Andy Adams – Kentucky Coal


The above video of an interview with my brother Andy Adams of Hazard, Kentucky in Appalachia took place twenty-seven years ago when he was fifty years old, and had achieved the American Dream.

His photo on the cover of my family book Stories of a Kentucky Mountain Family was taken when he was just sixteen, with our youngest brother Hale, who was six. When our dad died, leaving eight children, Andy quit school and went to work in the coal mines of eastern Kentucky to support his mother and siblings.

Later, after being injured at the mines during a dynamite blast, he forged a birth certificate to prove he was eighteen and drove semi-trailers across the country. He also worked in the factories in Detroit, and when he came home he paid our debt at the general store.

Andy was my hero. Hale and I, the two youngest, often watched for him to come home. Memories still linger in my mind of him coming up the path on crutches after the blast at the mines, smiling at us through his pain as we waited on the front porch, and later, watching him swing down from the giant cab of a truck as he came home to check on us.

In the video he tells you himself that he achieved the American Dream, a man who only finished the eighth grade and was self-educated. He was also self-directed, with a can-do, positive attitude towards life and work that he passed along to all of us.

When he passed away on March 14 2001, I was with him. A few hours before, he had pointed over my shoulders and said “Your brothers.” I turned automatically towards the wall and said “Where?” He had a disappointed look on his face, realizing I hadn’t seen them. It was the only time I remember disappointing him. But I knew at that moment that the three brothers who had already passed on were waiting to greet him.

Andy was a hero for our times. A young man of sixteen who became a substitute father to his siblings. He set an example for all of us. I hope he knows how much he was loved.

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5 Responses

  1. Simply beautiful!

  2. Thank you! He was a beautiful man and a wonderful brother.

  3. I love your site!

    _____________________
    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

  4. Thank you, Michael!

  5. I was catching up on my ironing today and ironed a few of my son-in-law’s shirts, which always reminds me of Andy. When I was a sophomore in high school he taught me how to iron his shirts (as you know, there’s a knack to it). He also asked if I’d iron his boxer shorts. So I starched a pair of them as stiff as a board and set them upright on his bed. When he saw them he laughed out loud. Of course I didn’t starch the rest of them. I didn’t mind ironing his shirts (or his boxer shorts) since, after all, he made sure we had food on the table and a place to live. Love you and miss you, Andy. Your “little” sister.

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