When I read Ike Adams’ last column I realized he probably wouldn’t live long. Yet I was still stunned when my sister called the next week and told me he had passed away. Her mail arrives earlier in the day than mine. That evening I opened the newspaper to read Loretta’s column. I knew what to expect yet I still cried. I was so sorry to hear of his death. Like many of you I have “known” Ike for years. I wanted to write a tribute then but I had already promised myself I was going to finish the series on the jail without another interruption. I was glad to see Tara K.’s column the next week about Ike. Since I completed the jail series here’s my tribute to Ike.
I had remembered Ike got his start because of a hillbilly vocabulary quiz in The Sentinel-Echo, but I wasn’t sure if I had started reading his column then or later. The quiz Tara had printed didn’t ring a bell so I went back to the originals to see if any of the early columns did. We have some old newspapers at the Historical Society library so I reread most of his columns through January 1982. On September 3, 1981, Charles Houses’ “Musings …” column was entitled “Talking down-home.” The next week Ike responded. The following week there were more letters other people had sent in response to the column. Reading those letters jogged my memory. Thus I can say my first introduction to Ike was in September 1981 when he worked here in Laurel County. At that time he was a community relations specialist for the Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation.
Ike’s first official column appeared on October 1. It was the one the Sentinel reprinted at the end of June about using plow lines to draw wash water. The next week Ike announced the newspaper was offering a ten dollar prize to someone who could provide a name for his column. By December 10th Ike’s picture was in the paper and his column was entitled “Hollerings” after Blair Branch Holler. I had hoped to find when the name changed again but I didn’t have time to go the public library which has complete copies of The Sentinel-Echo on microfilm.
I have never actually been to Blair Branch Holler or Charlie Brown Road but I have spent many an evening reminiscing with Ike about events there. We’d sit on his front porch and he’d regale me with tales about growing up on Blair Branch. He loved to talk and I loved to listen. I had attended a modern consolidated school so I especially enjoyed hearing about his school days in a one room school with outhouses and water buckets.
In the fall a wooly worm might be seen crawling on the railing. He’d examine it and say, “That’s the fifth one with those colors I’ve seen this year. Well, I guess we know what the winter weather’s gonna be like.” I always looked at him blankly. He told me the wooly worm forecast every year but I never could remember what the different colors and band widths represented. So he’d tell me again. Then he’d wink and say, “You know it’s just for fun. Some people take this way too seriously.”
If the weather was decent we’d usually meander to Ike’s garden spot before I left. Ike loved sharing garden hints. My gardening is limited to flowers but I took notes and saved some of his hints just in case I ever decided to garden. If it was winter time we’d browse through seed catalogues. For a few years he helped his friends get on the mailing list for his favorite companies. Some years he shared seeds.
Ike’s was raised in a family of readers. He and I both loved reading. Often Ike recommended authors or even book series. I wrote down the names of several of his favorite authors but I don’t believe I ever read one of them. Maybe this winter I will read one and think of Ike.
Another thing Ike and I had in common was we both enjoyed eating country cookin. Over the years he shared some of his recipes with me. My favorite one is what I call Ike’s turnips. I usually make them two or three times a year. His pecan pie muffins are easy to make and so delicious. I have to watch sugar so I only make them every couple of years. During the Christmas holidays I always consider making his fruitcake but I never have. Sugar is the reason I skip it. I love fruitcake but a lot of people don’t. I have learned if I can’t share a dessert with others I don’t need to make it.
I don’t like to fish yet I hung on to every word of his fishing tales. I don’t like sports but he entertained me when he discussed basketball games. He even injected humor as he confided with us his bouts with Mr. Parkinson and the different cancers he’d fought. In December 1982 he provided lengthy columns about having his tonsils removed at Marymount Hospital. (By the way if you are interested in reading his early columns they were usually on page A-3.)
Andy and Steve lost two brothers in a month’s time. I offer condolences to them, Loretta and the rest of his family. This may not be of comfort to them; but since Ike shared his life with us for almost 40 years on the printed page, his memory will stay alive after they are gone. There will always be people like me who read old newspapers for fun or research. Perhaps someone will find a shoebox or an envelope with clippings of his column. Some of them will read his column and just like Loretta, they will want to know this witty man and new friendships will begin. Rest in peace, Ike.
You may contact me by calling me at 606-864-0607 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The library is now open from 10 to 3 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Due to a limited number of volunteers it is advisable that you contact us to be certain we are open. Also you may still schedule an appointment by calling and leaving a message or contacting us through e-mail.