August 6th, 2007 by The Lexington Herald-Leader
CBERTRAM@HERALD-LEADER.COM
AWILSON1@HERALD-LEADER.COM

waitspotter.pngat the convenience store on the new Ky. 90 in Wayne County. Ask for directions. It was on one map but not on another and the wrong map is the one in hand.And, no, there isn't a Stop sign in sight. Two guys on a bench in front of the store ponder the question. They decide you need to find Phil. Your lucky day. Phil's inside the store.

Phil?

No one answers to that name.

Phil? repeats the gal behind the counter.

Nope.

That is unless, you mean Feel -- "F, double E, L" -- as in Feel Bad Davis, says the man just inside the front door. The boys out front get a big chuckle, but the last laugh comes when Feel Bad does indeed know something about the whereabouts and the good people of Stop.

Been there lots of times. Grew up on the Murl side of Stop, now lives in Slat, which is on the other side. Used to have to travel through Stop on his way to the Boys Camp on Lake Cumberland. That's when people started to calling him Feel Bad because "I spent a lot of the time complaining because I didn't feel so good. I wasn't sick. I wasn't past going. I just felt lousy."

That went on for 28 years. Feel Bad stopped feeling bad when he retired. Can't explain that, exactly.

Can explain, however, how to get to "the heart of Stop." It's right there on Ky. 1546 where the brick house and the white house sit cheek-to-jowl with the cemetery.

The brick house belongs to Obie and Maggie Ramsey, the white house to Oscar Franklin. Obie was a teacher; Oscar, a preacher. And since Oscar, according to Feel Bad, married Obie's first cousin and she wasn't going anywhere, they stayed and made a home out of the old one-room schoolhouse where Feel Bad spent a few years answering to the name of Carl.

It is early yet and only Debbie Sheppard is taking in the smells of the sweet clover and the sight of the quickly vanishing mist on her morning walk down the one road that constitutes town. Debbie isn't from Stop, but because her mama grew up here and she spent summers here, well, this is better than home; "it's heaven."

Debbie explains how this is the big weekend of the Ramsey reunion and these days, with all the older folks getting older, everybody is making a push to get to the reunions. They're expecting 150 this year. That tells how serious people take family here.

Now mind you, there are other names than Ramsey on the cemetery tombstones. Names like Mathews and Franklin and Upchurch and Acrey. But it's the Ramseys whose names greet you at the entrance to the cemetery. In fact it looks like it'll be Obie and his wife, Maggie, who one day will be the official greeters to the final resting places of Stop's finest folks.

It's only fitting, then, that they are the ones who get to tell all about it while they're alive. They say the reunion is just a continuing tradition which began when everybody came for Obie's grandmother's outdoor birthday wing-ding every year. MaMaw, who died 75 years ago, could draw a crowd mostly because she was the midwife who delivered everybody in a 10-mile radius in those days. People figured she'd made it to their birthday, they could make it to hers.

Obie's daddy had the store for years as well as six daughters to marry off. Obie left town only to go to the University of Kentucky to learn how to teach agriculture. And then he came back and did 35 years at Wayne County High School. He married Maggie, a girl from a mining camp who had six brothers. The marriage is going on 58 years now.

There's a slew of good stories and they tell them all. How the Ramseys were the first in these parts to get a TV and how Mama was a teacher and she brought everybody over from the school to see it and how you couldn't do that these days but you could then.

And they tell how there used to be a church here called Suckers Church. Everybody of every faith was welcome, and a big ol' fish hung over the entrance.

And then there's the story of how some guys from Murl got into a ruckus with some guys in Stop and walked into the church to avenge something and before long one went headlong through the window and another guy took refuge in his wife's hoop skirts. Two people were killed right there in the churchyard. They were buried together in a single hole, though there are two headstones. Come see.

"If the ground could talk ... " says Maggie, leaving it at that.

Neither Obie nor Maggie can explain about Stop's intermittent map appearance. But, says Obie, if you head off from his house, put Beaver Creek on your right and Otter Creek on your left, you'd make a six-mile loop. Inside that loop, you'd find the paradise of Stop right in the middle.

Looking at the map, there's one town that fits Stop's description. But on this map -- and on a lot of Kentucky maps -- it's called "Ramsey Island."

Funny. Because it is indeed where a forefather came one day a long time ago and simply decided he liked it so much, he'd stop.

And then saw no need to go farther.

.

MBOEHNKE@HERALD-LEADER.COM

It's right there on the map. Square D4, on Old Bethel Church Road just as the little red line curves near the yellow Wayne-Clinton County line.

Leonard Wagner, 18, leans over the car and points down at the open atlas. He can see Wait plain as day, but he's never heard of it.

"According to the map, this is it," he said as he took a break from his work at the Mennonite-run Better Built Barns. He even asked some of the elders. They hadn't heard of it either.

"I never heard anything else about Wait," Wagner said. "It's always been Alpha or Happy Top."

Back on Ky. 90, an old gas station hosts a crowd of old-timers.

Homer Pyle, 68, hasn't heard of Wait. He's heard of Stop, but not Wait. His pal, Mintford Hicks, though, thinks he might remember hearing something about a town called Wait.

It's been 50-some years ago, though. It was back before the new Ky. 90 was built and the old highway went that way, he said as he pointed.

"That's what gets you all messed up," he said. Perhaps the rerouting of county traffic killed off the town, he suggests.

Back, then, to the Old Highway 90. Right past turning on to the road is the Alpha post office. If anyone would know where Wait is, it would be the post office, right?

But Dana Isner only looks confused from behind her desk at the single-room post office. Wait? On Old Bethel Church Road?

"I live on Old Bethel Road," she said. "It's only about five-tenths of a mile from here, and it's all called Alpha."

Isner admits she's only been in town -- the town of Alpha, maybe Wait, that is -- for about six years. She moved here from California after her husband retired from the military.

She's been at the tiny country post office since then, where everything is manual, including the money order machine. Her desk looks bare without a computer or electronic equipment taking up half the surface area.

She comes over to the window to help a customer buy stamps. He hasn't heard of Wait, either. Neither has the lady who came in to pick up her mail.

But Isner does recall one bit of Old Bethel Church Road lore: there's an old school that in recent years has been turned into a house.

Talk to Porter Lowe, she said. He lives back there.

Taking a slower pace around Old Bethel Church Road this time, it's easier to come across a series of mailboxes that sit in the turn near Better Built Barns. The very first mailbox is black with white painted-on words spelling out Porter Lowe's name.

This is it.

Porter's in the field, but his wife is home. She answers the door in a red shirt, jean shorts and blue flip-flops.

Have you heard anything about this schoolhouse?

She smiles slyly and taps her finger on the tan siding of her one-story home as she stands on the front porch.

They bought the schoolhouse, well, she's not really sure how long ago, but it has been a while. It was a two-room run-down empty school when they bought it. But with a new roof, new siding and now six rooms (including the bathroom that replaced the outhouse that used to sit on the property), Joyce Lowe has made it a home.

There wasn't much to Wait, she said, just this little schoolhouse. And though it's not a school anymore, it is the only remnant of that tiny dot in square D4.


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