A thousand words beyond the Hill

With the stone courthouse in view, traffic merges into the traditional circle of the old county seat. Merchandise lines the windows of the shops on the square. Like many other small Southern towns, most buildings are empty and dark. But on Friday nights in Leitchfield, the old courthouse comes alive, and parking spaces are hard to come by.

A note advertising guitar and banjo lessons adds a human touch to the glass and metal door. As the door opens, the sounds of bluegrass can be heard. Half of the old wooden seats in the third floor courtroom housing the Grayson County Opry are filled.

Myron Weedman welcomes the next band onto the stage — the area in front of what used to be the judge’s bench. The new courthouse is down the street.

“Hey, Red Mud. Come on in here,” Weedman says as the man finds his seat. “Eighty-nine years old and he still makes it up the courthouse steps.”

The music starts around 6 p.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Bands show up and play half an hour sets for free. There is no admission charge either, but donations are accepted, The donations are given out in the form of $500 college scholarships to area high school students.

“It all started with Dennis Haycraft and his ‘Homegrown Band’,” said Rick McKinney, who helps run the Opry. “He was playing in a restaurant every Friday night, and then the restaurant closed. So we asked Judge Jerry Logsdon [if the courthouse could be used to perform music], and he said O.K.”

Between gigs, music comes up from the second floor where people are practicing and learning from others.

Terry Strange sits on a bench in the lobby playing the banjo surrounded by friends on mandolins, fiddles and other instruments, all playing bluegrass.

“I took to playing the banjo when I was 12,” Strange said. “My dad went to a pawn shop and got it for $29. He gave up on it, so it sat in the corner, and one day I picked it up and played ‘Cripple Creek’.”

Strange (center) and his friends, many playing together for the first time, were asked to take the stage.

“We just kind of fly by the seat of our pants,” McKinney said. “But we always seem to have a show.”

Andreas Fuhrmann is a senior photojournalism major from Bowling Green. He can be reached at [email protected]