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Kentucky by Heart: Being prepared saved a life; books to help prepare for spring planting season

The wife and children of Jeremy Overton, of Ohio County, are likely feeling grateful today because they nearly lost Jeremy two years ago when he ran his truck over an embankment into a lake while swerving to miss a deer.

Ironically, the driver was saved by another Jeremy, also the same age, 34, who happened to be a passenger with his daughter as she practiced driving on this 16-degree night, a night when they saw a fireball radiating brightly before them.

Jeremy Hawkins (Photo from Linda Hawkins)

All involved in the event that night in rural western Kentucky will likely remember it as long as they live.

Jeremy Hawkins was trained long ago as a Boy Scout to be in the “be prepared” mode. So it wasn’t surprising that along with his daughter being in their truck, he carried an overstuffed backpack with extra clothing as the two traveled the rural Muhlenburg County road.

As Linda Hawkins, Jeremy’s mother, tells it, what they saw when they stopped to look more closely was traumatic. That became clear when they also heard a terrified voice call for help from near the blazing fire.

“A stranger climbed up the bank towards them,” explained Linda. “He shivered so violently it was nearly impossible to understand his words. Jeremy helped the man into the back of the SUV. He gave him dry clothes as he removed his frozen ones.”

Jeremy Hawkins then helped Overton onto the heated seat of his SUV, wrapping him in a blanket from the aforementioned backpack. He called 911 and within a reasonable time, the local fire and rescue squads came and transported Overton, suffering from an injured shoulder and various bumps and bruises — along with effects from the cold weather — to the hospital and an eventual recovery.

Linda quoted Deputy Vick of the Muhlenburg County Sheriff Department on the dramatic rescue by her son: “There was a miracle here tonight,” he said. “If Jeremy (Hawkins) and his daughter hadn’t come along when they did, this man would have frozen to death. No traffic on this road… an extremely cold night. Not much longer and it would have been too late.”

It was, according to Linda, “two Jeremys, two families, and one icy road at exactly the right time. Our Jeremy said: ‘I’m no hero… just prepared when the need arose.’”

Oh, that Boy Scout preparation.

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With the spring gardening season only a few months away, here’s a couple of book summaries I wrote for Kentucky Monthly that might both whet your appetite for planting and also supply some valuable information on the subject. Each has a Kentucky author.

Bill Best, director of the Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center, near Berea, has authored a 200-page book, Saving Seeds, Preserving Taste (Ohio University Press, 2013). Known in some circles as “the dean of beans,” Best celebrates the art of saving heirloom seeds in the Appalachian region. Much more than a “how to” book, the author draws on his many years of personal experience to share anecdotes about seed savers and the seeds, along with photos. Best emphasizes the need to keep the seeds in circulation because of superior taste and genetic diversity.

Walt Reichert has come a long way since childhood when his sister and he mistakenly cut down Uncle Red’s tomato plants and “hilled up” the weeds. He’s now in his fifth decade of gardening and has regularly written about the subject for only a decade less. In Walt’s Wisdom: A Kentucky Cornucopia of Gardening Miscellany (Kentucky Monthly, 2014), Reichert aptly demonstrates what he has learned and what he has written while having a hand in the soil, mostly as a columnist for Kentucky Monthly.

With a readable, folksy style, Reichert shows the reader how to tend plantings of flowers, trees, shrubs and vegetables in a common sense, down-to-earth (pun intended), and often humorous fashion. The 224-word book, with colored pictures and an index, is divided into sections according to the four seasons. Each chapter includes a pithy and concise blurb on the specific subject. Anecdotes abound and his vast experience comes through loud and clear.

The author makes abundantly clear that though gardening can be challenging work at times, it should be mostly fun and gratifying–not too serious. Reichert even gives this advice: “Don’t let some garden book writer stress you out about your garden.” That won’t likely happen with this offering by Reichert. It better serves as a stress reliever.

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I’m always looking for speaking opportunities to share stories of inspirational people I’ve encountered all over Kentucky. Contact me via email sflairty2001@yahoo.com or find me on Facebook.

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Steve Flairty is a teacher, public speaker and an author of six books: a biography of former Kentucky Afield host Tim Farmer and five in the Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes series, including a kids’ version. Steve’s “Kentucky’s Everyday Heroes #4,” was released in 2015. Steve is a senior correspondent for Kentucky Monthly, a weekly KyForward and NKyTribune columnist and a member of the Kentucky Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. Contact him at sflairty2001@yahoo.com or visit his Facebook page, “Kentucky in Common: Word Sketches in Tribute.” (Steve’s photo by Connie McDonald)

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