June Hook, 84, sits on the porch of her home behind the Lakeview Motel in Farmers, Kentucky. Her hands are clasped, still wearing her wedding ring, despite nine years of widowhood. She sits lightly, ready to stand and greet another of a constant flow of visitors and customers: her son saying hello, a boat-owner paying monthly storage rent, a motel guest returning to a room. Her 85-acre property encompasses her home and two others, a campground, boat-storage space, a bait shop, a motel and rental log cabins.
The small farming community of Farmers was irrevocably transformed in 1973 by the damming of the Licking River to create Cave Run Lake, the largest man-made lake in eastern Kentucky. June and her late husband, Hayward, recognized the new opportunities for fishermen, boaters and vacation-goers and started their own business in the budding community.
“I felt peace when I saw the lake for the first time,” says June, a fourth-generation Kentuckian originally from Morgan County. “I had never seen a boat before, but I felt such peace when I did.”
One of her businesses, Captain Hook's Boat Storage, plays a vital role in the area boating economy. Its large storage barn is the only local place that accommodates sailboats with the 35-feet-tall masts necessary for serious lake sailing.
“Without them, sailing in Eastern Kentucky wouldn't be possible," says David Duncan, 61, who has stored his boat there for five years.
Some things are changing though. Bill and Denise Ferguson have been camping on June's campground since 1983.
“Ms. Hook created a community of campers here,” said Denise, 68. "There used to be 30 of us. Now we're the last ones that come."
June manages her property with the help of her son, Daniel Hook, 49. He’s been painting and working on boats since he was a teenager. The wrinkles on June's face crease as she smiles at the memories. She leans on her cane as she arises to meet an arriving fisherman.
“My customers are my neighbors," she says, "and my family.”