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Western Kentucky Native Releases Fictional Short Story Collection on Between the Rivers Relocation

"Drowned Town" by Jayne Moore Waldrop
Jayne Moore Waldrop
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Jayne Moore Waldrop's "Drowned Town" collects the stories of families affected by the creation of Land Between the Lakes.

Jayne Moore Waldrop is a west Kentucky native, journalist, lawyer, and author of “Drowned Town,” a series of short stories that describe the families affected by the creation of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. Waldrop speaks with Tracy Ross about the book, her distinguished writing career, and she reads an excerpt from her latest work.

Waldrop explains that while fiction writing is fairly new to her, she has a long history of non-fiction writing. She was an English major at the University of Kentucky before working at the “Paducah Sun” and Benton's “Tribune Courier.” At age 55, Waldrop applied for the Murray State MFA program in creative writing. “That was a real turning point for me,” Waldrop says.

Waldrop says that her experience researching as a lawyer and journalist assisted her in writing “Drowned Town.” “I wanted to get the facts correct, the history correct, for my settings, the events that take place that become the foundation of these stories. It’s an important part, that search for the facts. Upon those facts came the fiction.”

After her family purchased an old Victorian home at auction in Old Kuttawa, Waldrop became interested in the history of the house and the surrounding area. The phenomenon of bustling river towns becoming ‘drowned towns’ is “pretty common throughout Kentucky,” Waldrop explains. These drowned towns and communities came to be when various federal agencies decided to build dams for rural electrification and flood control. “There are 45 lakes in Kentucky. Forty-three of them are created. There are only two natural lakes of significant size in Kentucky.”

“As an adult, and after we bought the house in Kuttawa, I started realizing some people have sacrificed a lot. Their homes, their communities, their farms, generational farms, long-term roots, and family history in the area. I started appreciating that more as an adult to realize what the sacrifice meant. Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, Land Between the Lakes—each is a significant environmental and geographical change. But they came with such quick succession that it’s amazing the change to the landscape between Land Between the Lakes ad what that meant for individuals who’d lose their homes.”

Waldrop reads an excerpt from “Drowned Town,” which follows the character Cam, who moved out of Old Eddyville to the fictional town of Sycamore as a child. Cam is about to be married, and revisiting her parents’ wedding photos in Old Eddyville sparked a sense of nostalgia that led Cam to revisit the area.

Waldrop reads:

“She was smiling as she left the shop, pleased with how the gown turned out but drawn to the place in the photograph. For the last few months, she had focused on the future, whether to get married, what kind of wedding suited them. But today, the past pulled her. She ignored the list of errands in her pocket and decided to drive to the old town. She still remembered the way.

The two-lane highway dead-ended at a lonesome knoll overlooking Lake Barkley. Cam parked in a grassy area beside the road and walked toward what used to be Water Street—the hilly one that ended at the fair landing. The broad lake sparkled in the midday sun. The sky was bright and cloudless. She watched as a large cabin cruiser, better suited for the ocean than an inland waterway, powered its way through the narrow, twisting channel marked by red and green navigation buoys.

The markers served as both a reminder and warning that the Cumberland River’s deep channel still proved the safest passage on a lake that appeared vast but could be deceptively shallow in places. The cruiser spread an oversized wake that rocked nearby fishing boats and caused the captain of a scruffy pontoon boat to swerve at a defensive angle to keep from getting swamped.

A lone bronze marker revealed the spot’s history as the former site of Eddyville—a thriving town settled near a series of bends in the Cumberland River, which snakes a course through the middle of the country, from mountains to barrens to rolling hills. The plaque told the town’s role in American history as an outpost on the Western frontier, as an important junction of the Civil War, as a commercial center, and a county seat.

The tarnished words all described midcentury government projects for flood control, hydroelectric power, and tourism when the flowing river was damned. The sign memorialized US presidents and vice presidents and governors from Kentucky and Tennessee but failed to mention the people who had left the town and had given up their homes as the giant lakes rose. They had been told their sacrifice was for the public good. They were never told how much they would miss it or for how long.”

For more information on Jayne Moore Waldrop or her collection of short stories, “Drowned Town,” visit her website.

Listen to the full interview here:

Jayne Moore Waldrop with Tracy Radio Edit.mp3
Tracy Ross speaks to Jayne Moore Waldrop about her new linked story collection, "Drowned Town."

Tracy started working for WKMS in 1994 while attending Murray State University. After receiving his Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU he was hired as Operations/Web/Sports Director in 2000. Tracy hosted All Things Considered from 2004-2012 and has served as host/producer of several music shows including Cafe Jazz, and Jazz Horizons. In 2001, Tracy revived Beyond The Edge, a legacy alternative music program that had been on hiatus for several years. Tracy was named Program Director in 2011 and created the midday music and conversation program Sounds Good in 2012 which he hosts Monday-Thursday. Tracy lives in Murray with his wife, son and daughter.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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