***This story was published January 19, 2009 in the Bristol Herald Courier.***
Kevin Rigsby didn't know he had a special talent until a colleague made a big mistake at work - and Rigsby chronicled it in a funny rhyme. Later, he read his clever prose at a work meeting, and his colleagues' laughter inspired him.
That was two years ago. In December, Rigsby published his first book of poems, Inspirational Works, a collection on a subject matter that is a far cry from that initial inspiration.
"I thought with all the negative stuff we're bombarded with, I should write something positive," Rigsby said. "Good, bad, or ugly, it's 100 percent me."
Rigsby has spent at least 40 hours a week at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the past nine years, he said. He is a graphic artist there, creating the corporate logos that adorn track walls, but he's also a jack of all trades, he said.
Rigsby, and everyone employed at BMS, "wear a lot of hats," he said.
"I've cleaned the stands after the big races. I've cut wood for people to roast marshmallows over during Christmas in Lights," he said, to name a few.
But after hours, Rigsby wears another hat: one of a poet.
"It seems like when I write something about spiritual things, it just flows right out," he said. "Trust me, I'm not that smart, so someone must be helping me."
He penned his first poem after the August races a few years back following a mishap with a portable, traffic-light tower that track crews set up to create intersections and direct drivers amid the confusion.
A colleague was towing one of the light towers with his truck when it came unhooked and rolled into a nearby campground ? coming to a stop between two campers, Rigsby said. Apparently, the man hadn't chained the tower to his truck, Rigsby said.
At the track's next bi-monthly meeting, Rigsby read aloud a playful poem he'd written about the could-have-been-really-bad incident.
"The last week of August, as the story goes ..." Rigsby began. By the time he finished reading, the crowd was rollicking in laughter.
"That's how it got started," he said.
Lori Worley is a colleague of Rigsby's, and she said his poems became something of an occasion that marked a number of track events throughout the year.
"Kevin comes up with a great poem for everything. He's got a lot of talent," she said. "His poetry had been pretty funny. Also though, his religious beliefs are very important to him. I just think it's another side of him that he wanted to show people."
For a year and a half, Rigsby spent three to four hours a night writing his collection of poems, on top of working a 40-hour week, commuting 40 minutes to and from Jonesborough, Tenn., each day and taking his mom to church and lunch on Sundays.
"I wasn't sure how good it was," he said about the book after it was finished. "I thought possibly everyone was just being nice to me."
But that was before he sold 200 copies, without any advertising, and before the book was stocked in a bookstore in Greeneville and a bookstore in Gatlinburg, not to mention the souvenir shop at the track.
"I'm not trying to make a lot of money, though," he said. "I really put my heart and soul in this project."
Worley agreed, "He takes it very seriously. He's very proud of it," she said. "He works really hard at the racetrack, so it's a good second career for him to have."
In fact, Rigsby said, he used a lot of his savings to get it done. The book is self-published, which means he paid for each copy printed. Plus, he did all the layout and artwork inside.
"It was really kind of scary, I felt like I was really putting my soul out there," he said. "If I have to, I'll give them out at assisted living centers or the VFW."
Regardless of how well the book sells, or how much it costs, one thing is certain, Worley said. It sets Rigsby [apart] at the workplace.
"For sure, we've never had anybody write a book of poetry there," she said. "We're just really proud of him."
A Mother's Courage
by Kevin Rigsby
It must have been hard for a mother to see,
Her precious son being nailed to a tree,
Her gentle son who had done nothing wrong,
Her precious boy who had grown straight and strong.
Her heart must have been breaking beyond belief.
It's hard to imagine the pain and grief.
She must have felt the world would end.
They were killing her son and her very best friend.
She had protected and cared for him all of his life
Because she was Jesus' mother and Joseph's wife.
She knew he was special, there can be no doubt,
But couldn't have known how this would all work out.
She had to trust God as she had always done
And believe in the love that he had for his son.
She had to have courage and faith like no other,
This woman called Mary who was Jesus' mother.
I thank God for his precious son.
Who was nailed to a cross for all of my sin.
And I thank Mary the courageous one
Who showed me what true faith must have been.