One of the luckiest things that happened to me after I moved to Kentucky was finding Ike Adams’s column, “Points East.” I remember sitting at my orange desk in The Sentinel-Echo newsroom and suddenly being immersed in writing so clean and a tone so meandering it felt like water rolling down a creek.
Ike was writing about a Philco refrigerator in his garage, one where he used to keep beer, pipe tobacco, nightcrawlers and watermelons. The column was the story of the fridge — how he’d rescued it from the dump, the plans he had for it, how old it was — but what it really was, as were all of Ike’s columns, was a love letter.
Here is a snippet:
“After I hauled it into the garage … I decided to plug it into an electric outlet and it commenced purring like a cream-fed kitten. Within fifteen minutes the interior was perfectly cool. It didn’t have any racks and the door to the freezing compartment was gone, but night crawlers and watermelons are not known to complain about furnishings and interior decorating.”
Then there was the column where he came face to face with a snake while looking to replace a bail spring on a fishing pole:
“As soon as I sat down, I felt something wiggle in the cushion and I’m thinking field mice because it would not be the first time they’d taken up residence in my garage. But when I stood up, I noticed the surface of the cushion was moving more than I thought a mouse would do so I figured chipmunk. I bent over for a closer look, slapped the cushion and glanced under the chair to see if it was going to come out at which point I found myself staring into the eyes of the biggest snake head I’ve ever seen in my life and it was darting its tongue at me, no further than a foot from my nose, like it meant real business.”
Ike lived in Paint Lick, Ky. He was married to Loretta, who at one point begged him not to write about her anymore (he cheerfully didn’t comply). Ike was a father, a grandfather, a brother, a friend to dozens, if not hundreds, of people. He wrote about everyone and everything: his view from Charlie Brown Road, soup beans, moonshine, canning, cordless drills, turkey hunting, transistor radios, his childhood in Blair Branch and his massive vegetable garden.
“Points East” eventually became my primer for how to love rural living in Kentucky. Simply, Ike took such pleasure out of and found such humor in the smallest objects, interactions, places and memories. I eventually came to understand that this kind of reverence is crucial to living well and much more accessible if your view remains uncluttered.
In 2012, after I wrote a column about him and he wrote a column about me, Ike would send me an occasional email when he particularly liked what I wrote. I always loved when his vintage AOL address would show up in my inbox. The last email he sent to me was on April 20, 2020 with the subject line “Still grinning.”
And after I finished writing my first book, Ike was gracious enough to read it — and not just because he was in it. Post-read, Ike was immediately determined to get it published, showing me the generosity that I’m sure he must have showed all of his friends. Alas, we didn’t have success with that, but Ike’s enthusiasm was, in an important way, what gave me the inclination (and strength) to keep writing.
Because, boy, he always did. I’m not sure that Ike ever took a week off from his column. In the meantime, he submitted other writing for publication as well. He once told me (to make me feel better) that he had a bathroom in his house quite literally wallpapered in 3,000 rejection slips.
After a long illness that he managed to write about with candor and humor (Mr. Parkinson was a regularly featured character), Ike Adams passed away June 18, 2021. All told, he wrote “Points East” for nearly 40 years. In that time, at least a dozen Kentucky newspapers faithfully published his pieces.
Needless to say, I will miss my friend. I will miss seeing his words on the page. What a beautiful quilt he built of such a beautiful place.