Line workers like these men invade disaster zones like armies. They work from dawn to dusk.

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, good men.”

Good men.

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 40 feet above the earth.

My new friend pinches the bridge of his nose. His eyes turn red.

I ask if he knew the victims.

“Knew one of’em,” he says. “Was my best friend’s daddy, Bo. He was a good, good man.”

Bo Ussery was your quintessential lineman. Tough and dedicated. He was 60 years old, and preparing for retirement.

“He was one in a million,” the man goes on. “I never knew him to smoke, drink, or dip. Like I said, a good, good man.”

When the hurricane came through the area, Bo’s property sustained some damage, just like other places in the county. Still, Bo paid little attention to his own damage. Instead, he left home to do his duty.

Also killed in the accident was George Cesil. He was a 51-year-old foreman from North Carolina, who liked fishing, dogs, and cowboy hats. He was supposed to leave on Saturday to go home and see his family.

The other victim, Ryan Barrett, was 22 years old, baby-faced, and energetic—also from North Carolina. Ryan’s family said he was excited to help people in the Florida Panhandle regain power.


“The funeral was incredible,” my friend in the truck says. “Like nothing you never seen before.”

Line workers flooded the town by the multitudes. They swarmed around Chipley like the heavenly host, wearing hardhats.

“When we left the church, man, all you saw was them bucket trucks, parked on every street, baskets raised up in the air, guys standing by their bumpers, wearing uniforms.”

It was a send off that will go down in town history. The day a million and one trucks extended their hydraulic arms, some with American flags flying high, in honor of the fallen.

And the only evidence remaining of that momentous occasion are these wooden crosses.

Our conversation ends. My new friend has to get back to work. Friday is still young, it’s a few hours until quitting time.

We shake hands. He wipes his face. He starts his truck.

“I really appreciate folks like you,” he says. “I appreciate everybody who stops by these crosses to remember these good, good men.”

After he leaves, I am left standing beside a lonesome monument, built for three humble Americans who embodied everything I love about my people.

I never knew these men, but I know what they stood for, and so do you.

The hands beneath their leather gloves belonged to their hearts. And their hearts belonged to their children, their wives, and their homes.

They represent the kind I come from, whose collars are blue. They were everything magnificent about our society. In fact, they were the ones who built it. One utility pole at a time.

The pine crosses aren’t here to remind people of the accident on Highway 77. They are here because the world deserves to know about Bo, George, and Ryan. They were more than line workers.

They were good, good men.


  1. Carolyn - February 16, 2019 6:56 am

    Thanks Sean, for this sweet tribute to these good, good men. I hope their families see this and know how you honored them.

  2. Mary Burns - February 16, 2019 7:02 am


    • Faye Elizabeth Gardner - February 16, 2019 1:03 pm

      I don’t often reply to your stories though most effect me in one way or another but this tribute is beautiful. Thank you for reminding us of the sacrifice of these brave and good men.

  3. Donna Duce Smith - February 16, 2019 7:21 am

    Thank you so much for this entry and the recognition to these fallen linemen! Our area will be recovering for years to come , in the early days after this and other storm related tragedy’s seemed to pound repeatedly in our area even after Hurricane Michaels winds settled down . This southern girl loves and appreciates something from each of the stories and experiences you share, and just like this one , they are always guaranteed to touch someone’s heart and home town Or stomping grounds!! Please keep doing what you do- You are definitely appreciated by myself and many others in Chipley and beyond to all corners of the Panhandle! I am sure there are many thanks coming for including this special spot and it’s story, as only you do! Thank you

  4. MT - February 16, 2019 8:24 am

    This is a fabulous and a well deserved tribute to these hard working people that make our lives better every day. I hope the families of these three men see this and know how much we appreciate their guys. My home was hit in the tornados that did so much damage in AL 4-27-2011 and I can tell you from my experience that those trucks with their teams were a most welcome and appreciated sight. Thanks for this post Sean and my heart and prayers are with these families.

  5. Cathi - February 16, 2019 9:29 am

    Sean, it is 3:25am & I’m wiping the tears away. Thank you for honoring these first responders who help make us whole again after the horror of a disaster.

  6. Karen - February 16, 2019 10:34 am

    Thank you. You have honored these three men, as well as all linemen who serve every day.

  7. Jones - February 16, 2019 10:55 am

    Very nice memorial tribute…the hurricane changed many lives forever, and the ones who lost their lives will not be forgotten. Thank you again for sharing your writings.

  8. Debbie - February 16, 2019 11:16 am

    Beautiful story that honors these good men!

  9. Sherry - February 16, 2019 11:18 am

    These are the people who built this country, who show up in times of need, who are always ready to do whatever is necessary…these are the ones who deserve better than our country sometimes offers them…like our military and our border guards. Thank you, Sean.

  10. chatfield84 - February 16, 2019 11:26 am

    Thank you for telling their story. How would we ever know if you didn’t tell?

  11. Lucretia Jones - February 16, 2019 11:43 am

    . . .beyond what my heart can express. . .Thank you, Sean for giving Bo, George, and Ryan to my heart. . . good, good, good men. . .

  12. Pat Thomason - February 16, 2019 12:38 pm

    Thank you for honoring these good, good men.

  13. Alice - February 16, 2019 12:45 pm

    So so sad reading about what happened to these men thank you Sean for writing about them love you God Bless you❤️

  14. Jo Ann - February 16, 2019 1:15 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for telling all of us about these men. You’re right, they were good, good, men. Thank Heaven for all like them.

  15. Rhonda - February 16, 2019 1:19 pm

    Thank you for your words. Utility workers are unsung angels. Walters’ Dad retired after 45 years with Georgia Power. Early on he worked on the lines. One day he and his partner were working a job and a wire that was suppose to be shut down was not. His partnered was knocked off of the pole and killed. After that Edgar was transferred to the engineering office. It was something that he never completely got over. Even in the best of times its a very dangerous job. There is a lineman school very near here. It is the coolest place. I often drive by and look at all those guys climbing poles and think to myself, if I was 10 years old again I could out climb em all!

  16. Rhonda - February 16, 2019 1:21 pm

    Oh Yea! Been meaning to ask. Do you sell prints of any of your drawings? There are several I would like to have.

  17. LeAnne - February 16, 2019 1:39 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for writing about these men and sharing their stories with us. God bless their families, friends, and communities.

  18. Melanie - February 16, 2019 1:46 pm

    I will be sure to stop and pay my respects the next time I am back home. Which I sure hope is soon. Thank you to those strong and good men and their families. ❤️

  19. Susie - February 16, 2019 1:47 pm

    Thank You for telling us about these good, good men.

  20. David - February 16, 2019 2:07 pm

    Sean, this is one of your best pieces ever. These good men you honored are what America was built with. God bless the families of those and many other good, good men.

  21. Keloth Anne - February 16, 2019 2:18 pm

    This was such a powerful “from the heart” post?❤️
    Thank you—you have such an amazing way to take situations and truly speak to our hearts
    You are so appreciated ?

  22. Phillip Saunders. - February 16, 2019 2:24 pm

    Praise God for good, good men like these. Thanks for telling us about them.

  23. Janie F. - February 16, 2019 2:29 pm

    This touched my heart so much. My husband and I cried when we heard about the deaths of those linemen. We live in Central Florida and linemen are heroes around here. After weeks without power the sight of those out of state utility trucks rolling down our street was like winning the lottery. These men leave their families to help others and that is a big deal. We love Chipley too. It’s an awesome place. Thank you for this story.

  24. Gloria Knight - February 16, 2019 2:44 pm

    Wow Sean! You know how to bring the tears on a Saturday morning. God bless all those workers & survivors.

  25. Jack Darnell - February 16, 2019 2:53 pm

    You out did yourself on this one my friend. Good, good, very good!

  26. Connie Havard Ryland - February 16, 2019 3:01 pm

    Beautifully said Sean. You touch my heart with the way you see people and tell their stories. Thank you. Love and hugs.

  27. Carol - February 16, 2019 3:36 pm

    Amen ?. God Rest Their Soul’s!
    And Thank Them for their service to our country ?
    Love ya!

  28. Mary - February 16, 2019 4:26 pm

    All of us here in the Panhandle felt the pain of Hurricane Michael. These linemen were angels sent from Heaven for us. My brother was one of them that came to help. I still remember the sadness when we heard about this tragedy in Chipley…not far from my husband’s grandparents farm. Such a senseless loss. We continue to pray for the families who lost their loved ones and for the families that kiss their loved ones goodbye each morning as they leave home to help keep the lights on for others. Most are good, good people.

  29. Bev - February 16, 2019 4:27 pm

    Sean, I am so blessed to read your columns each day. You help us to remember and understand so much about who we are as people. Thank you for writing this precious tribute for 3 very special men.Never stop sharing your, heart, your insights and appreciation of all the special people we see everyday, please. You help me to SEE and appreciate them more and more!!

  30. Susan from Wausau - February 16, 2019 4:41 pm

    Thank you for this one. I grew up about a mile down the next dirt road (heaven), and those guys had just reconnected my mom’s power after two weeks without. I’ve never seen such selfless kindness as that of those who came to help us after the storm. We are so thankful for the compassion and the back breaking labor that went into getting us functioning again.

    Thanks for telling their story. They are saints! And so are you!

  31. Patricia Gibson - February 16, 2019 6:21 pm

    I worked for a utility for 25 years. Bless you for reminding people of the sacrifice these guys make!

  32. throughmyeyesusa - February 16, 2019 6:23 pm

    I’d been to funerals in the North. Up there a funeral procession can be difficult. Unless protected by police cars and foot officers, a procession interrupted by a red light gets separated. Leave a space, someone will cut in. Turn a corner, ditto. The world’s in a hurry, it’s a big place, your loss is nothing to them, so…

    Then my stepmother died in “Florgia”, the panhandle of Florida. The funeral was in Thomasville, Georgia. It might have been a different planet. She was much loved, and loving, and the little church was standing room only, filled with faces both white and black, all gathered to give “Sue Baby” a proper send off.

    Then the line of cars assembled. It drove through town unimpeded. No one cut in. No one honked. No one seemed to care if a light turned red. Cars pulled over. Though we were no longer in a town where Sue was known, linemen stopped their work, removed their hard hats and put a hand over their hearts. People stopped what they were doing for the moment. Children got off their bikes as the cars passed.

    On the way home we passed through another southern town where another funeral had taken place. In Alabama, perhaps? We pulled to the side of the road as we saw the procession approaching. So did everyone else. The scene was identical; work stopped in manholes, on telephone poles, shopkeepers and customers stood with respect in doorways, and children stopped their play.

    The respect, the caring, that little minute that people in the South take to show that a life mattered and that the family matters . . . It’s a beautiful, precious, thing.

  33. Edna B. - February 16, 2019 8:56 pm

    Sean, this is a beautiful tribute to these linemen. God Bless you for caring and sharing. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

  34. Nancy Knupp - February 16, 2019 9:23 pm

    Such a beautiful tribute to these three men Sean. If ever I get to Chipley there will be three yellow roses in remembrance. God bless them for their sacrifice.

  35. Heidi - February 16, 2019 10:53 pm

    Thank you for introducing us to these wonderful men. These are the people that keep America going and deserve recognition. I’m only terribly sorry that it’s after they passed. God Bless them & their families.

  36. Kristine Wehrheim - February 17, 2019 1:37 am

    I so respect the linemen who come in after our storms. What a wonderful tribute. Their job is so dangerous- thank you for the reminder Sean.

  37. Steve Welch - February 17, 2019 5:21 am

    Thank you Sean for paying proper respect to these men. The thing I love the most about you is the way you honor the every-day person. I am waiting on two copies of your latest book-one to read, one to give to a good friend. Keep doing what you do.

  38. Stuart - February 17, 2019 6:15 am

    Didn’t hear about this. Mighty, mighty sad.
    My daddy was a lineman for 46 years. I remember him going out on bad stormy nights to climb poles in rain and lightning to work with electricity. I remember him being gone for 2-3 days at a time working during storms. The only sleep they got was maybe a nap in the truck between trouble spots. I remember him “cutting out” and coming home full of splinters, and when he was knocked off a pole when lightning struck. He flipped his company truck one day trying to avoid a dog that ran in front of him. I remember when two of his coworkers were killed on the job. These men are good, tough men…….heroes really.
    Next time your power goes off, light a candle or lantern and wait patiently. And pray for those men who are working hard and putting their lives on the line to get power restored.

  39. Anne Trawick - February 17, 2019 8:08 am

    We in Donalsonville were hit hard by Hurricane Michael. I read in the paper that outside of Mexico Beach we were Ground Zero. The linemen from all over the US who arrived in our county within hours after the storm were the real heroes for us. Never again will I look at linemen like I did before the storm. The three linemen who lost their lives in Chipley were heroes in the fullest sense of the word. Thank you for highlighting their stories.

  40. Charlie Leikauf - February 17, 2019 2:31 pm

    Sean, this was such a great tribute to the many men and women who work in the electric utility industry who are the real super heroes. They rally together and help restore some normalcy to disaster stricken areas that have been affected by hurricanes, floods, fires, and ice storms.

    Thanks for bringing this story to light.

    You are a real good, good man!


  41. Tony Roberts - February 17, 2019 3:39 pm

    Thank you for writing these type of stories that honor such men!

  42. Dru - February 17, 2019 11:54 pm

    Sean, my dad and two others died when a malfunction occurred in the Alabama power plant where they were electrical engineers. A fiery explosion burned them badly enough that the least injured one (my dad) took a week to die. This was more than fifty years ago. They weren’t helping in a hurricane, but I still wish you could have written about them. Together they left three young widows and eight little children. They were all WWII veterans, and my father had just enrolled in night law school. Thanks for what you do.

  43. gary woods - February 18, 2019 12:53 pm

    And Amen

  44. Lee Taylor - February 18, 2019 3:51 pm

    A REAL writer makes you cry . . . You did . . . I did . . . God bless these men’s families!

  45. BJean - February 18, 2019 6:57 pm

    Touching tribute, Sean. Thank you.

  46. Edy - February 19, 2019 1:18 am

    Thank you for sharing the stories of ordinary men and women who live their lives quietly and decently.

  47. Debbie Shiflett - March 16, 2019 12:26 pm

    You did it again Sean. “Like the heavenly host, wearing hardhats”. Yep, a great writer indeed. One who knows the important things to use his gift to describe. Stories about love, hope, forgiveness, and good, good men. God bless you Sean.

  48. Margaret Green - March 16, 2019 12:48 pm

    ??Perfect words to acknowledge the “good” and to feel like we were right there in those moments. Thank you, may God continue to heal, restore, rebuild everyone in Chipley and all Northwest, Florida and Lee County Alabama ??God Bless You Sean

  49. Kathryn - March 16, 2019 1:21 pm

    My eyes seem to have developed a leak. . . This is one of your best!

  50. April Hartzog - March 16, 2019 2:02 pm

    I knew Ryan. He was a “bondo” kind of kid, he held people from all walks of life together. His mamma is the sweetest, godliest woman this side of heaven. She too “bondo-ed” me back together during some of my darkest times. It’s been tragically beautiful to witness her grow, grieve and graciously give to others after Ryan’s death. Thanks for this piece, Sean. Thanks for helping remind the world about these good men. Bless you

  51. Steve W. - March 16, 2019 10:11 pm

    God bless & comfort their families. In Christs name, Amen.


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