December 26th, 2006 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
DSTEPHENSON@HERALD-LEADER.COM
AWILSON1@HERALD-LEADER.COM

This one is going to be complicated.

For starters, there are five towns called Needmore in the commonwealth. Five. All with the same name.

Furthermore, if you Google "Needmore, KY," you get one hit, and that one doesn't appear in the list of the original five. Which means there are, in theory, if not in fact, one each in Mason, Ballard, Boyle, Butler, Caldwell and Owen counties.

Then there's this: If you enter Needmore in the Kentucky secretary of state's database of cities: "No results found."

That's bad but understandable, since no Needmore ever was incorporated.

Kandie Adkinson of the secretary of state's Land Office Division says she can find eight Needmores in Thomas Field's A Guide to Kentucky Place Names. She's got two in Boyle County -- Needmore and Little Needmore -- and there's one extra each in Madison and Shelby counties.

We are up to eight. If you count your 12 other leftover place names -- like Needmore schools in Barren and Floyd counties, a Needmore Hollow in Estill County and a Needmore neighborhood in Lawrence County, well, it breaks your heart.

Because it is generally assumed -- by geographers and historians -- that pioneering folks named their homeplaces Needmore because each was a struggling settlement in dire need of more things than anyone there had money to buy.

That's hard to imagine that now in a state with 83 Wal-Marts.

(To add insult, the most famous Needmore, Ky., is not even real. It's a figment of writer Ed McClanahan's imagination in his first and most highly praised work, The Natural Man.)

No matter. All known Needmores are country places. At best, they are bedroom burgs; at worst, forgotten.

But they matter, if only to remind us of that time when needing more really was something we all had in common.

Daniel "Skip" Sheppard got to Owen County's Needmore in 1974 and says it's a changed town since then, though not as much as some folks had wanted. He explains that a guy named Harper Nell bought 7,000 acres of Needmore and its surrounds and was going to put in a lake, houses and such, but that didn't work so he sold it to another guy who was going to cattle ranch big.

"That fell through," says the ex-Air Force man, who adds that that guy sold it off and then "it got broke off in plots and the houses that are here are new except for the four old ones."

Asked if all that development has made tempers flare, Skip says most folks around here are "too old to fight."

He lives in his 150-year-old house with his son, daughter and wife and, this time of year, her sister Lydia. He is a freshly minted new great-grandfather who explains his own plight this way: "Went broke, can't leave."

He says people make their own way around here without much interference from one another.

That might explain why no one answers the door at the house that advertises deer processing or the house that offers to let you motocross by appointment. There are "No Trespassing," "Private Road" and "Keep Out" signs on every fence along every lane in Needmore. It makes one wonder what everybody is afraid of. Several people hint that the problem might be the sometimes and completely non-residential presence of a members-only ATV Club that boasts something like 200 members.

Skip says he is neither the new-timer nor the old-timer. He's the middle-timer.

The old-timer would be Bob Nix, the guy with the bulldozers out near the county line. The new-timer would be Doug Lubbe, the guy with the four giganto Christmas inflatables out in front of his new house, which is before you get to Bob's.

Bob's daughter, Catherine Thomas, says that her great-grandparents built a house in Needmore near the turn of the century. They spent a whopping $500 on it.

Their son, Marion, ran the store in Needmore and raised his family in one of the four homes within the town limits. The store was a particular hot-spot on Saturdays, when the music started and dancing commenced.

By the 1950s, the store wasn't jumping much anymore and "the running joke of Needmore was that the town needed more people," Catherine says, figuring that by the 1960s, the town was booming with something like 15 Needmorians. None of whom frightened her.

"I was free to roam hundreds of acres on my pony from the age of 10," she says.

Newcomer Doug lived in Lexington before moving to Needmore 10 years ago.

His house perches near the big turn on the main road through town. From up there he see acres of cedar trees and every imaginable color of tan and brown. He can point you in the direction of "the Buckeye transfer, the Florida transfer, the Fed Ex pilot's house."

The Fed Ex guy has a tennis court in the back yard. It is lighted for night games and overlooks a many-acred meadow of black and white cows.

Doug says one neighbor is an air marshal, explaining again that Needmore is a nice community for those who work at or out of the Cincinnati airport and want to escape it without much effort.

He says he's always lived in places where you could touch your house and somebody else's at the same time. Not here.

"I can't hit that house," he points, "with a baseball, and I can't hit that one," he points again, "with a shotgun."

He knows his neighbors, sure.

"Three of them are named Mike, so all I have to do if I need help is go out in the front yard and yell, 'Mike.'"

The only story Doug has ever heard is that Needmore was a town "that just needed more."

More what?

It needs more fertile soil, Doug suggests, because every time he's tried to plant trees for windbreaks, the trees become so stuck in clay, they drown.

It needs more memory. The Nixes are the only ones who know to mourn local boy Bobby Osborne, who died for his country in Vietnam.

It needs a billiards parlor, suggests Skip, because everybody has to go to Owenton for decent recreation.

Still, that Owen County's Needmore is now a place where Fed Ex pilots and Lexington expatriates have taken residence to escape suburban closeness and traffic, yearning for privacy and space says something. It says that Needmore has changed into something almost no one could have imagined just 50 years ago.

It is now a town perfectly constructed for those who need less.

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