Volume No. 18 Issue No. 4 April 2021  

  Pops Smiles

     He had only been on the job for three months when the accident happened.
   Ken Adams was a maintenance worker at Seven Falls. On an icy December day, he slipped –- and fell 70 feet. Fellow workers rescued him from the frigid waters and he was rushed by ambulance to the hospital.
   He had suffered a displaced hip; it took three tries to get it back into position. He had a broken clavicle, five broken ribs, a head injury and hypothermia. "Bruises from head to toe," Adams said.
   His wife, Darlene, was called. Ken, she was told, had fallen and had likely broken a leg. She was shocked when she got to the hospital and saw his true condition.
   "She walked in and thought I was going to die," he said.
   It was just days before Christmas; the family had Christmas dinner at the hospital cafeteria. But no one complained, Darlene said; they were just grateful Ken was still alive.
   Adams spent just two weeks in the hospital, then another two weeks in a rehab facility before going home where a hospital bed and a wheelchair awaited him.
   "The Lord is good," he said. "I'm a walking miracle."
   His wife agreed. "God saved his life," she said. But she also points to her husband's strength. (The two will mark their 50th wedding anniversary in May.)
   "He's a tough guy," Darlene Adams said. "A lot of men might have buckled under it all."
   Still, it would take time to fully recover, both physically and mentally. He had to cope with the effects of a traumatic brain injury, PTSD and depression.
   "I still think about it," he said of the accident. "I still shudder sometimes."
   The accident meant an end to a way of life for him. A psychologist told him he would never return to the workforce.
   "I was the type of guy, you got the coffee on in the morning, go to work, come home, eat dinner, go to bed,” he said. “The next morning, you did the same thing. To tell me I wasn't going to work anymore, it was a shocker."
   The accident happened at the end of 2007. Ken and Darlene had moved to Falcon the previous year from New Jersey to be closer to their sons, who were already in Colorado; they also have a daughter who now lives with them.
   Adams is a native of Pennsylvania but grew up in New Jersey. There, he had a variety of jobs, from meter reader to selling plumbing supplies to repairing furnaces and oil burners.
   Now, after the accident, he was prematurely "retired."
   The doctor suggested, "Ken, you've got to get your mind off this, get into some kind of hobby or something like that."
   He had a neighbor who introduced him to woodworking, a hobby he quickly adopted.
   "He gave me a pattern and had me cut it out and paint it, and got me started, And I got better and better."
   Now, he has a woodworking shop behind his house. "There will be blood," a sign in the shop ominously warns. Birdhouses that Adams created populate the yard. ("It’s a joy to watch the birds," he said.) But his specialty is Adirondack chairs. (Back East, “We used to go to the Adirondacks all the time.” They had a friend who let them use his cabin, so it was "a cheap vacation.”)
   He has made kid-sized chairs for all of the youngsters who go to Falcon Baptist Church; he has a photo album showing just a few of the happy kids displaying their chairs. A sign on the front of the shop reads, "Pops Smiles."
   "All my kids call me Pops,” he said. 'Hey, Pops what are you doing?' Making a kid smile is worth a million dollars, so that's my name, Pops Smiles."
   He makes adult-size chairs, too, and when he is not giving them away, he is selling them for a low price -- $40 for a kid's chair, $75 for an adult.
   "It's therapy for me," he said. "I enjoy myself out there.”
Ken Adams is an avid woodworker whose specialty is Adirondack chairs, but he enjoys watching the birds so he has built lots of birdhouses.
These birdhouses keep the birds coming.
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