Connoisseur of bleu cheeses from Stilton to Roquefort
Raiser of fine beef cattle
Volunteer fire fighter and championship chili cook at West Knox Fire Department
He taught me how to catch crabs in Lake Pontchartrain when I was in grammar school
Lover of Ford pickup trucks and Massey Ferguson tractors
Jesse Stuart was his favorite author but he held special reverence for Joseph Campell’s The Power of Myth
Russell Reeves Sr passed away this morning in Lexington, Kentucky, 101 miles from his ancestral home of the Billy Holler in rural Knox County.
At one time he was the fastest man in southeast Kentucky piloting his bright red 1962 V-8 Ford Galaxie with a hopped up 427 motor. He competed all over the Cumberland Highlands region and never got beat.
But when it came time to raise a family he sold his hotrod, bought a station wagon and settled into a new life: family man.
When I was a kid he taught me the value of long drives to obscure catfish shacks and barbecue joints.
Blind Willie Johnson was his favorite musician.
New Orleans was his favorite city on earth.
Woody Roark was his best friend, and watching those two smart alecks cut up was one of my favorite pastimes when I was a kid.
Blue Velvet was his favorite movie.
His father Bertie Lee Reeves is in the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian. Bertie Lee was a great mountain musician, and his band The Kentucky Mountain Choristers is still spoken of in hallowed terms in Appalachia. Daddy was a pretty fair picker himself and loved playing his electric Kay guitar when the mood struck.
Daddy was a dyed in the wool carnivore who loved building blazing hot fires, and cooking thick slabs of meat over them.
He collected dozens of firearms with his beloved Weatherby 22-250 rifle being the centerpiece of his stockpile.
RL Sr taught me how to hunt, fish, and spot beat-up roadside diners that he reckoned would have especially good bacon cheeseburgers, chili buns or fried fish platters.
I’ve spent my life eating cornbread, and I’ve never had as fine a pone as my father routinely made in an old cast-iron pan. I’ll dream of it til the end of my days.
Once when I was a teenager living far from home I mailed him a copy of a cassette tape of my new favorite band: The Minutemen. I drove home one weekend and spotted my dad cutting hay in a vast field on our farm. I parked and ran up to the tractor. When he saw me he pulled his earphones off and I put them on my own head. He was blasting Double Nickles on the Dime.
The last home-cooked meal I was able to prepare for him was one of his all-time favorites: crawfish etouffe.
Russell Reeves Sr will be missed by all those who had the good fortune of knowing him.