Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Do You Know What We Do?

I spent the past 2 weeks in Appalachia, training Rural Transit Drivers. Lot's of you might see the 22 foot cutaway buses traveling the highways and byways, but never know exactly what they're doing and where they're going. During the last 2 weeks, I've been working in Hazard and Mt. Vernon, KY in the Appalachian hills and mountains, and in Bowling Green, KY, working with rural transit drivers. Paducah Area Transit System (PATS) is also classified as a rural transit. Let me tell you a little about these drivers.

They don't get paid much. Usually $7.50 to 9.50 per hour. Many of them are retired from other jobs, or got laid off from factory jobs. More and more of them say they worked at factories for 10 plus years, until NAFTA closed them down, or corporate cutbacks led to their factories closing the doors. Many of them, though, say they love their new jobs, even though they don't get paid much. They say they feel like they're touching others' lives in ways they never imagined. It's true.

They're taking patients to life-saving dialysis and other medical appointments. They're taking home-bound persons to the grocery store. They're taking people to church. They're getting these people out, and letting them live life to the fullest extent possible. They're taking mentally challenged people to their "jobs," at places which use menial labor to make simple products, but you can't imagine how much it means to these mentally challenged people to help support themselves. They rarely miss work. They take great pride in their work. Other workers could take a lesson from them.

If it were not for these drivers, many people would never leave an 8 x 10 room. One driver told us that he had recently transported a person who had not left their home in 2 years. Drivers bond with their regular passengers. The passengers notice when their regular driver takes a day off. The drivers notice when a regular passenger isn't there. Sometimes it's because that passenger has "passed on," and a few tears are shed. Some of the drivers see their passengers more than the passengers' own family members, and they bond. It's a special relationship.

God surely has a special destination in mind, for rural transit drivers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

BBQ, Blues and The Colonel

(Photos: Wm Gross Magee)

BBQ on the River in Paducah is always a special treat! Smokin' BBQ and Smokin' Blues with 60,000 of your closest friends! This year, we played it for the umpteeth time (I think I've only missed one), and we had a special treat as Colonel JD Wilkes of Th' Legendary Shack Shakers joined us for the show.

JD is an original member of 61 South. I was not. I joined the band as a guitar player after they had already been together for a couple of years. I always enjoyed gigging with JD though. He went on to form Th' Legendary Shack Shakers, and has played around the world, opening for the likes of Robert Plant (who is a big fan of theirs), Southern Culture on the Skids, Reverend Horton Heat, Hank Williams III and so many more, along with headlining their own tours. Every once in a while, though, JD still performs with us when time and his schedule allows. When he does, we have a blast!

I think the BBQ on the River was the first time JD had played with us since we opened for Chuck Berry in St. Louis 2 or 3 years ago. The cool thing about playing with JD is that it was as if we had just played last week. We had a great time and played a pretty good set.

Although I was bummed that Th Legendary Shack Shakers had to cancel, at least JD got to play with us in his hometown, and as usual, he smoked 'em.