In his book, which has received the Thomas D. Clark Medallion for highlighting Kentucky history and culture, Taylor gives both a personal and historical account oflife on Elkhorn Creek – one of the state’s longest creeks that has for many years remained as a top destination for kayakers, anglers and nature enthusiasts of all sorts.
Taylor’s fascination with the area began when he and his wife, Lizz, purchased what is now known as the Giltner-Holt house in the mid-1970s after Taylor took a teaching job at Kentucky State University. As work began on restoring the old home, now part of the National Register of Historic Places, he began to learn of the long history of Elkhorn. With each new discovery his curiosity and infatuation grew, ultimately leading to this book that could in many ways be considered a love letter to the region he proudly calls his home.
In the introduction, Taylor explains that “topophilia” was the main reason behind his decision to write Elkhorn. My name will typically be found in the sports section of the News Journal, so I thought it was fitting when he, quoting another author, used the example of sports stadiums to explain what exactly makes a place “topophilic.”
Taylor said it will be: 1) considered a sacred place, 2) a place possessing scenic qualities, 3) a place that fans call home, 4) a tourist attraction for visitors and 5) a place that elicits local pride.
All of these conditions certainly hold true for Taylor when talking about his beloved Elkhorn, and in his new book he approaches the task of writing about the creek as the amazing poet that he is. Thanks to a remarkable attention to detail that could only be the result of exhaustive research on the topic, his descriptions of the people and events that have shaped the region throughout its history make it easy for readers to paint a vivid mental picture. His passion for the subject is evident as he walks us, step-by-step, through a storied, and at times violent, past.
Inside this book you will find chapters on the discovery of fossilized mammoth remains, on the Native Americans that inhabited the area pre-settlement, and how the arrival of pioneers drastically altered their way of life. You will receive a comprehensive account of the earliest recorded history at Elkhorn, and you will learn about the effects of industrialization on the landscape.
Inside these pages are also harrowing retellings of conflicts such as the Cook Massacre,which occurred in 1792 and saw several residents of the Cook Station settlement murdered by Indians. Some other residents were captured, and cabins were burned, although a couple of them still remain to this day, preserved for visitors of the creek to witness and appreciate for themselves.
In fact, the Cook cabins are just one example of the many remnants that are still left standing at Elkhorn, serving as a physical link to a time long gone, but thanks to folks like Mr. Taylor, certainly not forgotten.
In the book’s epilogue, Taylor says, “Elkhorn should be listed in the yellow pages as a therapy center … a place where the spirit may be nurtured, healed, and reconfirmed.”
He goes on to express great concern about the modern-day issue of sewage, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals entering the waters of the creek. He laments this fact, and pleads for changes to be made before any further harm can be done to the creek itself, as well as the abundance of plant and animal life that it supports.
If you know nothing of Elkhorn, then I strongly suggest you read this award-winning book. If you are like me, then you are sure to add the location to the top of your “places to visit” list. I imagine that those already familiar with the area will also enjoy this read immensely, however, as will any fan of nature, orKentucky history.