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Buckhorn

One of central Kentucky's most endearing and beloved characters, known to all simply as Buckhorn, was a fixture of the downtown Richmond scene for years.

Small-town fame and glory came to Buckhorn on many levels: his early-morning radio show on Richmond's WEKY-AM (his atonal and ear-splittingly loud rendition of "Happy Birthday To You" was a notorious local hit of sorts, and kept the VU meters laying in the red), his popularity with drunks and college students as the eccentric custodian at several local bars, his notoriety for zipping all over town on his motorcycle (and often ignoring all traffic laws), but most of all his glory lay on two other fronts:

First and foremost, Buckhorn was the quintessential wheeler-dealer. Buckhorn always had something to sell, and like the guy in the Residents song "Hello Skinny", Buckhorn sold something every single day. He would open up his coat to reveal an entire store inside, like a bad old movie's "wanna buy a watch?" street hustler come to life. He had watches, pocket knives (Case XX ones were his favorite), old collectible cigarette lighters, antique silver cigarette cases, etc. All day long Buckhorn sped on his cycle from flea market to bar to junk store to pool hall, endlessly buying and selling like a one-man pawn shop a-go-go.

And secondly, Buckhorn had a special place in his heart for radios. He loved to fix, repair and restore antique radios, and proof of his occult powers is the fact that he repaired them often, and repaired them quite well, even though he knew little or nothing about the fundamentals of electronics except what he had taught himself through trial and error, and had little formal education (he could not read or write).

"I just wuk on 'em till they do right", Buckhorn said of his repair technique. He had a huge collection of old tubes, but his methods for choosing appropriate replacement ones for radios were a cryptic, mysterious, spiritual matter, the mechanisms of which were known only to himself. He usually polished his tubes until the serial numbers were worn off anyway. And yet he conjured and coaxed new life into dead radios. How he did it remains a mystery. "Wal, I reckon it's got that Buckhorn Quietus on it", he would say when a piece was finished.

(For those who did not have the opportunity to hear Buckhorn's voice, it was a powerful thing: a deep-south Louisiana-like upwardly-lilting drawl utterly out of place for someone who'd never left Kentucky in his life, creaky and full of character like a merging of William S.Burroughs, Justin Wilson and Emo Phillips. Add to this the trait of repeating some words and phrases twice, and a delightfully squeaky and childish laugh that clashed with his rough, grizzled appearance.)

Buckhorn died on his motorcycle in an accident in 1997.