Just outside Chipley, Florida, three wooden crosses stand beside the highway at the intersection of Highway 77 and Talton Drive. I pulled over to look at them.
Neon-colored vests hang from a pinewood crossarm, which resembles an electrical utility pole.
Beneath the crosses are hardhats, American flags, and handwritten notes. The roadside monument was built to honor three line workers killed in a hit-and-run accident in Washington County.
You might’ve read about it. It happened months ago when a vehicle left the road and struck workers who were restoring power to an area affected by Hurricane Michael.
I am interrupted by the sound of tires on gravel.
A truck pulls beside me. The driver kills his engine and rolls his window down. I see a man with tanned cheeks and lines on his face.
He doesn’t introduce himself, he only says:
“Them lineman were working seventeen-hour days. They came from all over the nation after the storm, worked like dogs. They were good,
Line workers like these men invade disaster zones like armies. They work from dawn to dusk. They survive on light sleep, caffeine, and text messages from their children.
“I’ll tell ya,” the man says, “losing one of our own was harder on folks in Chipley than the storm was.”
Chipley is a town with a main street so short you could roll a bowling ball through it without much effort. The community is so tight it holds water.
When I was sixteen, I once dated a girl who lived in Chipley, she pronounced it “CHEE-yip-lee.” She was from a family who still shelled peas on the porch before supper.
After the hurricane, utility workers came by the hundreds, they blanketed Northwest Florida. In this part of the world, you couldn’t drive 10 feet without seeing cherry-pickers beside utility poles, and men working…