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Sometimes, Tim Buck likes to listen to sad songs. Old blues. Maybe it balances out his cheery personality, he said.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, during the 25-minute drive from his house to work at Union Street Diner, he was listening to “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It” by Hank Williams. Buck was riding on a spare tire after his 2002 Dodge Ram got a flat tire the night before.
The 27-year-old has been trying to write some songs of his own.
“Kind of about being positive, I suppose,” he said. “I don’t want to sound too hippie-ish, but just like love and positivity and stuff like that.”
Sometimes, on his way to the diner, he’ll have a moment of inspiration. He’ll turn the music down and focus in on the words and the tune coming to him. Sometimes, it’s like he’s a conduit for the music. Keith Richards said that. Or maybe it was Paul Simon.
He hasn’t finished writing a song yet.
The drive is longer than it used to be. He and his girlfriend used to live in town with his grandma. When she died last December, they moved to a 26-acre property off of U.S. 56 in Starr Township so his girlfriend could keep horses. The deal was that they would build the barn for the horses first, and then they would build his music room. He loves music. He’s still learning to love horses.
He’s been working the morning shift at Union Street Diner since the spring. It’s quieter than the late shift used to be. On the late shift, he gained a reputation among the drunk student crowd for how friendly he was.
“Tim Buck needs a raise!” some of them used to shout when they came in.
He likes the morning shift, too. Sometimes he needs to wait for people to get some coffee and food in them before they open up. He just wants to do whatever he can to start their day off right.
But there have been too many changes.
In April, just before he switched to the morning shift, his mom died. She had a growth on her colon removed, but after her surgery, her health got worse.
The day she died, he brought his guitar into the hospital room and family members sang songs to her, like they used to do during their big Memorial Day bonfires. She always used to like “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show.
“What do you want to hear?” they would ask her.
“Rock me, mama!”
So they played “Rock me, mama” by her bedside. Then they played “I’ll Fly Away,” an old hymn with lyrics that say “When I die, hallelujah, by and by, I’ll fly away.”
Tim Buck believed that. His dad kept saying, “this is just her container.” That’s how he dealt with it.
She was cremated, so for her memorial service, the family gathered on her farm in Shade and played songs. He played “Last Night I Dreamed of Heaven,” by Hank Williams.
When he came back to work about three weeks later, things had changed, but he kept a smile on his face. After working there for four years, the people at Union Street Diner have become a second family. And besides, he is stronger now. He used to get bad stage fright before singing or playing songs in front of strangers. But that day by his mom’s bedside — no performance would ever be harder than that.
Someday, he wants to give guitar lessons or go into music therapy. Of course, a part of him would love to be a rock star too, but he wants to stay near Athens. For now, he’s happy bringing a smile to people’s faces at the diner.
Back in high school, when he worked at Wendy’s on Court Street, one of his coworkers always said, “If you’re not smiling, you’re crying.”
He believes that. Even when his Dodge Ram has a flat and his bucket’s got a hole in it.