Forty some years ago, there wasn't a more useful person to have around than this kid named Donnie. If something bad happened anywhere near where we lived, he got blamed for it.
Donnie had a long history of misbehaving, and by the time he hit adolescence, all the petty vandalism, phone tricks, smart-ass graffiti and other pranks kids engage in was blamed on ol' Donnie. Might not have been fair, but it took heat off the rest of us.
Donnie didn't seem to mind.
I hadn't thought of him in years -- not until I began asking who had made the decision to take Daniel Boone's name off a parkway and put U.S Rep. Hal Rogers' name on it instead.
State Transportation Cabinet Secretary James C. Codell III ultimately signed the order to change all the road signs, but I figure it came after someone else suggested it.
During a phone call, Codell's spokesman matter-of-factly said Rogers' staff made the initial request.
I was surprised. The congressman, you may recall, was widely reported as having been pluperfectly shocked when a parkway sign with his name on it was unveiled.
An hour or so later, Codell's rep called back and said he may have "misspoken" and would need to clarify who made the actual request. By then I'd left a message at Rogers' office, and before I spoke to Codell's guy again, I got a call from there.
Rogers' person reminded me, midway through our brief phone conversation, that I'd called her boss a "garden variety politician" in the newspaper. Rogers does good customer service and hauls home big barrels of political pork. That's "garden variety" in any political lexicon, and I told the woman so.
After a pause, Rogers' rep said his office had had nothing to do with the proposal to rename the road. It was all Gov. Paul Patton's idea. What's more, she said, she had spoken to Codell's office and the governor's office, and assured me that both would confirm this version of events.
And they did.
When I talked to Codell's spokesman again, he said the renaming had been Patton's idea all along. The spokesman had no idea why he had thought for even a moment that Rogers' office had had anything to do with it.
Later in the day, Patton's press secretary confirmed that it had been the governor's idea. All of it, from the very beginning, Paul did it.
Patton's political career is dead as Daniel Boone himself. Doesn't matter what slops over in his direction at this point.
That's when I got to thinking about that kid Donnie, the guy who was so handy to have around when something really stupid happened and someone was needed to take the blame.
I know renaming the Daniel Boone Parkway isn't the end all and be all of political issues. Changing the name won't put food in anyone's mouth, take care of any old person's doctor bills or resolve any of the serious problems the state faces.
But just once, wouldn't you love to see a clot of politicians admit they had made a mistake, maybe bend to the will of the people?
I asked Rogers' aide whether his office was receiving a lot of e-mail about the parkway. She said Rogers gets a lot of supportive e-mail, but didn't know what writers were saying about the road.
Then I asked if Rogers might consider asking Codell's Transportation Cabinet to restore the name. The aide said she hadn't spoken to Rogers about that.
Maybe you can do that for her. His e-mail address is Talk2Hal@mail.house.gov. And if you're in Kentucky, you can call him at 800-632-8588.
Whose idea was it?