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Flying under the radar

There’s a story worth telling about being Jerry Wayne.

Sarah:Jerry
Sarah and Jerry Wayne are heading toward 50 years of marriage.

By Manny Dixon-Peralta

Burdine Street. Late July. The sun has fallen. All is quiet, bar the tunes of the crickets and cicadas drifting aimlessly into the warm summer dark. In his humble home, along this modest street in Somerset, Kentucky, Jerry Wayne, 76, is almost ready for bed.

He sits in his recliner, drinking a cold glass of water. The television is playing, but he is not watching.

He keeps it on to fill the quiet of the house.

His wife, Sarah Jane, 75, is on vacation with her sister in sunny California. They have been married more than 50 years. She loves him almost as much as the sound of her own voice.

He is not accustomed to the quiet.

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Fast (food) friends

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The McDonald’s Man thinks you deserve a break today.

By Manny Dixon-Peralta

Monday. 3:30 a.m.: Jimmy Smith, 54, rises to the sound of a blaring alarm. His joints pop as he stretches out his arms to silence the electronic yell. To most, it is still the middle of the night.

For Jimmy, it is the start of new day.

Jimmy lets out a loud yawn, as he reaches for the pack on his nightstand, and fishes out a cigarette: a Marlboro Red 100. He takes long, slow draws and blows out thin-white clouds of smoke.

He enjoys the feeling. He takes his time.

After the butt is mashed into his ashtray, Jimmy rises from his bed and tiptoes across the hall to the bathroom. He is careful and quiet. He does not want to disturb his mother — asleep in the room next door.

In the bathroom, Jimmy showers, shaves and dresses. He stands for a moment, looking in the mirror. In a cup by the sink is a set of dentures. Jimmy picks them up, sets them to his gums.

Ensuring their placement, he smiles at his reflection.

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A Grave Mistake
Photo illustration by Jeremy Chisenhall

Dangerous steps when ‘walking the grain’

By Jeremy Chisenhall

Temperatures reached 91 degrees in Mount Carroll, Illinois, on the day rescuers pulled Alejandro “Alex” Pacas and Wyatt Whitebread’s dead bodies from a grain bin.

The heat started it all.

Whitebread fainted while “walking the grain,” in which a person enters the bin with an object like a piece of pipe or a shovel to try to loosen clumped-up grain, allowing it to flow out of the bin and onto a conveyer belt below.

None of the workers wore safety harnesses, and the corn beneath Whitebread gave way just before 10 a.m. Panicked, Pacas, 19, and Will Piper, 20, a coworker, tried to drag Whitebread out of the bin, said Catherine Rylatt, Pacas’ aunt and the founder of the Grain Handling Safety Coalition.

The two tried desperately to keep Whitebread from becoming a blip on the radar of a giant funnel of corn.

Just as they thought they grabbed Whitebread, the corn gave way beneath them, Rylatt said. An ocean of corn swallowed up Whitebread. Pacas and Piper became entrapped at that point, an OSHA investigation report stated.

Whitebread, 14, died first.

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A night of a thousand Dollys

This fall, Dolly Parton celebrated her 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. The impersonator Carla Jean Morgan is keeping Dolly’s image — and legacy in country music — alive on the party-town streets of Nashville.

Lead photo
It only takes Carla Jean Morgan 30 minutes to “put on her Dolly.” The breasts are already there, she says.

Story by Sara Krog

Photos by Sofie Skødt Mortensen

Carla Jean Morgan comes driving down Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville in her red truck. The street is busy and full of lights, bars and dolled up bachelorettes getting their drink on. This is NashVegas, ground zero for country music and its fans, a place where T-shirts, cowboy boots and an atmosphere of picking — and lots of grinning — plays on, 24-7.

Even though she’s partially hidden inside the car, Carla Jean’s blonde wig makes people on the street take a head-turning gaze. That’s a feat if you consider the buzz and the cast of characters parading this flashy venue on a Music City Saturday night.

Could it be?  Fans look at Carla Jean and then look at each other with eyebrows raised.

“Was that Dolly Parton?” they whisper before taking another look.

Carla Jean’s truck takes a turn left into a parking lot. She opens the door and jumps to the ground before she puts on her black heals, a necessity for her outfit. In Dolly’s world, there are no flat shoes. And nearly everything has some sparkle.

Soon the crowd realizes – this is not the real Dolly, but it’s a pretty good Almost Dolly, as Carla Jean calls herself.

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The ‘Principal’ of wrestling

In God’s house, powerslams and piledrivers are the mission for promoter and school leader Tortorello

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Steve Tortorello, the principal at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and owner of Warrior Wrestling, addresses the crowd prior to “Warrior Wrestling Six” in the MCHS West Gym on Sept. 1, 2019.

Story by Drake Kizer

Photos by Basil Mahmud

In a dimly lit venue about 30 miles south of Chicago, 800 professional wrestling fans cry out to their favorite, and least favorite, competitors with reckless fervor.

“Moose!”

“Cero Miedo!”

“S-C-U!”

“This is awesome!”

They represent only a handful of the chants that rain down on the wrestlers flying off the ropes and slamming each other onto the mat. The ring is almost entirely black except for a gold “Spartan” helmet logo emblazoned in the center of a weathered canvas. Above that, the phrase “Warrior Wrestling” is etched in gold.

The passionate cries echoed through a high school gymnasium in a struggling town where wrestling fanatics paid as little as $35 or more than $100 to watch costumed villains and heroes pretend to inflict harm on their enemies — all for the purpose of keeping the students who use the gym for standard athletic fare from doing or suffering the same fate in real life.

Steve Tortorello, a lifelong fan of professional wrestling, sits and watches the action with a discerning eye. But as chatter rings through his headset, Tortorello is reminded he’s not just an onlooker.

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From pictures to a president

Evan Sisley’s photo of “Sully,” President George H.W. Bush’s service dog, taken at the president’s memorial service received more than 280,000 “likes” on Instagram.

By Laurel Deppen

On the evening of Nov. 30, 2018, former President George H. W. Bush laid in his bed, surrounded by his family as Ronan Tynan, a member of the Irish tenors, sang “Silent Night.”

The president loved Christmas carols, and as Tynan sang by his bedside, Bush mouthed the lyrics.

“You can’t help but maybe take a step back and kind of look at this from a historical perspective, but he wasn’t just a patient,” said Evan Sisley, a former Western Kentucky University student and Bush’s personal aide for the last four years of his life. “He was a mentor.”

About four hours later, Bush died.

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Taylor Metcalf

Impaired driving in Bowling Green

By Taylor Metcalf

Drunk driving is a constant problem across the United States, and it is no different in Bowling Green.

Like any other city, Bowling Green had seen its fair share of impaired driving. Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower had seen several drunk driving instances in his time as an officer and since his election as sheriff in 2018.

“Drunk driving is an issue that has plagued a lot of communities,” Hightower said. “When you don’t put a plan in place [for getting home] early on, you make poor choices.”

However, in the past near decade, record rates of driving under the influence in Bowling Green have decreased nearly half. In 2009, records showed that 799 instances of drunk driving were recorded, while 2018 had only 464.

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McKenna Mitchell

Modern Language changes: It’s a smaller world after CAPE

By McKenna Mitchell

Junior Erin Woggon was never able to speak to her German grandparents before they died. She knew very little German, such as asking what someone’s favorite subject in school is, and was only able to have a conversation with them if with the help of her parents.

Despite being a German dual citizen, Woggon said her family only spoke English in the home while growing up in the United States. While this helped her learn English for school, it formed a language barrier between her and her father’s German family. She was never able to overcome this barrier before both of her grandparents died while she was in high school.

After her loss, Woggon entered college with a goal in mind.

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Feature Miles Schroader

Making limestone a lifestyle at Mammoth Cave

By Miles Schroader

According to the U.S. National Park Service, more than 318 million people visited the 58 national parks across the country in 2018. But only about 20,000 get the pleasure of making a career out of the National Park Service.

People who get a job in the park service may be from different walks of life, but most of them will tell you they got into the job for a similar reason to Jackie Wheet of Bowling Green, a park ranger and tour guide at Mammoth Cave National Park.

“I know you’re not making the big bucks; you don’t see park rangers driving new Corvettes,” Wheet said.

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Feature Laurel Deppen

Women carve out a place in STEM at WKU

By Laurel Deppen

Women make up just 37 percent of the students in the Ogden College of Science and Engineering, as opposed to Western Kentucky University as a whole, where 59 percent of undergraduate students are female, according to the WKU Fact Book 2018.

The statistic mirrors a global trend. According to a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization report, around 30 percent of women in higher education are pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.