That's what the sign on the door of Johnson Elementary School said: "ALL VISITORS MUST REPORT TO THE PRINCIPAL'S OFFICE."
Johnson Elementary is the school where Bill Sparkman worked part-time as an instructional assistant in an after-school program for about a decade.
Donna at the front desk of the Laurel County Public Library -- where I've been using their computers today -- gave me directions: Take a left on 192, go down to the light, turn left (west) on 80 and go back into town. Before you get to the railroad tracks, there will be an IGA store on your left. McWhorter Street is on the right, across from the IGA. Take McWhorter Street until it crosses the parkway, at which point it becomes McWhorter Road, and the school is a little more than a mile down, on the right.
The principal of the school is a tall, bespectacled man with jug ears named Tyler McWhorter, although he said he's not sure if the road was named for his family. McWhorter has only been at the school a couple of years and didn't know Sparkman. He gave me the cell-phone number of someone who could be more helpful.
Having figured out the computer set-up here at the library a bit better, I can now link Joseph Deal's article in Monday's London (Ky.) Sentinel-Echo, which I think may be the most important news story yet about the Sparkman case.
Joe Deal is a smart, tough, experienced journalist, a native of Wisconsin. Like most good newspapermen, Deal feels a real responsibility to his community and to the truth. It's important for people far away from eastern Kentucky to understand that misinformation from certain media outlets has resulted in the defamation of an entire community. But the entire 25,000 people of Clay County can't bring a class-action suit for libel, can they?
There seems to be a lot of craziness going around online lately. Brooke Shields is nude, Roman Polanski's been arrested, Gore Vidal is warning about "dictatorship," Bette Midler is talking "civil war," and there are even dangerous crackpots alleging that I'm somehow involved with Sarah Palin. (Let me make one thing perfectly clear to Dave Weigel: I did not have political relations with that governor, Mrs. Palin.)
When the going gets weird, the weird get going, and pretty soon I'm going to have to hit the road back up toward Washington. My wife's worried about me, down here with all these Kentucky women -- 19-year-old short-order cooks and 20-year-old journalists and so forth. Little Miss Attila suspects a "scam," a term that my Samoan attorney says might be considered defamatory per se.
As always, the vital question to ask is, "What Would Hunter S. Thompson Do?" And the blindingly obvious answer in this case is: Get the heck out of this library and go east on the parkway, very fast, before anyone even suspects I've gone.
Maybe I'll stop and talk to more sources -- Judge Garrison was at the Huddle House on Tuesday night, and gave me his cell-phone number -- and could possibly even make another post or two before I leave Kentucky. But I've done what I came here to do. I've got enough notes and pictures to lash together 10,000 words if I had to, and plenty of sources I can contact if this story heats up again, as it may at any moment. Let's see, if I head southeast toward Bristol, then hit I-81 . . .
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