Odus Fryman eases through the small kitchen at Fryman's Hilltop Grill, stirring a pot of homemade chili as his employees move around him in the restaurant across the street from Harrison County High School.
After school, kids pile into the restaurant, flopping down in the booths, taking over the place. Few of them buy anything. Instead they sip Odus's free water, launch spitballs and duck outside for a smoke.
Some people would kick them out. Not him.
“They’re just kids, let ‘em have fun," says Odus, 60. "Someday they’re gonna be old.”
He is happy to be back working in Cynthiana. He spent 25 years commuting around Kentucky, working at various fast food restaurants, from Wendy's in Dry Ridge and Winchester to Taco Bells all around Lexington.
Almost 45 years ago, Odus started his career at a Cynthiana Kentucky Fried Chicken. In 2014 he bought the Hilltop from Mike Sosby, slapped his last name on the front. Odus was finally, fully home.
Relics of his past, the gray and orange booths in his dining room, were repurposed by a former owner from that same KFC. "And this floor," Odus says. "I hate the floor."
In a town like Cynthiana, the past is never far behind. Odus hops into his car to make a delivery for Anita McCarty, 67, whom he has known since they worked together at the KFC when he was still in his teens and she was just out of hers.
“I was a pup when I started there,” Odus says.
But here he is, still working, still feeding people. “I didn’t know I’d have to work this much harder at the end of my life," he says.
"Well," he says. "I wanted my own place.”