July 13th, 2007 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
CBERTRAM@HERALD-LEADER.COM
AWILSON1@HERALD-LEADER.COM

At first glance there is nobody here. Not just no Bob, but nobody. Nobody answering the door. Nobody at home. Nobody on the roads.

Nobody near the cows, the horses or the bevy of chicken houses despite the fact that people seem to be required to feed, ride and/or plump up the aforementioned livestock. Which, mind you, do appear plumped up.

There is a dilapidated tarpaper house, an empty post office and the Union #2 Missionary Baptist Cemetery. There is an airplane hangar in the midst of a cornfield. There was this elderly couple who stopped briefly at the cemetery, but they were not locals and were just stopping to adjust the driver's seat, or so they said.

The earth is red. The sky is blue. The corn is green. The people are, however, invisible.

And the windsock on the private airplane hangar is hanging like wet laundry.

So on the first, second and even third pass through, there is absolutely no way to know which way the wind is blowing in Nobob.

Then JoAnn Guest miraculously appears on her driveway. JoAnn is not a native Nobobite but does know the Nobob lore.

It consists of just this one story about how Nobob got its name, though the Bob in the story (which gets retold a lot once more people are found to recount it) could be "a scout" or "pioneer" or just "a guy." The story goes that Bob heads out by himself one day to do something -- he could have been on foot, could have been on the river -- and fails to return. So the townsfolk/fellow pioneers/other guys try to find him. Each time they return they report, sadly, to one another: "No Bob." This goes on for days. Bob is never found.

The townsfolk/pioneers/other guys take the hint and travel in packs thenceforth, or they stay put. Either way, a Bob-free Nobob springs to life along what is now referred to as the Nobob Creek.

The day will continue forth from this JoAnn encounter to include a few chats with Nobobians. None is named Bob. There is a guy in the cemetery who was named Robert, but there's no evidence he used the diminutive.

And maybe that's an unwritten rule. No Bobs. Ever, unless you moved here from someplace else without advance knowledge of the rule. (The people from Nobob are mute on this rule, though they do admit that they know no one from Nobob named Bob.)

The chickens came only recently. In the area, says JoAnn, are something like 16 chicken houses, long low buildings where thousands upon thousands of chickens (the kind that look good next to a heap of mashed potatoes) roam on poop-encrusted floors in low-light and sunless conditions, making sounds no one can hear once the big steel door is closed.

"A little white school bus carries the baby chickens in," says JoAnn, "and huge semis with loaded chicken crates take them out."

When the wind blows the wrong way in Nobob, no one is spared the pungent aroma of poultry fertilizing agents.

Delzia Wiley says it sometimes stinks. But she is not talking about life in Nobob or her life on Nobob Road, which started when "it wasn't hardly a road and then it became a gravel road full of chug holes, and now it's busy and you have to tell the children not to get runned over."

Life here has been good -- just look at her great-grandchildren, Nate and Paige Simpson playing in her yard -- and horrible -- Delzia lost Patricia Gaile, her daughter, to leukemia when she was only 25.

In both cases, Delzia has been on hand to do some extra-duty mothering. Not a finer job to be had, judging from her description of her offspring's offspring. Take granddaughter Millie Jane Wiley, who is just 17 but milks 80 dairy cows nightly, trucks cattle occasionally to Tennessee and beyond, barrel-races and looks great in the prom dress she wore as a junior last year at Barren County High School.

Or take Calvin, Millie Jane's brother. Before Delzia can get started on Calvin's merits, she's got him on the phone and he's coming over because the airplane hangar is his, as are three of the four old planes in it. And, oh, his grandmother says, Calvin is going to graduate from Western Kentucky University next year and he off-roads a bit and "he's a very good driver." Then here is Calvin to speak for himself.

Calvin's not actually much of a talker, even when you get him to the airplane hangar, which he and his daddy built. It sits on the edge of a 1,800-foot-by-80-foot grass runway, sliced out of a working cornfield. Yes, Calvin is the designated mower.

Inside the hangar: a Mystic Lake biplane built in the 1930s, a Cessna 172 built in the 1960s, a high-performance Sport Racer that goes 200 mph, and a homemade experimental plane built from a kit.

Calvin, 22, got his pilot's license more than three years ago. He's already weathered some serious weather in his small planes, including a bumpapolooza that was the product of a lake-effect-induced blizzard over Lake Erie.

Have no fear, though. Despite the age of his craft and the remoteness of his airstrip, Calvin has a global positioning system device on each of his planes. He just inputs Nobob's coordinates -- 36.88860 latitude and 85.7702 longitude -- and he can always get home.

Meaning, we guess, that there is little fear of this town ever becoming, well, Nocalvin.

One Response to “Nobob: Just say No(bob)”

  1. heart-warming story…I love Nobob and Delsia is a wonderful lady and neighbor.