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Ike Farrar: A man of many hats, wearing each one well

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

Born in 1919, Isaiah Ike Farrar sums up his life in three words: “college, flying, farming.” With that short statement, he covers 94 years that leave us amazed.

A resident of Bedford County, Ike’s Moore County roots run deep. His grandmother was Susan Victoria Motlow, first cousin of Jack Daniel’s Distillery’s first proprietor, Lem Motlow. Susan married Lynchburg businessman Walton W. Holt. In 1889, Holt became the first president of Farmer’s Bank, with Jack Daniel as vice-president. He built a fine home, which served as the Moore County High School from 1927 to 1932.

Ike’s grandfather, James Franklin Farrar, built the farm home in 1848. Both grandfathers — Holt and Farrar — were Confederate soldiers. Ike’s father, Thurston Farrar, attracted the attention of Holt’s daughter Clara, by driving his wagon pulled by race horses around the Square on two wheels. Thurston and Clara settled on the Farrar farm.

As a boy, Ike’s family spent weekends on the Lem Motlow farm. Thurston and Lem enjoyed hunting and Ike climbed over Lem’s modern farm equipment.

Ike went to college at UT Knoxville, majoring in Rural Engineering, and joined ROTC. As Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, it became clear that war was imminent. Ike enrolled in Civilian Pilot Training in college because he didn’t like the idea of marching and carrying a rifle. He also noticed that pilots seemed to attract women.

On Dec. 7, 1941, Ike’s senior year, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and he volunteered for the Army Air Corp. Within a month, he was headed for nine months of combat flight training, where he received his wings and 2nd Lieutenant Commission. For two years, he remained in the States, training machine gunners and bombardiers.

When he received his overseas assignment, Ike went to Nashville to fill out paperwork. It was there that the colonel’s secretary, Mary Catherine Arnold of Franklin, caught his eye. She had been a runner-up for Miss Tennessee. Never lost for a line, he told her that he had been a Hollywood talent scout. Although she didn’t fall for the tale, she fell for the handsome pilot brash enough to tell it.

Ike flew cargo planes from New Guinea and Manila to keep our troops supplied. As he put it, “We were the 18-wheelers.”

His crew was a co-pilot and a radio man. They navigated with a “Birddog Needle,” a forerunner of the GPS. Skillful piloting and divine protection brought Ike through skies littered with enemy planes.

Ike heard the announcement of the atomic bomb while he was flying. When the war ended, Sept. 2, 1945, he became a test pilot at Travis Air Base in California. He was in the Reserves for 15 years, attached to Sewart Air Base in Smyrna.

Ike and Mary were married in Arizona in March, 1946. They were married 66 years, raising their four children on the Farrar Farm.

In 1980, Ike’s son David joined him to start a dairy operation. They own 600 Holsteins on 1,000 acres, milking 200. A worker drives a “slop” truck to the distillery daily to haul 3,000 gallons of the local byproduct for their “contented cows.”

Ike has an affinity for entertainers. At a party given for pilots by Vanderbilt co-eds, he danced and went to dinner with a girl who became the famous Dinah Shore. He was assigned with singing-cowboy-turned-pilot Gene Autry to “ferry” airplanes to Montana to be picked up by our Russian allies. He once had a roommate who was Henry Fonda’s Hollywood double.

Cajun country picker Jimmy Newman became a visitor to the farm through the cattle business. Hee Haw’s Ronnie Stoneman is a friend who sang for Ike’s birthday, and Ike’s wife Mary was a Grand ‘Ole Opry clog dancer before they met.

Although a heart condition got him “fired” from farming, Ike serves his community by arranging talent for the Flat Creek Community Center’s monthly music event. He has formed the “Over the Hill” quartet, which performs at Nursing Homes. Lynchburg Nursing Center is each fifth Tuesday. He recently spoke to a Moore County history class regarding his military experiences.

I was honored to meet a member of “The Greatest Generation.”  Thank you, Ike, for your service and for setting the bar high for the rest of us.

Award-winning writer June Pugh is a contributor to the Moore County News. Her ‘More About Moore’ column appears in every other print edition. Contact her at <writemoore@bellsouth.net>

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