A good while ago, I planned to write a column on Ms. Alice Propst. Unbeknownst to me, a writer from the Kentucky New Era had the same plan. Well, wouldn’t you know it, the New Era beat me to the punch. New Era writer Melissa Larimore did a wonderful feature on Ms. Alice. Undeterred, I am coming to you today with my own version of the Alice Propst story. Or, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. Besides, not everyone in Trigg County reads the New Era paper. So, here goes.
Let me set the scene for you. Alice, as I will refer to her in the rest of the column, is 87 years and 7 months young – and I do mean young. If age 70 is the new 50, as they say, then 87 must be the new 47 somehow. Back in mid-July, I called Alice and said I had us a golf game lined up. You see, Alice plays golf nearly every day of the week. Well, we were going to play two of our fellow church members at Cadiz Baptist in a two-on-two best-ball scramble. I won’t mention the names of our opponents for the world to know, but I will tell you about the match.
I met Alice at her beautiful home near the Arrowhead Golf Course. We loaded our bags into her tricked-out golf cart, which is complete with rearview mirrors and a red warning flag. Then we proceeded down the street and across a special path that was created for her by her friends Todd King and Jimmy Futrell. Once on the course, we started on the back nine at hole number 10. When Alice hit her first drive, one of our opponents said, “Well, I might just go home if she is going to hit the ball that good all day.” And so the battle for bragging rights began.
Now, Alice is a real golfer. She understands the game and she can still play. After about five holes, we had a three-stroke lead on our opponents. We then proceeded to lose a hole. I came back to the cart and announced to Alice that they had cut our lead to two strokes. Alice said, “That is OK Mike. If we beat those two boys too bad, they won’t play us anymore.” At that point, I realized I was not only playing with an 87-year-old lady that could still play golf, I was also playing with a woman with a great sense of humor.
The match ended with us winning by a couple of strokes or so, but that is not the story. The story is Ms. Alice. She had already played nine holes earlier that same morning. Let me tell you more about this amazing Alice lady.
Alice was born in the land between the rivers, also known as the Cumberland River bottoms. Her dad was a sharecropper. He also helped some of the between the rivers folks with their whiskey business. Her mom stayed at home and raised the children, as was custom for moms to do back then. Alice spent her childhood playing with her siblings, which included Francis, J.B. “Spider” and Edna “Tweety” McCloud. Everyone over 50 should remember Spider since he ran the Ford Motor Company here in Cadiz for many years. Even though the family didn’t have much in the way of material or worldly possessions, Alice said she developed a ton of pride, honesty and integrity. Surprisingly, one thing her mother didn’t teach her was work ethic. Her mother had been the oldest of 10 kids. Her mother had to work from age five on to help raise her younger siblings and never really had a childhood. Therefore, Alice’s mom made sure to keep her kids days free to roam the hills and hollows between the rivers, play and have a childhood of their own. Still, Alice developed her own work ethic as she would gather May apple roots, dry them and sell them. She would pick up scrap iron to sell, as well.
Alice went to the one-room school house at Fenton for eight years. For the record, she had to walk two and a half miles each way to school every day. Alice said, “If you listened well and remembered things, by the time you got to the eighth grade you already knew the material because you had heard it being taught for the past seven years. I won a spelling bee one year and I got to go to Cadiz for the next level of competition. That was my first time to ever go to Cadiz, and of course, it was only about 15 miles away. The rivers were like mountainous barriers to some of us people that lived in the land between them.”
Alice was also in a little band when she was 11. They won a contest and were invited to go to the Grand Ole Opry. Alice said, “We didn’t have the money to go. It is a shame because I might could have been another Loretta Lynn. Due to a couple of reasons, however, I don’t think I could have been another Dolly Parton.”
Alice and her siblings also played a lot of ball during their childhood. Alice’s mom would take twine and wrap it around a small rock until it resembled a primitive baseball and they would play ball all day. That must be where her brother Spider McCloud developed his pitching ability. I have always heard that Spider was a really good pitcher back when fast-pitch softball was popular.
Alice married Mahlon “Curly” Propst in 1945. They were married for 51 years until he passed away in 1996. They have one son named Jim who is a nuclear engineer. When the government forced the citizens between the rivers to move out, Alice and Curly had their house loaded onto a boat and moved it across the river to Gray’s Acres, where she lived until she moved to Arrowhead in 2004.
Let’s get back to golf, if we may. Alice took up the game at age 61. She was working at Lake Barkley State Park at the time. The greens keeper at Barkley helped her turn her entire back yard at her Gray’s Acres home into a putting green. Alice has gone on to develop a true love for the game as she plays nearly daily and has a room of her house that is set aside for her golf/prayer room. I asked her if she ever prayed for her golf game in that room and questioned whether that would be a conflict of interest. Alice just smiled at that question. Alice says that now a days she considers it a good round if she does not have any triple bogeys and if she does not lose a ball. She also loves playing her new home course of Arrowhead, which she feels is equally beautiful and challenging.
In Alice’s golf bag, she has many treasures which include a ball retriever given to her by Dan Stone, a Ping putter from the employees at Lake Barkley and a golfers bible form her nephew Jeff Edwards.
As I have said, you won’t find a more active senior or junior citizen than Alice. She recently made a coconut cake that auctioned for over $500 with the proceeds going to the Trigg County Hospital Foundation. She is a substitute Sunday School teacher at Shady Lawn Nursing Home, and she facilitates a monthly service at Trigg Manor. Alice accepted Christ as her savior at age 12 at Hopewell Baptist Church between the rivers and has stayed true to her faith all these years.
At the close of our interview, I asked Alice what she saw in her future because she is still going strong. She said, “I have a small immediate family left, but I have a large family in other ways. I have my church family, golf family, Cracker Barrel family, Lake Barkley family and hospital family. I just hope to maintain my good attitude. I don’t like negative people. I also want to continue to contribute to society and I hope to be remembered as someone who loved and cared about people.”
Without a doubt, Ms. Alice will someday leave a legacy as being a wonderful, vibrant lady that loved people and contributed greatly to society. She will be known for her ability as a golfer as well. If you don’t believe me on that, just ask Jimmy Futrell and Keith Simonson. Oh my, I didn’t mean to mention their names. Too bad I don’t know how to use the backspace on this new computer. Oh well!
OT: Ms. Alice informed me that she has asked Jim Wallace to do her eulogy. I said, “The problem with that is, what if you out live Jim?” She said. “Well, you are a good speaker, you are next.” Then I said, “But what if you out live ...” well, you get the picture.
OTT: Jerry Ray Tyler can attest to what a good neighbor Alice is as she keeps him and Cookye stocked in coconut cake, white beans and corn fritters.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the former head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.