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Wayman Kellen chats with Charles Coker, who is filling a barrel with fuel. Charles, a Morganfield diesel mechanic, informs Wayman that he was recently laid off. Wayman claims that he saw it coming.

The Breadwinner

story by Cooper Burton

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.”


Late afternoon sun finds Wayman in his office at Home Oil & Gas Co. in Morganfield, Ky. In the course of a day, many folks will come in and out of the office, and the 81-year-old carries on conversation with ease. He says he's "been around."


On Wayman's property in Uniontown, backwood paths are paved with asphalt that's now fragmenting. Tthe crumbly oil paths embody hWayman's staunch grudge against agronomic regulation, particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Wayman says The E.P.A. unceasingly harangues him about using old-fashioned agronomic techniques such as oil paving. Wayman wouldn't have it any other way.


Wayman Kellen, 80, exercises in the garage of his farm in Uniontown, Ky. After a cardiac bypass surgery a few years back, Kellen prioritized his health more than ever.


From his kitschy, wood-paneled office, Wayman Kellen phones Doris Kellen, his wife of 43 years, for a little comic relief after six solid hours of clerical work. At age 81, Wayman, a 50-year employee of Home Oil & Gas Co., manages the company's petroleum supply depot in Morganfield.


At the age of 80, Wayman, a 50-year employee of Home Oil & Gas Co., manages the petroleum supply depot in Morganfield. Wayman serves farmers and truckers of the surrounding area. He prizes respect, fairness, and dignity in transactions.


Over a bowl of Doris Kellen's homemade chocolate pudding, Wayman Kellen recalls early days sailing barges down rivers of the Deep South, describing in vivid detail the loners, drifters, misfits and drunken captains he encountered. He and Doris, 78, have been married for 43 years. "I guess we made it through alright," Wayman says. "Coulda been worse," Doris responds.


||| ASSN - 446 ||| To refill his greaser with oil lubricant, Wayman Kellen trudges through an expansive shed bearing an accumulation of tools from the past. Wayman says that some may call it junk, but to him, every tool serves a purpose.

33 of 55 stories