copyright Bill Widener 2000

Circus Cruelty

Given Ace Weekly's consistent support of animal causes, I was shocked to find the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus listed on the Ace List (June 7-14).

Ringling Bros. has repeatedly and flagrantly failed to comply with the USDA's regulations concerning animal welfare while, at the same time asserting that they respect these wild animals they have captured, enslaved, and abused. They claim, for instance, that they use only humane training methods "based on positive reinforcement." However, they oppose laws banning abusive training methods such as the use of an ankus-a stick with a sharp hook on the end which is jabbed into an elephant's feet, chin, mouth, and ears.

I hope that Ace staff and readers will take a few moments to consider that the "dream world" Ringling Bros. provides for people is built on the nightmarish suffering of animals and decide that there are better ways to spend the evening. The information on Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey's cruelty to animals was taken from and In Defense of Animals website ( excellent source of information on circus cruelty.

With respect to the animals,

Amy Johnson

And the lifeline is.

Dear Ms Reeves,

I would like to compliment you on your Ace Weekly newspaper. I am from Huntington Beach, southern California and have been living in Brodhead, Kentucky for the past 32 months (sorry, I can't bear to put it into years). Your weekly has been one of the lifelines that has kept me mentally balanced (as well as emails from friends and fam), for that I thank you.

I don't normally view Ace in its online form as I prefer to be able to read it in its entirety, including the ads. That gives me the ability to inform my friends that there is a culture here in Lexington, an ambience that has nothing to do with tobacco, hill people or horses. And yes, it even has a cosmopolitan flair to it (No offence meant to those of tobacco, hills or horses, I just figured that's what the rest of the state is for). The culture shock has been extreme at times but your cool magazine has served as one of my anchor points beyond the Bluegrass.

Keep up the great work and best wishes for the future.

With great appreciation,

David Greene

Letters Policy: Ace LOVES to publish our mail (250 words or less please); please include name and daytime phone. No photocopies. No bulk mail. First come, first served. We may edit for space and grammar; we will limit frequency; and, on popular issues, we may print one or two letters to represent a segment of public opinion. Private correspondence should be labeled “NOT FOR PUBLICATION.”

Mail: 486 West Second St , Lexington, Ky 40507


What I'm reading right now...

One who does not read good books has no advantage over one who can't read.

-Mark Twain

Most of one wall of my office is occupied by bookshelves.

Somebody asked me the other day if I'd read all those books. I thought about it a second before bragging, "Why, yes I have. I've read more than just these too."

In the new issue of Vanity Fair, under the "What I'm Reading Right Now" section, actress Marian Seldes recommends the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (for which he just won a Pulitzer). He's the guy who wrote Wonder Boys (which we just saw for the 4th or 5th time this past weekend at the Midnight Movie) and I've given his books to more people than I can count. (Seldes received it as a gift from Brian Murray).

I spend a small fortune giving people books. Sometimes I write long notes explaining why I think they'll love it, or why it made me think of them. Sometimes I'll just leave them on their doorstep or in their mailbox with a little post-it note (so they know they don't have a bibliophilic stalker out there).

My greatest coup - one of my proudest moments - came a few weeks ago when my Uncle Don called to tell me how much he'd loved the copy of Larry Brown's newest book of essays, Billy Ray's Farm, that I'd sent him. (He didn't use those words.)

Don had served as my "technical agrarian consultant" when I interviewed Larry for a cover story back in April, because I'd spent the majority of my formative years on Uncle Don's farm (the family farm on my mother's side).

We are a family divided. Massey Fergusons on my dad's side; John Deeres on my mother's. Fords for the Reeveses and Chevys for the Sullivans. My father's family votes straight Democrat, my mother's straight Republican (though many of them broke ranks to vote against Shrub.) I drove a tractor LONG before I drove a car. The first dollar I ever earned came from setting tobacco (for Uncle Don). I castrated pigs and turned bulls into steers. (An experience that was an apparent precursor to my later romantic life.) I attended various and sundry episodes of animal husbandry. Some gruesome - some right by the book. But that's all been at least 20 years ago.

So as I read Billy Ray's Farm, I called Uncle Don early on the morning I was finishing the story to see if I had my facts straight on calf pulling. I read him some segments from the book. I asked him to speculate about what factors might've contributed to the calf's fate in the essay. We talked at great length about bloat and iodine. I called my story "Dead Cow Blues," partly because it's a state that Larry occupies for a great deal of the book. I also called it that partly because the men in my family have suffered those blues for years.

As Larry writes, "They die having their babies and the babies die, too. They fall into holes and don't ever get up. They get out in the road and get hit by cars. They have to be caught and held and innoculated, dipped, dusted, palpated, deflated, dehorned, castrated, artificially inseminated, weighed, wormed, fitted with tags, or chased down by the vet when they throw out their uteruses. They don't have enough sense to get in out of the rain. They're a large disappointment to a man who wishes a carefree existence in the world."

So this is the life that occupies my uncles and my father and my grandfathers before that. It's fair to say that literature has not been at the top of their list of priorities, or even past-times. I've never seen Uncle Don read anything but the newspaper, augmented occasionally by Progressive Farmer or Farm Journal.

When I asked Larry to sign a copy of Billy Ray's Farm for him, I hoped, at best, he might get a kick out of the inscription (which was something like, "Uncle Don, I understand you know a thing or two about calf pulling. Hope you enjoy the book.").

I marked the chapters that dealt specifically with farming, on the slim chance he might read a page or two about the cows.

But he read it all. Cover to cover. He was as animated in discussing those essays as he would've been if Billy Ray's farm was just over the ridge from his. He wanted to talk about the baby goats and the coyotes and the fishing. He wondered aloud if Larry had gotten himself the new state-of-the-art calf-puller ("one man can pull a calf with one of those, easy"). And finally he asked, "D'you suppose all that stuff happened, or you think he made some of it up?"

I told him I'm pretty sure it all happened, but that I would send along some of Larry's fiction next.

We all hope you enjoy this summer's literary quarterly and Vmagazine (filled with great writers and artists - some familiar, some unknowns as well).

And when you're done, pass it on to a friend. It's a great thing to discover a new writer or artist, but it's even better if you can make the time to share that experience.