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Published: Wednesday, 8/13/2003

No sense of history

“Daniel Boone,” intones the World Book encyclopedia, “is one of the most famous pioneers in United States history.” The same information source says nothing about U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, a 12-term member of Congress.

But down in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, which Boone explored and settled more than 200 years ago, they're removing the signs from the “Daniel Boone Parkway” toll road and replacing them with placards reading “Hal Rogers Parkway.”

Yes, a real-life folk hero, who brought our pioneering American ancestors to Kentucky on their way west, is being supplanted by a local politician who brought federal funds from Washington to remove the tolls from the scenic highway.

Now, we've done our research and we know that those tolls - $1.40 to drive the 60-mile route from London to Hazard - have long been a real irritant to folks in those parts who don't like to pay to go to work. We can understand that, but what about Kentucky's debt to history?

For many years, tourists traversing I-75 both north and south have been lured to the beautiful, mountainous region by a chance to drive the two-lane, limited access road through the Daniel Boone National Forest. Will Hal Rogers have the same historical draw as Daniel Boone? We doubt it, and so do many people in Kentucky.

“For all of Rogers' ability to bring the gravy home from Washington, it pales in comparison to the legendary life of Boone,” editorialized the Floyd County Times of Prestonburg.

Indeed, Daniel Boone is associated with the heroic aspects of white pioneers to the interior of the American continent. Although he never actually wore a coonskin cap (it was black felt), Boone was a hunter, a fighter, and a man on the move, who always looked to the western horizon. He eventually got as far as what is now Missouri, where he died in 1820 at the age of 85. His remains were returned to Kentucky in 1845 for burial in Frankfort, the state capital.

For his part, Mr. Rogers, a Republican who has served in Congress since 1981, says he is “humbled” to have his name on the parkway. But not humble enough, apparently, to decline the honor in deference to an authentic icon of Americana.

Some people have no sense of history.

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