With his “Richpond Hardware and Farm” hat and dirt-dotted overalls, Joe Don Estes greets every day at 6:45 a.m. He has cold, hard eyes and usually a huge chunk of chaw in his jaw. The tough leather gloves on his hands grind out the gears in the hardware store’s dump truck when he makes a delivery. Molly, his dog, tucks her head under his shifting arm and nuzzles her nose into his lap. Estes pats her head, looks down at her and smiles. Molly returns his affection with a kiss.
Kentucky farmland passes by the window as he drives down I-65 toward Richpond. Estes owns 40 beef cows and 70 acres down a curvy country back road. He feeds the cows once a day after work at the hardware store. “I work at the hardware (store) because I have to,” he said. “I farm because I enjoy it.” Estes bought the farm from his parents for a cheaper price than he could find anywhere else. “You’d have to have balls the size of … the size of coconuts to start from scratch and buy your own farm,” he said.
Jesse Osbourne is a junior photojournalism major from Lebanon. He can be reached at [email protected]