The world has no shortage of unsung heroes. Last week I was lucky to meet one. His name is Charles Hampton Vest, but everybody he knows calls him Hamp.
They’ve called him that for a long, long time. Hamp will turn 92 in July. Living long is not necessarily heroic. But I’d submit that working full time in a quarry at his age makes him one.
It’s no paper-shuffling desk job. For 40 to 50 hours a week, Hamp operates a dump truck that’s so tall he must clamber up a ladder to get into the driver’s seat.
There are 35-year old men who couldn’t do it with the grace and ease that he does. Until a little more a year ago he operated a huge bulldozer.
Did I mention Hamp has only one arm? That’s a bit of an exaggeration. He has only one hand. Doctors amputated the left one at his wrist in 1953, long after he’d injured it working on U.S. 460 between Shawsville and Elliston. More about that later.
He’s a husband of 66 years, father of four, and has so many grandchildren he’s lost count. The same goes for his posse of great-grandkids. “You’ll have to ask Louise about that,” he said, referring to his wife. She’s the one who keeps track.
The answer is nine and seven respectively, Louise Vest informed me later. The grandchildren are ages 7 to 38. The great-grandchildren range from 4 to 12.
Hamp and Louise live in the Check area of Floyd County, on a 72-acre cattle farm off Alleghany Spring Road. He works at the Acco Stone Quarry off Jennelle Road, just outside Blacksburg in Montgomery County. It’s a huge, 400-acre limestone pit that sidles up to the Smart Road and employs 20.
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