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Rerun from 2003

Sunday, 24 December, 2006

While in the grocery I was reminded of an old story told about my grandfather … .

I was, indirectly, named for my father’s father who was directly involved with the organization of railroad employees in the Midwest and Mid-south, along the Louisville and Nashville line, for whom he worked. He subscribed, and as a youth my father read, the Louisville Daily News newspaper. Through my father’s connection, and some old scrapbooks, I have some awareness of what the paper was about. What they don’t readily tell you is that the paper, at least until WWII, was what would be considered a pro-Union, “hard left” oriented daily. Depending upon which neighborhood you were in, the capitalist The Courier-Journal, the black Louisville Defender or the Daily News was available.

Among the regular columnists in my grandfather’s newspaper was Rudolph Chirkin, who happened to live down the street in the Portland area. He was a White Russian (as opposed to Red) and after the Revolution managed to settle in Louisville. He was a horse breeder and the old money in Lexington didn’t want anything to do with him. Despite his origins, he eventually attempted to organize the horse workers in the racing industry. He joined all the right parties and clubs, and was a real card-carrying Communist. Although all of the demands of the horse workers were eventually met, they remained officially unorganized and Rudy found himself out of work. Chirkin found a new gig at the sports desk, indeed he may have founded the sports desk, at the Daily News. After the War, when things were attempting to get back to normal, the newspaper was bought by The Courier-Journal and evolved into the now closed Louisville Times. At the Times, this hot-tempered old Russian wasn’t really welcome among the red white and blue sports writers. He was nearing sixty years of age.

As an old Russian peasant, Chirkin had the innate knowledge of meteorology that only those in touch with the land can have. He became the Jim Spencer of his day as the paper, and Mr. Bingham the owner-operator, liked having such a character around. A daily weather feature was created for him. This ran until the end of his life, some time in the early seventies. I have heard old disks of the cranky, possibly insane, Russian ranting about the Indiana knobs, and the rolling hills of Kentucky from WHAS, the paper’s radio station. He was one of those guys who would gladly defy the predictions of the National Weather Bureau if his interpretations led him in that direction.

My grandfather would plan his weeks around Rudy Chirkin’s forecasts. At some point in the early sixties, I suppose it would be 1962, the original Stan’s wife was planning a big shindig for the return of her youngest son from the army. He was due to Union Station, Saturday. Stan called around and arranged for an awning and extra chairs for inside the house. It all arrived on a sunny, cloudless Friday afternoon. Ruby, the wife, wondered just what he was doing as the forecast was clear for the next several days. Stan said something like: “If Chirkin says it’s going to rain, it’s going to rain.”

Next day as he was returning from Union Station with his boy, with the friends, family and neighbors gathered in and around the house, the sky opened and poured forth with a torrent that continued for days. Ruby asked Stan how he knew this was going to happen.

Stan replied, “Rudolph the red knows rain, dear.”

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