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Tough Guys

When cell phone voices come from thin air and a small computer instantly brings the libraries of the world into our home, it�s easy to forget that our virtual world comes from real stuff.

Last January�s ice storm reminded Kentuckians about the realities of our electronic lifestyle.

In just a few days ice, snow, mud, and cold crushed the complex network of poles and lines, as if to show how electricity works.

Even before the first ice crystal settled on a tree near a power line, electric co-op phones buzzed with arrangements for the approaching storm. Food, lodging, laundry, and other logistics were arranged to deploy an army of 1,200 co-op linemen from 14 states, to help the staff and contract workers already in place.

They worked in thickets caked with different forms of frozen water, through the night, in bitter cold. Then came rain and mud. Then wind undid some of what they�d repaired. They had to cut and slog into remote work sites, where they first had to remove the devastation before they could reset and restring a pole. Then they�d have to do it again for the next pole.

Truth is, they loved it.

There�s something about these guys (there are a few female line workers around the nation, but it�s basically a male profession) that suits them to the tough, physical demands of heavy wires, big poles, large equipment, and working through extraordinary conditions to git �er done.

It seemed a story worth telling.

So those of us in our warm and dry Kentucky Living offices began gathering the stories and pictures of the massive effort it took to bring power back to Kentucky.

The result is Frozen State: The deadly beauty of the 2009 ice storm and the heroic story of how Kentuckians fought back.

You can see samples from the book on page 22 of the print magazine, where you can order your own book. Or you can buy it on

One story that stands out describes a lineman walking into a room to thank a class of fourth-graders for their cards of appreciation. The standing ovation for restoring the electricity during those difficult days nearly brought him to tears.

Even tough guys can cry.

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