police work, like all good fathers, he provided immeasurable guidance on other important matters:

1. How to make a fire
2. How to grill meat
3. How to cook on a stove
4. How to create a budget
5. Basic knot tying 
6. Basic woodworking
7. Basic firearm safety
8. How to throw a punch
9. How to take a punch
10. Basic boxing strategy
11. How to change a tire
12. Basic gardening
13. How to change oil in a car

14. How to pray
15. How to play poker
16. Basic first aid
17. How to pitch a tent
18. How to read the Bible
19. How to summarize a book
20. How to map a family tree
21. Basic dining etiquette
22. How to iron clothes
23. How to mow the lawn

24. How to read a map
25. How to be a polite guest
26. How to talk to a girl
27. Where to go on a first date
28. What to do on a first date
29. How to speak to a girl’s parents
30. How to make small talk
31. How to make deep talk 

32. How to pump gas
33. How to rope a cow
34. How to use a credit card
35. How to dress for an occasion 
36. How to “read” a person (later we called it “profiling”)
37. How to milk a cow
38. How to wrap a gift
39. How to write a thank you note
40. How to think critically
41. How to reverse engineer concepts
42. How to look for signs of criminal activity
43. How to ride a horse

44. Basic photography concepts
45. How to be aware of con artists
46. How to tie a tie
47. How to put on cufflinks
48. How to shine shoes
49. How to roof a house
50. How to use a saw

These next ten, I suppose, are not typically taught to most children by their parents in everyday living.

51. How to rescue people from a raging flooded river or creek.

52. How to dedicate yourself to helping, protecting, and sacrifice for other’s wellbeing, safety and benefit.

53. How to respond responsibly to a crisis, strangers in an emergency, and/or communities in need (hurricanes, flooding, fires, etc.).

54. How police and emergency workers respond when one of their fellow men/women are killed.

55. The importance of visiting and helping those in hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and with victims of disaster.

56. Why some people call the police names like “Pig.”

57. Why and how some people repeatedly live a life of crime, hate and anger.

58. How to work for the betterment of a community.

59. How to smile when you are angered, fearful or scared.

60.. How much he loved me and always would, even though there was a chance he might not make it home from work ever.

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History, Texas, Pioneers, Genealogy

From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Three Fingers and a Bird

The True Story of the Profound Lesson I Learned in 1963 on a Barber’s Chair

Just eight miles south-southwest of where I thought John Wayne fought at the Alamo was a spot in San Antonio where serious thinking and deciphering came into my life.

Slightly west of the halfway point along the street I saw President Kennedy on the day before his assassination–between the San Jose Mission and Kelly Air Force Base–is a region where my father was considered “patron.”

Starting on the Southeast corner of Southwest Military Drive, and heading south for eleven blocks on Commercial Street, was the first of five business pillars of our community.

Three proprietors were the foundation of commerce on Commercial Avenue and gaining the kind of momentum two others, Joe Barry and Mr. Stacey had held for a number of years. 

The first was Raymond “Bud” Jones of the “Meal A Minute” 89 cent All-You-Can-Eat -Fish fame. Bud, who passed away in October 2018, opened his legendary restaurant in 1959 at the Military Drive/Commercial southeast corner. Today, this South Side institution still serves the All-You-Can-Eat-Fish for $9.75 with his daughter Cathy and family running it.

Joe Barry owned the Terrell Wells grocery and gas store that eventually became the original VFW Post 8541. My daddy, Walter “Corky” Dennis, would go in to buy a pack of Camels (later on, he graduated to Salem’s) as I would sit in the car and look at the screen on a front door. It was painted yellow and blue with a gingham dressed girl smiling with bread in her hands proclaiming that we should “Reach for Sunbeam Bread.” 

Mercy, did I have a crush on that pretty blond haired-blue eyed beauty! I wondered often if she was kin to Dorothy of Kansas and Toto fame. Perhaps a blond cousin?

Later on, when I became at least as good at ‘cipherin’ as Jethro Bodine, I figured her out. I deduced she was the older sister of another girl and her dog– the little tan one on Coppertone signs who was embarrassed about having her panties almost torn off.

Across the street from Terrell Wells Grocery was Stacey’s Barber Shop. With a prominent barber pole on the south front lawn, Mr. and Mrs. Stacey lived on the north half of their shop in a small white wood framed house.

It was a matter of honor, but mostly courage, to sit up high on the board placed on the white arms of the barber chair of Mr. Stacey. I proudly received my trims from the same man who had cut my great grandfather John’s, grandpa Jack’s and father Corky’s hair.

I liked to go there with Daddy. But Mom, not so much. Momma would always make me sit close to the front door as we walked in. It just did not seem quite right for a girl like Momma, to be in a barber shop. There was nothing really wrong with it. Other mothers and even Mrs. Stacey came in. But a guy could not really appreciate the “feel” of the place with women in there.

There seemed to be more laughter and the men could talk about men’s things like “baseball,” or “a missile crisis” when the women were away.

In early December, Dad took me in. Grandpa Dennis was in one of the waiting chairs at the far right end facing the barber chairs on the left.

Without Momma around I could penetrate farther in and get away from the front door where the Porky Pig, Zorro or Superman books were. Sitting between Daddy and Grandpa I could scan the cover of nearby True Detective magazines. Mr. and Mrs. Stacey would never allow anything more manly than that. But to a guy just about to turn eight, True Detective was very mannish. (Note: The word “Macho” had not been invented yet as far as I know).

As each customer walked in, they were passed an 8 x 10 black and white glossy of what was purported to be the “last picture of JFK before he was shot.” One of the barbers had bought it for a dollar at the drug store located next to St. Leo’s Church on South Flores Street during their 1963 Fall Festival and Tamale Sale. Dad let me look at it and I felt important.

“Okay, Jack, you are next,” said one of the barbers. He was talking to Grandpa, who got up and sat down in a man’s size barber’s chair.

I did not notice who just walked in. I was determining if Daddy would let me go next, after Grandpa, instead of him. If so, Mr. Stacey would cut my hair. Then my odds for getting a sucker were better. Some of the other barbers did not always remember to pass out the suckers. Mr. Stacey never forgot, plus he would let me choose the color. I would leave the yellows or browns for the poor kids that were stuck with the other barbers.

Richard Floyd, my step grandfather sat down beside me grinning.

“Paw Paw,” I grinned back. We hugged.

Paw Paw was a tall human being.   With only one good eye and a few good teeth, he was not much for the world to see, but to me he walked on water.

“What are you doing, gettin’ your ears lowered, Booger?” He waved his hand from front to back over his head.

“They only charge Paw Paw half price, because I only have half my hair.”

What a treat it was to have two grandfathers and a father in the same barber shop all at the same time.

“Are you ready for your birthday?” Paw Paw asked.

When Grandpa Dennis heard that, he called me up and reached in his wallet. He handed me a dollar bill.

“Grandpa didn’t forget your birthday,” he said. “You tell your daddy to get you something with this.”

Paw Paw saw what was going on and he pulled TWO dollars out of his billfold and handed it to me with Happy Birthday instructions to tell my Mom to get me something with them.

Three whole dollars in a matter of seconds and it was the most money I had up to that point in my life. (Note: That amount in 1963 is worth $25.36 today).

When I sat back down, secretly enjoying the $3 in my pocket, my mind immediately jumped to disenchantment. Suddenly, my brain realized what people meant when they said “bad luck or trouble comes in threes.” And it had nothing to do with the money.

I had been waiting for the third calamity to reveal itself ever since my beloved cockerspaniel Blackie died on November 4th and John F. Kennedy on the 22nd.  Within a little over a month’s time, there I was, in the middle of the prohibited end of the barber shop and suddenly going through trauma numero tres!

It was at this moment I discovered that BOTH of my grandfathers had three fingers missing from their left hands.

What was this? Why hadn’t I really noticed their left hands before? Or maybe I did, but it did not register until I saw them both in the same room. Or was it because I was almost eight and noticing more adult things? After all, I had just scanned the covers of two True Detectives.

For at least the next few weeks I was terrified of everything my hands touched. Perhaps this was some kind of omen or family curse? What were the odds? Two grandfathers with the same hands missing three fingers!

My Daddy, policeman Walter “Corky” Dennis, was one of the motorcycle escorts next to the President’s car on the Kennedy motorcade during his San Antonio visit the day before his assassination in Dallas.

Just in time for Christmas, Daddy explained that Paw Paw was only my step-grandfather, so it really did not count—-there was no family curse.

“You do not have to worry about it any more.”

Thank God for Daddy’s explanation. I didn’t know how much longer I could have held out keeping my left hand in my pocket everywhere I went. Each morning when I awoke, I would look to see if those fingers on that hand were still there. Somehow it would sneak out from under the pillow during my sleep.

Definitely, I would not dare do what the other boys were inventing in the cafeteria.   By placing a pencil on top of their middle finger and bending the adjacent fingers over the pencil, they could “shoot the bird.”

Not quite understanding what that meant, as far as I was concerned if I shot that bird it was sure to be a recipe for the family curse. I knew that bird had wings for a reason. Around me it was going to just have to fly away. I did not intend to lose my three fingers over a bird.

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From award-winning Texas author Cynthia Leal Massey.

Prince Philip and John F. Kennedy, Jr.-Touching White House Moment

prince philip and jfk jr

The funeral of Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip occurs today. He died on April 9 at age 99, making him the longest-serving royal consort in British history.

Looking through my “JFK files”, yesterday I found my favorite Prince Philip story of all. It’s a sentimental account of how the beloved royal comforted a grieving John F. Kennedy Jr. following his father’s assassination in November 1963.  

The Duke flew to Washington D.C. to attend President Kennedy’s funeral. At the White House on Sunday, November 24, 1963, Jacqueline Kennedy was looking for John, Jr. and opened the door of his playroom. There she found Prince Philip sprawled on the floor, laughing and playing with the murdered president’s son.

“John-John” would be celebrating his third birthday the following day, on the day of his father’s burial at Arlington Cemetery. He had been heard asking earlier “where’s Daddy?” and proclaiming “I don’t have anybody to play with.”

Her Majesty’s husband decided he would entertain the toddler. It was a touching moment in White House history.

Almost a year and a half later, in May 1965, the British government provided an acre of land to the United States to serve as a memorial to President Kennedy. The site was Runnymede, where 750 years earlier King John signed the Magna Carta.

During the ceremony, Prince Philip and Jacqueline Kennedy held John Jr’s hand.

Was President John F. Kennedy “Too White?”

You be the judge.


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Is South Dakota’s Kristi Noem America’s Best Governor?

CleverJourneys is proud to present the full text of South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s speech at the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference. We think you will find her words to be honest, uplifting and important!

One of our personal highlights, being newlyweds, was on July 3, 2020 as Dodie and I witnessed Marine One fly over our heads taking the President and First Lady Melania Trump from the White House on their trip to South Dakota. They were to meet Gov. Noem at Mount Rushmore for a giant July 4th Independence Day celebration.

Right now, she’s my pick for a Vice Presidential running mate with President Trump in 2024. Read her speech and you will understand why. As a bonus, we are also including her speech at the August 2020 Republican National Convention.

2021 CPAC

Good afternoon. It is such an honor to be here with all of you.

My guess is most of you didn’t know who I was a year ago.

But unlike the D.C. media, I am sure you all at least know there are two Dakotas.

I’m Governor of the warmer one.

I’m here today to share some of the lessons from my state. I think the main question that needs to be answered this weekend is: Why does America need conservatives?

The question of why America needs conservatives can be answered by just mentioning a single year. And that year is 2020.

Everybody knows that almost overnight, we went from a roaring economy to a tragic nationwide shutdown.

By the beginning of 2020, President Trump had created seven million new American jobs. We had the lowest unemployment rate in over half a century — and unemployment rates for Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans reached the lowest levels in history. More than 10 million people had been lifted out of poverty and off welfare.

All of that changed in March. Most governors shut down their states. What followed was record unemployment. Businesses closed. Most schools were shuttered. Communities suffered. And the U.S. economy came to an immediate halt.

Let me be clear. COVID didn’t crush the economy. Government crushed the economy. And then, just as quickly, Government turned around and held itself out as the savior. Frankly, the Treasury Department can’t print money fast enough to keep up with Congress’ wish list.

But not everyone followed this path. For those of you who don’t know, South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close.

We never instituted a shelter-in-place order. We never mandated that people wear masks. We never even defined what an “essential business” is. Because I don’t believe Governors have the authority to tell you your business is not essential.

South Dakota schools are no different than schools everywhere else in America. But we approached the pandemic differently. From the earliest days of the pandemic, our priority was the students; their well-being; their education. When it was time to go back to school in the Fall, we put our kids in the classrooms. Teachers, administrators, parents, and the students themselves were of one mind: to make things work for our children. And the best way to do that was to get them back in the classroom.

In South Dakota, I provided all the information we had to our people. And then I trusted them to make the best decisions for themselves, their families, and – in turn – their communities.

We never focused on case numbers. Instead, we kept our eye on hospital capacity. Dr. Fauci told me that I would have 10,000 COVID patients in the hospital on our worst day. On our worst day, we had a little over 600. I don’t know if you agree but, Fauci is wrong a lot! 

Even in a pandemic, public health policy needs to take into account people’s economic and social well-being. Daily needs still need to be met. People need to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families. And they still need purpose. They need their dignity.

My administration resisted the call for virus control at the expense of everything else. We looked at the science, data and facts and then took a balanced approach.

Truthfully, I never thought the decisions I was making were going to be unique. I thought there would be more who would follow basic, conservative principles – guess I was wrong. 

Ask yourself this question. How far will people go to enforce mask mandates? Once you start lockdowns, how are you going to sustain them? In South Dakota, we had some cases in March and April, but the virus didn’t really hit the Midwest until late fall. Should we have kept people in their homes from March onward? Of course not.

It is important to ask those questions. We have to show people how arbitrary these restrictions are—and the coercion, force, and anti-liberty steps governments take to enforce them. Often, enforcement isn’t based on facts. Justifying these “mitigation efforts” has been anything but scientific.

Many in the media criticized South Dakota’s approach. They labeled me as ill-informed, reckless and even a “denier.” Some even claimed that South Dakota is “as bad as it gets anywhere in the world” when it comes to COVID-19—that is a lie.

The media did all of this while simultaneously praising governors who issued lockdowns, mandated masks, and shut down businesses—applauding them as having taken the “right” steps to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

At one point, I appeared on George Stephanopoulos’s Sunday show. He had just wrapped up a segment with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Where he asked Cuomo to give ME advice on how to deal with COVID.  Now seems like a good time to remind everyone of what Governor Cuomo was doing in New York.

On March 25, Cuomo ordered COVID patients into nursing homes and prohibited staff from testing people before admitting them. Nine days later, he pushed legislation prohibiting nursing home lawsuits over COVID deaths.

Six days after that, he prohibited nursing homes from sending COVID patients to the nearby naval hospital ship or the field hospital. Both of which were essentially empty.

Eight days after that, the first deaths began to show up.

And on January 28 of this year, the New York Attorney General announced that Cuomo and his administration significantly undercounted the number of COVID-related deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent. To make matters worse, they tried to cover it up.

That’s the media’s COVID hero. By the way, he also earned an emmy and wrote a book on his COVID response.  So, who really needed the advice?

Again, in South Dakota we did things differently. We applied common-sense and conservative governing principles.

We never exceeded our hospital capacity. And, our economic is booming. We have the lowest unemployment rate in the nation.  We are number one in the nation for keeping jobs, keeping businesses open and keeping money in the pockets of our people.  The people of South Dakota kept their hours and wages at a higher rate than workers anywhere else in the nation. 

And, our schools are open!

America needs conservatives at the state and local level. But we also need conservatives at the highest level of government too. 

In America, we have government of, by, and for the people. Our Founding Fathers established our national constitution. And the people of individual states crafted their own constitutions that place specific limits on the role of government.

Those limits are essential to preventing government officials from trampling on people’s rights.

The people themselves are primarily responsible for their own health and wellbeing. They are the ones entrusted with expansive freedoms – free to exercise their rights to work, worship, and earn a living.

No governor should dictate to their people which activities are officially approved or not. And no governor should arrest, ticket, or fine people for exercising their freedoms.

Governors – and members of Congress and the President – have a duty to respect the rights of the people who elected them. But it seems these days that conservatives are the only ones who know what that means. “Personal responsibility” is considered a God-given gift in South Dakota. “Personal responsibility” is not a term that conservatives have abandoned.

When I was preparing to come speak with you, I came across some fascinating remarks made back in 1962.

Listen to this:

The Declaration above all else was a document not of rhetoric but of bold decision.

“The Declaration unleashed not merely a revolution against the British, but a revolution in human affairs.

“This doctrine of national independence shook the globe–and it remains the most powerful force anywhere in the world today.”

Fantastic right?

Those are the words of Democrat President John F. Kennedy.

Is there any wonder why Ronald Reagan often said, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”

There was a time when both political parties clung to certain fundamental principles. But today, we seem not to share even the most basic ideals.

America needs people who will stand up for these fundamental principles. America needs conservatives.

It’s easy to look back on 2020 and remember the issues with COVID. But COVID is only one piece of a very problematic puzzle. It certainly showed us how deep the divide really is, and how thin the barrier is between freedom and tyranny.  But there was a worse movement happening in 2020, and it’s an ongoing problem.

Across America these last several months, we watched an organized, coordinated campaign to remove and eliminate all references to our nation’s founding and many other points in our history. Rather than looking to the past to help improve our future, some are trying to wipe away the lessons of history – lessons that we should be teaching our children and our grandchildren.

This approach focuses exclusively on our forefathers’ flaws and fails to capitalize on the opportunity to learn from their virtues–and they had many of those. By discrediting the individuals who formed America’s founding principles, they create doubt. And then they can remake America in a very different political image.

It is our job to help explain why this is wrong.

Remember, America wasn’t founded for the personal gain or personal power of men like Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. The signers of the Declaration of Independence put their lives and sacred honor on the line to affirm people’s God-given freedoms.

Still today, the Declaration of Independence is one of the most important statements of purpose ever written. Not just because it serves as the justification for our Independence to the entire world, but also because it has led to our prosperity and inspired many other nations and peoples to seek freedom.

We the People have consented to a government that will serve all of us equally. A government that will protect and uphold our God-given rights as well as the fundamental rights enumerated by our Constitution. It is our duty to renew our commitment to these ideals and to pass them on to those who come after us.

These ideals cannot be dismissed as the opinions of flawed men. Our Founders had their flaws, certainly, but to use those flaws to condemn their ideals and the greatest Constitution the world has ever seen is both unjust and self-defeating.  How many of us live up to our own ideals? Without the words, the beliefs, and the sacrifices of those few, the world would not have a ringing example of true freedom. To attempt to “cancel” the founding generation is an attempt to cancel our own freedoms.

Let’s always remember: America is good. Freedom is better than tyranny. We are unique. We are exceptional. And no American should apologize for that, ever. We should illustrate to the world that people thrive when government is limited, and people’s ingenuity and creativity are unleashed.

We should also remind the world what happens when tyranny and oppression are allowed to thrive. These days, too many are embracing China – a nation that crushes freedom of speech and religion.

China literally places religious minorities in internment camps. China responded to COVID by trying to cover it up. One of their mitigation strategies was to weld doors shut to lock families in their homes. Friends of China are not friends of freedom.

Make no mistake, America’s leadership is needed in the world.

So now let’s have a really candid conversation. Everyone in this room and those listening at home know that America needs leaders right now. Those leaders need wisdom, the confidence to stand up for our principles and a will to act.  Those leaders need to be conservative.

We have a lot of work to do in the coming months. What may have worked in the past is not good enough anymore.

It is not enough to say, vote for us because your pocketbook will be bigger. Or because we’ll cut your taxes or reduce the regulations. Or because we will fight against abortion or Obamacare or whatever else. 

I’m not saying these things aren’t important. They are among the pillars of what we believe.

Conservatives must lead the nation away from borrowing from our children’s future. We must put an end to the accounting gimmicks used to deceive people. Joe Biden has been in politics for almost 50 years. At that time, our national debt was roughly $450 billion dollars. Today, that’s pretty close to what we pay in interest on our national debt.

Everyone is to blame. We have forgotten principles we once held dear.

We must more clearly articulate to the American people that we are the only ones who respect them as human beings. That we are the only ones who believe the American people have God-given rights.  

We are not here to tell you how to live your life, or treat you like a child or a criminal because you go to church or defend yourself. 

Conservatives respect people as individuals. We don’t divide people based on their religion, their culture or color of their skin. We don’t shun people who think for themselves. We understand that each person is different. Each person deserves the opportunity to build his or her life without some self-important government bureaucrat telling them what they can and can’t do.

We don’t have the media on our side. Conservatives must be smarter than progressives. We must know our history. We must know what works and what doesn’t work. We must think through issues.

Make no mistake about it — conservatives exist to fight for America, and for every American.

For those of you who are disappointed about the election — and I am too — remember, incredible innovation took place after Goldwater’s 1964 landslide loss. It took the creation of many institutions, including The American Conservative Union, the National Right to Life, The Heritage Foundation, the Manhattan Institute, Concerned Women for America, the Federalist Society, Family Research Council, among others — to change hearts and minds.

It was institutions like these that helped bring about the Reagan Revolution and bring America exceptionalism back. Their work is more important today than ever.

So, what can you do right now?

It’s simple. Be bold. Show up. Debate these ideas. Persuade your neighbors.

This pandemic illustrated that many politicians have a totally different vision for government than what the Founders laid out.

It was once said, “The left takes its vision seriously — more seriously than it takes the rights of other people. They want to be our shepherds but that requires us to be sheep.”

Let it be heard loud and clear from us right now. 

We will not be sheep!

I’d like to close today with a story.

My dad was a cowboy. He was the toughest person I have ever known. Ever since I was a little girl, I have wanted to be just like him. He died in a farm accident when I was 22. A couple months after he was killed, I finally got the courage to go clean out his pickup. All of you who have a farmer or rancher in your life know that they often live out of their pickups. Everything important can be found in the cab — wallet, bills to pay, you name it. If you need to find something important, every farmer’s kid knows the first place you look is in the pickup.

As the new General Manager of the business, every day that had passed after Dad died had been filled with a thousand questions. What seed should we plant? What field should we plant first? What is the price we need for our calves to cash flow the cattle operation? And I didn’t know the answers. I remember wishing over and over again that I could ask my Dad just one more question. And frankly, I was running the business, but I was faking my way through it.

I had no idea how we were going to keep our family business going without my dad. But I was determined we were not going to fail.

That day, I carried a box to the pickup to clean it out. I stuck my head into the console and started putting items into the box: pliers, a Baby Ruth candy bar, notebooks, pens, tools… And then I found a tiny tape recorder. The kind a doctor dictates into. I pushed the play button and immediately heard my dad’s voice. He was talking about seed corn varieties and which ones performed well on certain fields we owned.

He spoke about how we had had such a wet year the year before that resulted in poor crop yields and damaged grain. We had had a tough harvest and he went on to describe what kind of variety choices he would have made differently and what he thought might work better for the spring we were anticipating. My eyes started to fill with tears as I realized I was learning information that was going to be helpful to us in making crop decisions.

I looked down into the console and saw several more tapes, almost a dozen in all. One by one, I put them into the tape recorder and listened to my dad’s voice talk about cows, weather, what to do if we were ever in a tough financial situation, etc. Inside those tapes were the answers to so many of the questions I had had over the past several months.

Over and over again, I had said to myself, “If I could just ask dad…” And here were all the answers I needed, straight from him, literally in the palm of my hand.

In that moment, I felt a strange type of peace settle over me. Scripture talks of a “peace that passes all understanding.” It was as if in that moment, God was saying to me, “I will provide. Stop worrying. You will be ok. Your family will be ok. I’ve got this.”

I had the answers. I just needed to get to work. Dad was always the hardest worker. He led by example and action — but that day, what changed everything was his words.

I made the decision that day to be like my Dad. A person of words and action. Both matter.

That’s why I ran for office. My mission is to make South Dakota a better place. A better place to live, to do business, and to raise a family. One of the reasons I care so deeply about these issues is because I want these things for my family and for every American family.

I believe South Dakota has been an example to the nation this past year. People used personal responsibility to protect their families’ health and way of life, while the government respected their rights and freedom.

And we are working together to create new opportunities and a better future for our kids. We took the American path.

Let me close with this. As conservatives, we often forget that stories are much more powerful than facts and statistics. Our stories need to be told. It is the only way we will inspire and motivate the American people to preserve this great country.

We must go into this fight for freedom with our eyes wide open, educated to the tactics the liberals will use, and yet totally pure in our motives. This isn’t about us. It’s about our children and their future. It’s about the nation that we will pass on to them. It’s about telling the stories, over and over, that remind us why America needs conservatives—now more than ever.

Thank you for all that you do. America is blessed to have you on her side. God bless each and every one of you, and may God bless The United States of America.

2020 Speech

I’m here tonight because I believe America is an exceptional nation founded on three principles — equality, freedom, and opportunity. But today, our founding principles are under attack.

This year, the choice for Americans is between a man who values these ideals and all that can be built because of them and a man who isn’t guided by these ideals and coincidentally has built nothing.

Remember, America’s battle for independence and fight for self-governance was something that had never been done before. Men of great intellect and wisdom like James Madison, the Father of our Constitution, hoped our constitutional republic would last for ages, mitigate the problems that would naturally arise from political factions, and prevent tyranny.

Our Constitution gave only a few, narrowly defined powers to the federal government. Most powers were left to the states, so that those closest to the people could decide the laws that would govern their activities.

Madison also authored much of the Bill of Rights because he understood the natural tendency of government to increasingly encroach on the people’s consent and thus our freedom. He urged his colleagues to adopt these amendments to enshrine in our Constitution the ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence:

• That all power comes from the people; and

• That government is created and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people.

Our Constitution guarantees:

• The right to speak, to assemble, and to worship;

• The right to arm ourselves as a counterbalance to a standing army; and

• The right to a fair and equitable criminal justice system.

We must fight to protect these foundational rights from government interference and indifference.

America is unique in the world. Government’s power at all levels is limited to the confines of our Constitution, which protects our God-given liberties and civil rights. We are not — and will not — be the subjects of an elite class of so-called experts. We the people are the government.

At times, our country has struggled to live up to our founding principles. Another great American, Abraham Lincoln, knew that struggle better than anybody.

When he was just 28 years old, Honest Abe saw wild and furious passions, “worse than savage mobs,” he said, taking the place of reasoned judgment. He was alarmed by the increasing disregard for the rule of law throughout the country.

He was concerned for the people who had seen their property destroyed, their families attacked, and their lives threatened or even taken away. These good people were becoming tired of, and disgusted with, a government that offered them no protection.

Sound familiar?

It took 244 years to build this great nation — flaws and all — but we stand to lose it in a tiny fraction of that time if we continue down the path taken by the Democrats and their radical supporters. From Seattle and Portland to Washington and New York, Democrat-run cities across this country are being overrun by violent mobs. The violence is rampant. There’s looting, chaos, destruction, and murder. People that can afford to flee have fled. But the people that can’t — good, hard-working Americans — are left to fend for themselves.

The Republican Party’s commitment to individual rights and self-government is as necessary today as it was in 1860 when we won our first presidential election.

Our party respects individuals based on who they are. We don’t divide people based on their beliefs or their roots. We don’t shun people who think for themselves. We respect everyone equally under the Constitution and treat them as Martin Luther King, Jr. wished, according to the content of their character and not the color of their skin.

In just four years, President Trump has lifted people of all races and backgrounds out of poverty. He shrunk government and put money back into the pockets of hardworking, ordinary Americans. He has advanced religious liberty and protected the Second Amendment. You can look back 50 years, and you won’t find anyone that has surpassed President Trump’s success on these four issues alone.

President Trump places the American people, American liberty, American security, and the American Constitution before all else. He honors the fact that the American people provide the “consent of the governed” on which legitimate government depends.

History chooses its heroes for the time in which they live. At our founding, Madison was one of the chosen. When the nation’s very existence was challenged it was Lincoln’s turn. Thanks to these men, America is a land of hope. Their examples have been repeated in countless ways by simple Americans following their consciences.

But, there is another American hero to be recognized. That is the common American. This is who President Trump is fighting for. He’s fighting for you.

Remain Calm, Trust in God, and For Sure Vote in Person

Blessed with good mentors in life, I’m grateful to carry their wisdom within me. They’ve been especially useful this year.

In early June of 2020 Dodie and I decided we had enough of the bad news spewing out of broadcast and social media.

Long before President Donald Trump’s presidency, I had lost faith in most American news outlets. They have lost integrity over the years—far from the way my Texas State University professors Jeff Henderson and David Yates taught in the late 1970s.

Old Main

I enjoyed a last conversation with Jeff, in Old Main, the castle-like building setting atop the hill in San Marcos. We were in his office and I felt privileged to be back at the Journalism Department, but this was destined to be an especially memorable visit. I wanted to thank him as I had on the dozen or so times I returned to say hi since 1978.

“Jack, I’ve been teaching university level journalism for almost 35 years,” he said. “In all that time, you remain the most talented investigative reporter of my students. We’ve had exceptionally good students come through here, but you just instinctively caught on and blew us away.”

I teared up. He laughed, patted me on the back, then hugged me. We shook hands and said our goodbyes. He would pass away a few years later, in 2009.

There are still good political reporters out there. Susan A. Carter, Sharyl Attkisson and John Solomon are my current favorites. Honest ones, those who have not sold their souls to indoctrination, are rare.

As Dodie and I talked things over, we decided not to trust the news and go see for ourselves. The result was a 32 day roadtrip through 14 states and Washington D.C.. The result? The media had been lying or drastically imbellishing.

Everyone and every place (with the exception of St. Louis and Austin) was nothing as media portrayed. There were good and decent Americans out there all saying the same thing. It was clear we had been media scammed through the Russia-Spy-Dossier-Kavanaugh-Impeachment Gates.

Our confidence in Americans continue to soar. Since our return home to Texas in July, the momentum has spread through Trumptillas (boat parades) and Trump Trains (road caravans) in all 50 states. Hard as they try, the media can’t dim this patriotic power and energy.

Ralph Mehringer, the vice president of Facility Alliance (construction, engineering, planning, maintenance, energy and all things related) at H-E-B Food and Drugs based out of San Antonio, was my boss (1984-2006) and an important mentor.

He taught me to be calm in a storm. Afterall, he had been a Navy pilot on aircraft carriers and a candidate to be one of America’s first Mercury astronauts.

“If you’re going into battle be prepared and be calm,” Ralph said before the half-witted days of political correctness. “Pilots know the plan for any contingency. Make being calm your instinct, not your default. Have no fear. Trust in your God.”

So how do Dodie and I handle the pandemic, the media, and the threat of socialism?

We remain calm, trust in God, and for sure will vote in PERSON.

A few years ago, another facility guy, Pat Griffith, took a liking to me. He was over maintenance at Southwest Research Institute, an important science and innovation center in San Antonio.

In December 2016, Pat gave me a book for Christmas. It was Jesus Always, Embracing Joy in His Presence by Sarah Young.

Pat inscribed it:


I have enjoyed our visits so much and I admire your ability to retain such a positive attitude and love of God thru all the adversity you have had to experience.

Although it was God who has lead you through this day, my hope is with Jesus always you will feel the daily comfort, peace & security you deserve–

Always, Pat

Sarah Young, the author of several popular devotionals, says her writing is “from the perspective of Jesus speaking” and is “consistent with Biblical truth.”

This evening Dodie read aloud the devotional for October 5th.

“Even though this was for four years ago today, listen how relevant this is now.”

Knowing my favorite Bible verse is Psalm 46:10—“Be Still and Know That I Am God—she get’s excited to share with me anything about giving it to God and being calm.

My favorite verse hangs near my bed.

This is the devotional she read.

I WANT YOU TO HAVE NO FEAR of bad news. The only way to accomplish this feat is to have a steadfast heart, trusting in Me.

There is an abundance of bad news in the world, but you don’t need to be afraid of it.

Instead, confidently rely on Me—believe in Me. Find encouragement in My sacrificial death on the cross and My miraculous resurrection. I, your living Savior, am Almighty God! I am sovereign over global events; I am still in control.

When things around you or in the world seem to be spinning out of control, come to Me and pour out your heart.

Instead of fretting and fuming, put your energy into praying. Come to Me, not only for comfort but also for direction; I will help you find the way forward. Moreover, I take your prayers into account as I govern your planet—in ways far, far beyond your understanding.

Don’t dread bad news or let it spook you. Instead, keep your heart steadfast and calm through confident trust in Me.

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Presidential Secrets, Quirks and Facts Most Americans Don’t Know

 In 2017, President Donald J. Trump hinted that he might finally release classified information about the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.

“Subject to the receipt of further information,” he tweeted in October 2017, “I will be allowing, as president, the long blocked and classified JFK FILES to be opened.”

What changed his mind?

Ultimately he did release some information, but concluded that some documents represented a threat “of such gravity” to U.S. national security that any public disclosure benefit was outweighed.

Donald J. Trump

One of the most secret tools of modern days presidents is the “nuclear football” briefcase that contains authentication codes to launch a nuclear weapon. That briefcase is handled by a military aide who accompanies the president whenever they travel. The briefcase also includes the Presidential Decision Handbook, a top-secret document with plans for deploying nuclear weapons against different enemies and in different situations.

Zachary Taylor was the second president to die in office. Taylor spent July 4, 1850, at a ceremony at the Washington Monument. He became ill from the heat and died five days later of intestinal ailments. Recently, his body was exhumed because some believed he was poisoned, but this was proved to be false.

George Washington died peacefully at home on December 14, 1799. The first dinosaur fossil was discovered in 1824. Washington never knew dinosaurs existed.

He, like anyone else at the time, didn’t know that dinosaurs existed because they were not scientifically recognized as such until 1824, when British naturalist William Buckland first described Megalosaurus, now regarded to be the first dinosaur to be scientifically named.

When Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark on their great westward expedition, they planned on the possibility of encountering dinosaurs.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15th, 1865, just months before the Secret Service was founded. The legislation to create the Secret Service was on Lincoln’s desk on the night he died, perhaps if they were created a few months earlier they might have foiled the plot to assassinate him.

Major Henry Rathbone was a guest in the presidential booth when John Wilkes Booth fired the shot at President Lincoln. Rathbone tried to tackle him to the ground, but Booth was able to get free by slicing Rathbone in the arm with a dagger. Rathbone was never free of the guilt till his death.

Chester A. Arthur was nicknamed “Elegant Arthur” because of his fashion sense. He enjoyed walking at night and seldom went to bed before 2 a.m.

Chester Arthur

Franklin Pierce was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.

The next time someone says “OK” think of Martin Van Buren. He was raised in Kinderhook, New York. After he went into politics, Van Buren became known as “Old Kinderhook.” Soon people were using the term O.K. referring to Van Buren and the word “okay” was derived.

President Reagan left a message in the Oval Office that read, “Don’t let the turkeys get you down,” for his successor and vice president, George H.W. Bush.

William Henry Harrison served the shortest presidency, dying just 32 days after he was elected.

Calvin Coolidge refused to use the telephone while in office.

Grover Cleveland personally answered the White House phone.

John F. Kennedy was the first president to hold a press conference on television.

John F. Kennedy

John Tyler was the first vice president to ascend to the presidency upon the death of a president. He did not make an inaugural address, and he never ran for the office of the Presidency.

Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital. He is a speed reader, having been recorded reading 2,000 words per minute.

Herbert Hoover approved “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.

Warren Harding was the first to speak over the radio.

Franklin Pierce was the only president to have no turnover in his cabinet.

Ulysess S. Grant was the first president to view the Pacific Ocean in 1852. He would freak out at the sight of blood and always showered in his tent away from other soldiers during the Civil War.

Ulysses S. Grant

James Buchanan was America’s first (and only) bachelor President. His niece, Harriet, acted as First Lady.

Teddy Roosevelt took a break from the presidency to go camping with Scottish-American naturalist John Muir for 4 days. They explored without any supervision/security. Roosevelt was so inspired by the trip that it eventually led to the creation of the National Park Service. 

But back in the White House he would walk around with a pistol on his person at all times. He was also a black belt in jujitsu and champion boxer.

Theodore Roosevelt

While campaigning for a third term, Roosevelt was shot by a would be assassin. Instead of treating the wound, delivered his campaign speech with the bleeding, undressed bullet hole in his chest.

Lyndon B. Johnson constantly asked the flight crew of Air Force One to change the temperature of the cabin. Eventually, they installed a fake control knob for him to ‘control’ the temperature himself. Then he stopped complaining.

Before he got into politics, Gerald Ford was a male model and actually owned a modeling agency. He married a model named Elizabeth Bloomer Warren, we knew as First Lady Betty Ford. 

Gerald Ford

Richard Nixon had the Secret Service uniform redesigned to closely resemble that of European palace guards. The “toy soldier” uniforms were universally ridiculed and only used for a few months before being mothballed. After a decade in storage, they were sold to an Iowa high school marching band. 

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1826. Not knowing that Thomas Jefferson has already passed John Adams was quoted as saying “Jefferson survives,” when he whispered his last words.

John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams, thought the Earth was hollow. His successor, Andrew Jackson thought it was flat and actually called off an expedition to the North Pole to find the entrance to inner Earth.

John Quincy Adams

He also regularly would swim across the Potomac River, usually in the nude. At 58 years old, Adams was clocked at swimming the width of the Potomac in an hour.

William McKinley was the first president to campaign by telephone.

Franklin Pierce gave his 3,319-word inaugural address from memory, without the aid of notes.

James Madison was the shortest and lightest president at 5 feet, 4 inches and about 100 pounds.

Thomas Jefferson wrote his own epitaph never mentioning that he served as president. His epitaph read, “Author of the Declaration of American Independence, Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.

Andrew Jackson kept a bullet lodged in his body for 19 years after he was shot in a pistol duel.

Andrew Jackson

Lyndon B. Johnson was the only president to take the oath of office from a female official, Judge Sarah T. Hughes.

Harry S. Truman used to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning to practice the piano for two hours.

Kentucky Rain, Bomb Bunker, Bates Motel

Seconds before we left West Virginia on IH64 to enter Kentucky today, it began to drizzle.

Why is that mentioned?

I can guess the first thing my friends Ray and Leland Hammonds think of when the subject of Kentucky is brought up is horse racing. Our parents and grandparents actually raced horses together for decades. (The Hammonds cousins continue to own race horses to this day).

Lydia Dennis, Shirley Hammonds, Annie Dennis, Jack L. Dennis Jr., Kenneth Hammonds, ?, Odell Dennis (jockey).

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind with Kentucky? Whiskey? Bourbon? Bluegrass? Fried chicken?

Being the Elvis Presley fan that I am, of course, my first thought as we entered the state with a drizzle, was his first 1970s hit “Kentucky Rain.” In fact, it was his 50th Gold Record.

Recorded at American Sound Studio, the hit was written by Eddie Rabbitt and Dick Heard. One of the backing musicians was pianist Ronnie Milsap.

Before he was recording hits such as “I Love a Rainy Night” and “Drivin’ My Life Away,” Rabbitt also penned Milsap’s “Pure Love.” 

Both were ecstatic about being associated with Elvis.

Elvis even hired Milsap to be the entertainment at his private New Years Eve Party.

“He was the voice of my generation,” Milsap explained. “I had a million questions to ask him, but he wanted to talk about that session of ‘Kentucky Rain,’ so we talked about that.”

Milsap asked Elvis if he’d like to sing at that party.

“No, I want to sit here with my friends and not have to worry about singing,” Elvis replied.

“Well, we know all your songs,” Milsap said.

But that was fine, Milsap reminisced, “He knew we did, but he didn’t want to get up and sing, and that was fine. It was his party.”

Kentucky Horse Park

So we drive in to Lexington and go northward towards The Kentucky Horse Park. It’s the only kind of it’s venue in the world. Set on 1,200 acres, it has four museums, show barns, the Show Jumping Hall of Fame and more.

Unfortunately the drizzle became a full fledged storm. A real Kentucky Rain!

Earlier I had thought about staying in The Greenbrier Resort, but room prices ranging from $250 to $25,000 (plus $250 for Mr. Beefy) quickly changed my mind.

The Greenbrier Resort

Baby Boomers may have heard of
“Project Greek Island.” It was the codename for a super secret, giant underground bunker under a portion of the Greenbrier.

During the Eisenhower and Kennedy era it was built to house all 535 members of Congress during an atomic bomb attack.

The Greenbrier has been welcoming guests from around the world since 1778. Construction began in 1958 on the 112,544-square-foot bunker, which was built 720 feet into the hillside under The Greenbrier’s West Virginia Wing. 

Once complete in 1961, the facility was maintained in a constant state of readiness by a small group of government employees working undercover as Forsythe Associates, a company hired by the resort for audio/visual support services.

It features a 25-ton blast door that opens with only 50 lbs. of pressure, decontamination chambers, 18 dormitories designed to accommodate over 1,100 people and a power plant with purification equipment and three 25,000-gallon water storage tanks.

Over the 30 years that it was an active facility, communications and other equipment were updated, keeping The Bunker at full-operation status. The location of the facility, critical to its effectiveness, remained a secret until 1992.

So, the Greenbrier was out of our price range and the storm forced us to drive about 20 mph on the 70 mph IH 75.

The storm was so intense, 18-wheelers and passenger cars were forced to pull over and wait it out. We finally reached the safety of where we’re staying tonight.

Although in the hard rain it looks so much like the Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho movie, we were just happy to be off the highway.

It’s actually turning out to be one of our favorite places to stay on the trip. The North Star Inn, in Corinth, Kentucky, is a very quaint and comfortable inn owned by Dawn and David Henson. They also have a nice cafe next door (check-in is there) that people say offers delicious home made plates. Unfortunately their hours and days are limited during the pandemic.

Kentucky rain keeps pouring down
And up ahead’s another town that I’ll go walking through
With the rain in my shoes (Rain in my shoes)
Searching for you
In the cold Kentucky rain
In the cold Kentucky rain