August 3rd, 2006 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
DSTEPHENSON@HERALD-LEADER.COM
AWILSON1@HERALD-LEADER.COM

It was a task to find this place. In theory, you take Ky. 392 out of Cynthiana, go east into Nicholas County, then south on Ky. 1244. You find yourself sweeping a wide swath that crosses Crooked Creek once or twice but mostly shadows the waterway around some well-tilled bottom land and some higher vantage points.

It's a lovely scenic turn but, finally, exhausted from circling with no sight of town, you just kind of give up and knock on Geneva McCarty's door, up on Garrett Road. McCarty is talking on the phone and not quite able to come to the door, but she yells loud enough to encourage you to come on in. She suspects it's the old Barefoot School that's brought you up here. Though she's wrong, everybody in town thinks the same thing. The Barefoot School is the thing the town was named for, something everybody in town agrees on.

"Because everybody went barefoot to school," says James Coy, longtime resident. "Not many people had shoes back then, and when they got them, they took them off in buildings because they had respect for such things."

McCarty explains that the school was just right there at the turn where "years back the road was called Garrett Road, then it was Bethlehem Road, then it was Bobtown Road, then it was Garrett Road again."

McCarty was born in this very house where she sits, quite contently now, surrounded by framed pictures of her family.

James Coy and his family, who live down in Barefoot proper, all swear that McCarty is the finest cook in the country, and not a day goes by that she doesn't have a pot of country beans on the stove. On Sundays, when the Coys go over, "nobody goes away hungry," he says.

Barefoot itself is pretty much a breadbasket of bounty, at least this time of year. A lot of available land is planted in vegetables, which are being picked, weeded and tended from early light until it gets too hot to bear.

It's early yet, and Coy is explaining how he's counting on a garden yield much like last year's. That was 100 quarts of tomatoes, 60 of cucumbers, 70 of green beans, 63 of kraut and seven of okra pickles -- the last he has been making since "I was knee-high to a frog," he says.

This year, he put in 1,000 beefsteak tomatoes and 250 pepper plants.

"I don't remember going to the store unless, by golly, we had to buy flour," he says. "But then we got it in the big sack because you just didn't go that often."

Time was there was a store in Barefoot. But that was when the school was in business and really before everybody here's time.

Still, though the school's been gone for years, it is the small community's sole reference point.

All have some sort of connection to it. James' grandmother, Cordie Coy, who lives in a trailer with James, his wife and several children, was responsible for getting the place warm in winter before the school bell rang. Stella Livingood, who lives in the nice house at a place her family calls Up and Down Acres, was responsible for putting a match to the schoolhouse years back when it was already falling down because it was hard to get to the blackberries back in there.

Or so says her husband, the Rev. Howard Livingood, who laughs at the memory. He agrees when it is suggested that Livingood is a great name for a preacher. Or for anybody for that matter.

There are a lot of Livingoods in Barefoot. McCarty's mother was a Livingood, and James Coy's father's mother was a Livingood.

Coy's father, Raymond, was born in the house across from the designated fishing spot on the creek -- bluegill bite nicely here -- and you can still see his handprints in the fireplace mortar. Coy's great-great-great-grandfather John fought in the Revolutionary War with Gen. George Washington. The family split when the Civil War came. "Our part took the South," Coy says.

Coy's own history is scattered around him on his 140 acres, which front on Ky. 1244. In the now-decrepit barn, he says, he and his dad put up a lot of tobacco. In the automotive graveyard nearby is his 1969 Dodge Polara, which, he says, hauled quite a bit of moonshine to Cincinnati -- at the great risk of his own hide given that he was a Marine at the time and would have been sent up to Leavenworth, he's sure.

Walking down the highway is Louise Sidle and her 9-year-old grandson, who are set this morning on picking beans. The plan is to break the beans this afternoon and can them early the next morning, when it's cool again.

Sidle has a stiff leg because she broke it five years ago -- all complicated because she got polio at age 5 -- so she sits on a milk crate and still picks faster than any 10 men. That's not surprising because the very year Sidle broke her leg, around Thanksgiving, she was still able to feed an army at Christmas.

There is no kidding that life can be hard in Barefoot -- everybody seems to suffer from being a little land-poor and plagued by garden-poaching deer and greedy raccoons. Still, it is remarkably well-fed -- and we don't mean fat.

James Coy talks about the lunches he used to carry in a lard can when he was in school. Fried potatoes on fresh biscuits, overlaid with blackberry jam or plum butter. Sidle talks about how, even hobbling that one holiday, she made the famous family fruitcake.

No wonder the Reverend Livingood, who preaches the first and third Sundays in Salt Well and the second and fourth in Rosehill, will be preaching about "the grace of growing" this week.

He is talking about growing in faith.

But the metaphor holds.

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