When I asked friends to suggest what to write blogs about, a friend and a writer I really admire, Pauly, suggested I should address a very important question:
Is Kentucky bluegrass really blue?
Thing is, I am really not sure what he is getting at with this question. To give you the straightforward response, no, the grass itself is not blue, however bluegrass is completely different than your standard grass. First of all, it is a very fine grass. Blades look kind of like green porcupine quills. Don’t think this grass is scratchy though. This grass is, in fact, softer than any grass you will ever encounter. It is so soft and downy, we used to take naps in the yard, not even on a blanket. It is also delicious, though I can’t speak to that fact from my own experience.
There is a reason Lexington and Central Kentucky serve as the horse capitol of the world. It is our delicious grass. Our fertile soil produces our unique grass, which is chocked full of calcium, and our pretty ponies eat it. Then they get prettier and faster and stronger. Thankfully they don’t eat all the grass though, as I have yet to encounter a natural site as pretty as driving through the outskirts of Central Kentucky admiring the white wooden fences, the rolling hills covered in the green bluegrass. This picture, taken on my trip to Lexington last fall, does not even come close to doing it justice:
While I think this answers Pauly’s literal question, I don’t think it quite suffices as an answer though. Because when you say “bluegrass”, you can mean a lot of things. Yes, there is the actual grass, but the part of the country where I come from is called the Bluegrass region. Is the Bluegrass region blue?
Yes. Very. Or, as you might say, it is Big Blue.
With no professional sports teams in the state of Kentucky, the University of Kentucky basketball team has become our NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, and raison d’etre all in one. You are raised to “bleed Blue”, as, even if you aren’t an alum, you are a member of the Big Blue Nation (hence all my #BBN hashtags). This week, I watched each SEC tournament game beaming with pride at “Catlanta”, the massive number of fans from KY decked out in blue packed in the Georgia Dome. You can buy UK gear at gas stations, grocery stores, Wal-Mart, or one of the dozens of stores that exclusively sell the merchandise. On game days, be it football or basketball, the whole town is blue. Even today in Vegas, I put on one of my Wildcat Blue t-shirts. I texted my friend Billy about the game and he responded with a picture of himself in head-to-toe gear even though he is here in Vegas too, not headed to Atlanta to see it person or even a bar in Kentucky to watch with friends. This is what we put on to watch the games in our homes in Nevada. So, you can only imagine what the Bluegrass region is like.
In fact, the basketball team is such a vital part of our town, that when you say the word “blue”, most people will think of Coach Cal, his Kiddie Cats, and the winningest team in college basketball history before the grass.
Of course, Pauly might also be asking about the music. You may hate country, but you probably haven’t heard real country, and by real country, I mean bluegrass. This fiddle-heavy, Celtic-influenced genre may be one of those hipster things to like these days, but I have been a big fan of the strumming of bluegrass notes since my childhood. As I grew up, I became obsessed with bands like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Alison Kraus, and my all-time favorite, the newly-reassembled Nickel Creek.
Like I said, this music isn’t your standard country fare, but is it blue? I think it might be. While there is happy bluegrass music like “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, there is something melancholic and yet hopeful about country music. As Aaron Fox’s “Real Country” notes, a common theme in country music are songs whose messages amount to: “Yes, life is kind of awful, but what’s new? We can always drink and sing our sorrows away and hope tomorrow things suck less.” Even a loving happy song like Nickel Creek’s “When You Come Back Down” is a song about a man’s love for a woman that is so strong, he is going to send her away to live her life and take the chances she needs to take, and simply wait for her at home if she needs him. See what I mean? It is beautiful, it is something I think we can all relate to, but it is a little depressing.
They are depressing, pessimistic messages I suppose, but it is what I love most about country music. Country artists understand that rural working class people feel and are oppressed, unrepresented in modern media, and generally doing their best to make do with very little. So, while this message may seem a little blue, it actually speaks right to the heart of the Bluegrass.
So, back to the question at hand…Bluegrass, huh? Well, even though it may be green, when it comes to Kentucky and its people and its music and its heart, I think blue is pretty much the perfect color to describe it.