Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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The Wit and Rhetoric of a Small-Town Preacher

| Thu Jul. 15, 2010 7:01 PM EDT

Farm Fresh: Our stated goal of living off the land has been more or less dead on arrival. But we did pick up this delicious peach outside Bedford, Kentucky (Photo: Tim Murphy).Farm Fresh: Our stated goal of living off the land has been more or less dead on arrival. But we did pick up this delicious peach outside Bedford, Kentucky (Photo: Tim Murphy).Glasgow, Kentucky—There isn't much going on in Glasgow between the hours of 12 in the morning and 12 the next morning. You might come in for lunch from some lesser part of Barren County ("The #1 county to live in in rural America") or you might have some official business at the county seat, but the town's economic pulse has, for the most part, followed small town America's late 20th-century migration from Main Street to the commercial sprawl outside town, near the junction of four major state highways. When we arrive, the Democratic Party Headquarters is closed, indefinitely by the looks of it. The "Pawn Again" shop is closed. The Highland Games, Inc. office is closed, and doesn't really have much reason to re-open for a few months at least, since the Highland Games come but once a year. Everything is closed for the night—save for the front steps of the Courthouse on the main square, where a man called "Pastor Ricky" is overseeing a Wednesday night revival meeting.

It's a small crowd, maybe 30 people, of all ages but with an emphasis on the older vintages. I can't stick around to see Pastor Ricky, but since I'm fascinated by the rhetorical stylings of country evangelists, and since this is really the main event on a Wednesday night in Glasgow, Kentucky, I'll just give you a quick sketch of his understudy, a man whom Pastor Ricky introduces as "the best preacher this side of Glasgow."

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A Sense of Where We Are: Lost, Probably

| Wed Jul. 14, 2010 12:48 PM EDT


View Westward Expansion in a larger map

Louisville, Kentucky—With yesterday's detour into Ohio! and Indiana, our total number of states has climbed to 12. Included within that is a former independent republic that kind of sort of wants to become a sovereign nation again (Vermont), a giant chunk of space that could be its own state (upstate New York), a state that used to be part of another state (West Virginia), a state that was almost a state but for the all-consuming 18th century real estate market ("Franklin" in East Tennessee), and a state that nearly sold itself to the king of Spain in exchange for a few noble titles and access to the Mississippi River (Kentucky). A little bit of everything, in other words.

My host in Lexington made a funny face when I told her I was in Kentucky "to see the sinkholes," but it's really no joke—they're everywhere in Kentucky, where water and limestone have teamed up to produce a bevy of preposterous geological activity. Case in point: We're headed south to Mammoth Cave today, which, if our navigational talents hold up, will probably be the last place we're ever seen alive. I'm told the WiFi signal is a little spotty that close to the Earth's core, but watch this space for the full report on our trip to the Creation Museum and the last resting place of America's worst-dressed head of state.

A Special Message From Popcorn Sutton

| Wed Jul. 14, 2010 11:46 AM EDT

Update, 1/29/2013: The photo has been removed at the request of the photographer. Read Tim Murphy's full piece on Popcorn Sutton here.

Kentucky: The Land Before Craigslist

| Mon Jul. 12, 2010 7:17 PM EDT

Sunday Best: Sometimes "God Bless America" just isn't enough. The Lancaster, Kentucky Church of the Nazarene demonstrates the advertising prowess of the nation's spiritual marketplace.Sunday Best: Sometimes "God Bless America" just isn't enough. The Lancaster, Kentucky, Church of the Nazarene demonstrates the advertising prowess of the nation's spiritual marketplaceCrab Orchard, Kentucky—Looking back on it, I'm not sure what part of my arrival in Kentucky was more of an affront to Daniel Boone's legacy: The fact that you can now take a tunnel under the Cumberland Gap, thereby rendering the most historically significant crooked smile in eastern North America totally useless; or the fact that his famed Wilderness Road into the Bluegrass, where Boone fought off bears and Indian raids, is now the site of a gimmicky campground where novice campers and RV-ers can set off $28 fireworks and play mini golf.

Whatever the case, we've made it into Kentucky, and we'll be staying for at least a few more days. We're hoping see Rand Paul while we're here, but more broadly, because this is the first state on the schedule that I'd never so much as stepped foot in, I'm just looking to absorb as much as I can—so today I've shut off the iPod and cranked up the radio.

On one end of the dial, an evangelist is crusading against, of all things, the WE show Bridezillas. Turn the knob a bit, and there's country, more country, some Top 40, and Glenn Beck, talking up the New Black Panther Party and Goldline (remember, kids: gold isn't an investment; it's an "insurance policy.") And then, just like that, we hit "The General Store." "The General Store" is Craigslist, if Craigslist were just one giant free-for-all hosted by a middle-aged woman named Renee; it is QVC, except you're usually selling, rather than buying, and there are no complimentary fax machines to sweeten the deal and clutter your living room. It is like nothing I’ve ever heard.

The View From My Windshield: Free Speech Zone

| Mon Jul. 12, 2010 9:43 AM EDT

America's Best Idea: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee—Who drives halfway through the Smoky Mountains to protest government spending or raise awareness of the coming apocalypse? Apparently no one—at least not for the hour I spent in the "Expression Area."America's Best Idea: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee—Who drives halfway through the Smoky Mountains to protest government spending or raise awareness of the coming apocalypse? Maybe no one—the "Expression Area" was largely devoid of expressions for the hour I spent there, save for hundreds of sightseers snapping photos, and innocent questions about whether the Smokies are actually "on fire" (they'e not).

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