Late Tuesday afternoon, a pair of icy, slightly wincing eyes answers the knock on the door of Home Oil & Gas Co. in Morganfield, Ky. The man is 80-year-old Wayman Kellen, celebrating this year as his 50th year of work at the petroleum depot.
Wayman embodies the hallmark country working man: preciously colored plaid work shirt, modest immaculately creased khakis and a Conoco trucker hat, perched like a bird’s nest on his head.
Wayman’s history is in his face and hands: creased with age, patched with blemishes from years without sunscreen. The working man cut his teeth navigating Deep Southern rivers as a young, strapping first mate on petroleum barges.
He served in the U.S. Air Force for a short period following World War II. He guarded airplanes, carried messages from comrade to comrade and learned to sleep with his eyes open.
He met his wife, Doris, in 1969, culminating in a marriage strong to this day. Doris, who grew up on a “concrete square” in Evansville, Ind., says marrying Wayman modified her lifestyle. Once she moved to Wayman’s farm in Uniontown, she adopted skills descendant of strong rural tradition. She learned the rules of harvest, how to can food, tend to the garden and operate the riding mower.
Wayman, on the other hand, has dedicated his life to working for others. He stresses the importance of maintaining an enjoyable job. If you enjoy your work and get along with your boss, he says, everything else will fall into place: “If I’m told to do somethin,’ I’m gonna do it the best I can. Let the chips fall where they fall. You can let your problems work on you, but you gotta forget.”
The oiler, nearing 81, reflects proudly on his lifelong, consistent effort at the workplace. To Wayman, it’s exalting to know he’s completed all that’s been asked of him to the best of his abilities.
“There’s not a whole lotta people around like me,” Wayman contends, reclining in a chair at his desk at Home Oil & Gas. “I stand my ground.”