G. Sam Piatt
PDT Outdoors Columnist
The goal was to film a television show on wintertime sauger fishing in the tailwaters of the Greenup Dam. The date for the filming had been set weeks in advance. When Tim Farmer and his cameraman drove up from Frankfort to meet me in mid-January 1996 weather conditions were somewhat less than favorable. Heavy rains over the past few days had driven the level of the water below the dam from its normal 15 feet to about 40 feet.
It was spitting snow and the biggest snowstorm in years was headed upriver.
Gene Wilson was to have accompanied us. He had trailered his $40,000 bassboat down from his home near Grayson to use in the show.
As we launched the boat at the Corps of Engineers ramp at Holiday Marina, the only ramp still open because of the high water, Gene’s radio device sounded. It was the railroad calling. The locomotive engineer had a train wanting him in the cab.
He handed me the key to his boat, which I was totally unfamiliar with. As he unhooked his boat trailer and climbed into his truck, he looked back over his shoulder at his beautiful boat. I’m sure he was wondering if he would ever see it again.
And then Tim, his cameraman, and I headed downriver to lock through the dam for a day of fishing. Ha!
19 YEARS LATER
Farmer, host of the Kentucky Afield television show that has aired weekly on the KET network since 1995, will retire at the end of the year.
He finishes a 20-year career that saw him win five Emmy Awards. His folksy way of communicating with everyday people led the show to becoming one of the most watched on the network.
Scott Moore, Kentucky Afield’s executive producer, explained Tim’s success in part. “A lot of the outdoor shows are about chasing big deer or some other trophy that most of us will never have an opportunity to see, let alone take,” he said. “Tim Farmer opened the outdoors for everyone to enjoy, whether they take home something or not.”
Viewers saw Tim holding his bow in his left hand and pulling the string back with his teeth, releasing the arrow to strike the target with uncanny accuracy.
Or casting his spinning rod and reel with his left hand, sticking the butt of the rod in a plastic tube attached to his waist, and using his left hand to reel in a leaping bass.
He wasn’t doing any of that to show off.
His right arm is totally useless.
I don’t remember if I asked him that long-ago day why that was, or if he volunteered to tell me.
He was serving in the U.S. Marines when the off-duty motorcycle accident happened. His arm was mangled when the sliding ‘cycle pinned it against a guardrail.
You would never know it to watch him or talk to him but, according to Dave Baker, editor of Kentucky Afield magazine, the pain in his arm is still nearly unbearable at times, especially in the winter.
But Baker said it’s another accident that spurred Tim’s decision to retire at the end of the year. His wife, Nicki, suffered a broken neck in a traffic accident last summer, and she’s having a long recovery.
Tim can’t go to the grocery store without being stopped by a crowd of people who recognize him from the show.
So many people have asked him what happened to his arm that he sometimes in jest makes up a story, such as saying that a shark bit it off, or a stage collapsed while he was participating in a clogging contest.
But he always winds up telling them the true story.
I found Tim Farmer to be one of the nicest, most accommodating human beings I’ve ever met.
A WILD RIVER
We locked through the dam, even though the workers atop the wall, seeing our fishing equipment, looked down at us as though we had escaped from an asylum for the mentally ill.
All the gates on the dam had been lifted wide open and the yellow Ohio River outside the river wall roared by at probably 20 mph or more. We dared not go there. We might not have only lost Gene’s boat, but our lives as well.
I thought maybe some hungry sauger might be working along the Kentucky shore just downstream from the lock as well as behind the wall. We made cast after fruitless cast as the camera hummed away.
And then the snow storm hit. By the time we locked through back upstream there were several inches of snow on the boat, and us.
It was snowing so hard that I had difficulty finding the inlet at the marina.
But we did. We hooked Gene’s trailer to the Kentucky Afield vehicle, trailered the boat out, and – with me following in my little front wheel-drive Chevy Metro – were soon headed through driving snow out Ky. 1 for Grayson, where no snow plow had yet been.
We made it, backing Gene’s boat into his garage and closing the door.
Not a scratch. I could begin to relax.
To my surprise, the outing turned into a 15-minute show that aired on, I think, Jan. 20. In fact, it was shown again on a year-end roundup of Tim’s favorite adventures.
Or maybe it was his craziest ones.
Check your TV listings for the time of Kentucky Afield. Don’t miss these final next four shows.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected]