Would I lie to you? I stand by a column that I wrote a week or so ago about searching for a town called Monkey’s Eyebrow. For two hours, in a cold rain, we drove around the tail end of Illinois, slogging in muddy Kentucky fields, to find a town with that crazy name. I gave up, certain that Monkey’s Eyebrow was a place that doesn’t exist, something like the Land of Oz in the middle of moonshine country.
Still, the truth of others hurts, since I keep getting mail and calls from people who insist there really is a Monkey’s Eyebrow.
Some claim it is on old maps. Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia of dubious accuracy, says that Kentucky, at the tip of Illinois, once had two Monkey’s Eyebrows, commonly known as Old Monkey and New Monkey. One was at the top of a small hill, the other at the bottom. The name came because the place (or places) looked like the head of a monkey, and the eyebrows were a bushy hill.
“There is indeed a Monkey’s Eyebrow. I spent a lot of my childhood there on my aunt and uncle’s farm. Joe will show you,” writes Jeanne Culver, who says she is a cousin of Joe Culver. She adds in her note that Joe is a distant relative of Chet Culver, the governor of Iowa. She also gets in her two-cents of sympathy at my frustration about not finding Monkey’s Eyebrow. “I have driven through that part of the county in pouring rain, too — very frustrating — it usually floods and probably is flooded today.”
I tracked down Joe Culver in Ballard County, Ky. He, too, insists there is such a place as Monkey’s Eyebrow, near a crossroads named Bandanna which has a big celebration on April 19, selling bandannas from Bandanna.
“I understand the difficulties you reported in your search for Monkey’s Eyebrow. It’s probably easier to tell when you’re not there, than to reason when you are there,” says Joe, who once was managing editor of the Oak Ridger, a daily newspaper in Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Writes Sharlin A. Barfield, Davenport: “I had to laugh when you could not find Monkey’s Eyebrow. Yes, it really exists. Even better, there’s a small area about 45 minutes from Monkey’s Eyebrow called Possum Trot. No kidding. A common joke in the region is that Paducah, Ky., lies halfway between Monkey’s Eyebrow and Possum Trot.”
A half-dozen people have sent me proof from their global positioning gadgets that Monkey’s Eyebrow exists. What I innocently wrote must be making the rounds in Monkey’s Eyebrow country. One retort complained of a “put down” when I referred to it as hillbilly country. “You were politically incorrect, but you were from up north, and you folks don’t know better. Bless your little head.”
Most of the folks from Monkey’s Eyebrow say there isn’t much — if anything — left of the town. One describes Arivitt’s General Store that stood at a corner selling dusty canned goods, tobacco for roll-your-own cigarettes, Nehi pop and Bunny Bread. There was a gas pump, and whoever attended it had a standard joke: “Your oil’s fine but the radiator is a quart low.”
One message tells about all the walnut trees and how it is easy to crack the walnut shells if you take a big hammer and yell “keremasheo!”
Any number of the folks have invited me to come back and they will guide me exactly to Monkey’s Eyebrow. Maybe I should organize a caravan this fall and we can all go down and crack walnuts.