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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 6/7/2008

War between the states

OHIO rocks. But so does Kentucky, and that's the problem. A territorial issue over a large rock removed from the Ohio River between the states has officials on both sides of the border throwing figurative stones at each other.

This is one of those disputes that seem to confirm that at least some public officials have way too much time on their hands. It involves an eight-ton boulder taken from the middle of the river last fall by Ohio historian Steve Shaffer of Ironton.

The massive piece of sandstone is marked by a crude stick figure chiseled into its surface, perhaps by Native Americans or maybe by the people who also have carved their names and initials on it. It's become a cause celebre of sorts downstate.

Mr. Shaffer says he deserves praise for saving the rock, which sat in the river for God knows how long. He believes that the rock, mostly submerged since the 1920s, was neglected and in danger of being damaged forever.

But Kentucky begs to differ, arguing that the rock was a longtime navigation marker for boaters, and that it is a Bluegrass State treasure, which must be returned. University of Kentucky experts in anthropology and archaeology insist the rock is a protected archaeological object that had been registered with the state in 1986.

And, believe it or not, a Kentucky grand jury is investigating whether criminal charges should be filed against those who hauled the rock from the river, as well as those who aided and abetted them. The mayor of Portsmouth, Ohio, where the rock currently resides on some old tires in a city maintenance garage, has been subpoenaed to testify.

Kentucky's attorney general has even jumped into the dispute, as have state lawmakers, who adopted a resolution condemning the rock's removal and demanding its return.

Not to be outdone in silliness, Ohio legislators considering a counter-resolution, calling on Kentucky to abandon its claim.

But alas, a compromise on this matter may be difficult to negotiate.

Both Ohio and Kentucky appear stuck in a well-known position - between a rock and a hard place.



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