Eleanor Lillian Loback was born 1918 not too far from where the Chatahoochie River keeps Georgia Georgia and, if you’re from Georgia, as she was, it keeps Alabama something else. She grew up in Blakely, down yonder near the fish camps, bootlegged liquor and endless groves of pecan trees. It’s a fact that when the first folks from Europe drifted over to Georgia, displacing the native Indians at the behest of Britain’s King George, pecan trees were native giants reaching up and out hundreds of feet toward the Georgia sun. To harvest the nuts, they simply cut the trees down.
Eleanor grew up to be the legendary Ida Lane, an eccentric ragtime piano player who had pulled up her southern roots and stuck them back down in the tundra of Alaska, pounding out furious rags at the Malemute Saloon in Ester city, population twenty-seven. She was notorious for her wild escapades and practical jokes and none compared to her famed Cinnamon Screamers.
It happened this way. In 1965, after a long night of pounding the ivory and a generous course of bourbon, Ida slipped out of her fancy piano dress and into her comfortable hiking clothes. She often had a hankering for searching out abandoned cabins at 3 am when Alaska’s summer sun was perched damn near straight up. If she found one, she’d break into it, then drag back what she could to her own cabin—old miners’ hats, gold pans, berry pickers, ancient soda bottles, mastodon molars; almost anything she could fit into her pack.