THE VEGANS OF ENGLAND COUNTY
John David Morgan
Megan Erin Johnson was a vegan.
A 70-year-old vegan. In England County, Kentucky. In 1976.
But that’s exactly what she was. Actually, she was the second vegan in the small Kentucky county.
The first of those rascals was Dr. Bradford Winslow.
Folks said that Dr. Winslow had moved to England County from Idaho, or Montana, or maybe Wyoming, at least someplace out there west of the Mississippi. No one knew exactly why he left the west, but it was said he settled in England County because he liked the mountains.
The dentist did not hit it off initially with the good people of England County. For one thing, his first name was “Bradford”, and no man or woman in Appalachia would ever name their boy that. To them, Bradford was a type of pear tree that bloomed for about a week in the spring.
For another thing, the locals thought him uppity. He talked about how great it was fishing for trout back there in Colorado, or New Mexico, or Utah, or wherever it was. He had the nerve to say in public that trout fishing was better than catching a big mouth bass or a muskie. Few people ever actually saw him go fishing, and those that did never reported him catching anything bigger than a blue gill. And, whatever he did catch, he always let it loose.
What sort of fool would go to all the trouble of catching a fish, and then let the durn thing loose?
But, several of the livelier folks in town did start to come to his defense, once it was known he was fond of moonshine. And as health plans slowly improved, and more union workers started receiving dental benefits, the town gradually accepted him.
It was Dr. Winslow that had personally instructed Megan Erin in the joys of veganism.
In fact, the Widow Johnson (as Megan Erin was now called) had a very close and personal relationship with the good dentist. In Noah’s will, all of the Johnson assets were in a living trust for his widow, with the condition that if she remarried, the assets would immediately transfer fifty-fifty to a coal miners’ charity and the University of Kentucky. Several lawyers were hopeful that this would happen, since they either knew of, or could easily create, a coal miner’s charity that would need a great deal of their legal expertise.
Dr. Winslow had brought a small fortune (the key word being small) with him from the west. But it was nothing near the king’s ransom left to Megan Erin by the strip-mine owner Noah. As a result, the Widow Johnson was frequently seen going into Dr. Winslow’s office at all hours, and the good doctor was even known to make house calls for dental emergencies to his favorite patient.
This caused a great deal of talk with the professional gossipers in England County, a “professional” being defined as them that spent more than three-fourths of their free time in that activity.
Megan Erin was a favorite topic as far away as Lexington, where the Logan Shelby stock broker Worth Berry was known to say: “that Widow Johnson over in England County is what they call a vegan.”
And when the listener asked the question of what exactly a vegan actually was, Worth would respond:
“I ain’t exactly sure, but I expect it’s a might like a foot-washing Baptist, only it’s about the mouth. Cause it’s a shore-enough fact, that Widow Johnson has the cleanest teeth in all of eastern Kentucky.”