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Kentucky-Tennessee border crossing, site of legendary turf war, now in coronavirus crossfire

A border battle is brewing over coronavirus concerns as governors in Kentucky and Tennessee disagree on how to handle the pandemic.

SIMPSON COUNTY, Ky. — There are some people whose spirit can shine through anything, even a pandemic. Those with a smile that can penetrate a protective mask.

“Yes, like that picture on the trailer," Ms. Emmet Carter said while pointing at her food truck.

Ms. Emmett's bright yellow restaurant on wheels is parked on the Kentucky side of the border with Tennessee—a stone marker just feet away is the dividing line.

She lives in Portland, Tennessee, just a couple of miles down the road. Her presence here is a highlight for those hungry to escape a COVID-19 isolation.

Allyson Wilkerson drove a few miles with her family from Franklin, Kentucky to enjoy "Ms. Emmett’s Legendary Kitchen."

“The only times that we leave the house are to take a short walk on the town square or to come and get Ms. Emmett's food," Allyson said with a smile.

Ms. Emmet is not just selling her legendary dishes. She has also given away free lunches to children in need and first responders. The U.S. Army veteran, who sells cars on the side to keep this mission rolling, hopes her business can survive this crisis. Her car dealership job is on hold since Governor Andy Beshear ordered auto dealerships to close.

“My plan that I have is to keep feeding and giving back to the community," she said. “Hopefully everybody will keep being supportive so we can continue doing what we do and helping make sure there is a good resource of food available.”

But because she works here and lives in Tennessee, she has to carry papers to prove she can travel. Gov. Andy Beshear has had harsh words for how Tennessee's governor has been handling the pandemic, with Beshear banning most travel to the Volunteer State. 

Still, this spot isn't just any Kentucky-Tennessee border crossing, this is the legendary area of the “Triangular Jog."

A bronze marker tells how 1780 surveyors who were laying out state boundaries drew a unique line here. If you look at the map southeast of Bowling Green, in Simpson County, you'll see the triangular jog at the bitter center of the dispute. It took 80 years to settle the border battle.

Now Ms. Emmet, her customers and everyone else living here are caught in the coronavirus cross fire.

“It's hard because you have one state six feet away saying, well you have to do this, and another state is six feet on the other side of the line saying you don't have to do this or you should do this." Ms. Emmet said. "You have to kind of piece it together yourself right now so it's just hard."

She said her military training helps steady her emotions in these unusual times and at this unique place.

“I got stationed in Korea," Ms. Emmet said. "We were on the DMZ border."

When I asked if I had heard her correctly, she laughed, “Yes, another border."

So what side does she consider North Korea and which side is South Korea, in this dispute?

“Well, I think that Kentucky is South (Korea), Tennessee is probably North (Korea)," Ms. Emmet said.

She hopes this dispute can be safely settled in less than the 80 years it took to solve that other Kentucky/Tennessee border battle, the “Triangular Jog.”

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