Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Killing Time in Wickliffe

I live in Ballard County Kentucky. However, I have very few dealings in the county. We go to church in McCracken County and do most of our shopping there. Two times a year I have to go to the courthouse In Wickliffe to pay taxes – our property taxes in November and car taxes in December. I headed there yesterday to pay our car taxes. When I reached the County Clerk’s office there was a note pinned to the door. It said that the office was closed so the staff could attend a ‘Courthouse Breakfast”. It did not list a time when the staff would return. It’s about a twenty minute drive to the courthouse, so I didn’t want to go back home and return later. So, I decided to hang around and kill time in Wickliffe.

If you’ve ever been to (or even through) Wickliffe, there isn’t a whole lot there. The population in the last Census was a little over 600. So, it’s not even the largest city in Ballard County (LaCenter holds that distinction with about 1,000). So, I first headed to the “Cross at the Confluence”. Wickliffe is pretty close to where the Ohio River empties into the Mississippi. Wickliffe itself is actually located on the Mississippi River. There is a ninety foot cross just a little bit south of Wickliffe. It’s on the site of the old Fort Jefferson which was set up by George Rogers Clark. Lewis and Clark are supposed to have camped there as well before starting their famous trip across the Louisiana Purchase. I drove to the site. The large cross is impressive and there is an excellent view of the Mississippi River. In the distance, you can see the "confluence”. There was a walking path there now and a Visitor’s Center. Unfortunately for me, it was closed.

So, I then headed down Highway 51 to the Verso Plant. I’d always known this plant as Westvaco, but it went through several name changes before it eventually ended up as Verso (similar to Union Carbide/Martin Marietta/Lockheed Martin/USEC/Centrus Energy). It opened in 1970 and provided hundreds of good jobs to people in the area. When the wind was right, you could smell the “pungent” odor the plant produced as the plant produced paper. Trucks hauling logs were a regular sight on the highways of Ballard County. However, the Verso plant was idled in late 2015 and ultimately shut down for good in 2016. I actually pulled into the pretty much empty parking lot just to look around. There were a very few cars close to the plant gates but that was it. The area took a large economic hit with it’s closing. There have been hopes of someone else buying the site to use it, but that has yet to come to fruition.

While driving around, I did note that that Wickliffe has THREE convenience stores. One of these is Pee Dee’s which is run by my friends Phil and Debbie Lawrence. You can get a great burger there if you are ever in the area. I decided to check out one of the others – the Indian Hills Trading Post. It’s located on Highway 60/51 as you head toward Cairo. I parked and went inside. Alas, it was pretty much your basic convenience mart. There was certainly nothing spectacular there. There is also a Dollar General Store in Wickliffe, so I went to check that out. It’s a pretty good one. They actually had a produce section plus an entire side wall (from front to back) of cold/frozen food. It looks bigger than the one I frequent in West Paducah.

This killed about an hour (yep, that’s all). I headed back to the courthouse and the office was now open! I quickly paid my taxes and got our new car tags (which hopefully I’ll remember to put on our cars before year’s end) and headed for home. I’ll admit I was a bit frustrated at first when the office was closed, but it certainly wasn’t the worst way to have spent an hour.