One can just see James Graham mowing his lawn and working in his garden at his home on Aster Lane in Sneed Subdivision.

“You should have seen the size of the tomato I picked the other day,” said Graham as he shared his secret of fertilizing his garden with chicken manure.

Graham, 78, retired as a mechanic from Huntsville Dodge after 14 years of service back in 1999.

He and his wife, Belle Graham, have been married since 1945. They kept busy with their four children, 14 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren.

“Yeah, it’s standing room only at Christmas and the holidays,” Graham said proudly.

Gardening, hanging around the house, and spending time with family would wear out most younger people, but it doesn’t seem to slow down Graham. In fact, to his family’s surprise, he felt he needed to do more.

Two months ago, Graham joined up with the Top of Alabama Regional Council of Government’s (TARCOG) senior employment program and went back to work.

The TARCOG program is federally funded employment training for seniors. It is provided to part-time community service assignments for people 55 or older with low incomes. Employees of the program must live in the TARCOG region that consist of DeKalb, Jackson, Limestone, Madison, and Marshall counties.

Graham was introduced to the program by Limestone County District 4 Commissioner Bill Daws.

“I just got tired of hanging around the house,” said Graham. “I called Mr. Daws and asked him if he had a job for a old fella like me and he said ‘as a matter of fact I do.’”

Daws placed Graham under the TARCOG program and set him to work as a flagger on the road maintenance crew of District 4 under foreman Randy Mashburn.

“That flagging traffic is a big deal,” said Mashburn. “To run equipment you have to have a flagman. We have to go by safety first.”

Mashburn said Graham does a lot more that just flag traffic for the crew. He said Graham’s a real jokester and he seems to keep the morale of the crew up.

“He’s real good, a super nice fellow and an excellent employee,” said Mashburn. “He’s a nice family and Christian man, too.”

Mashburn said he’d like to have more people working for him just like Graham.

“We do welcome more senior citizens to get involved in this too,” he said. “It makes it easier on us and the budget.”

Enrollees in the TARCOG senior employment program are assigned to government or non-profit agencies in their communities and work up to 19 3/4 hours each week and earn $5.21 an hour.

“He said that the $5.21 an hour might not be much but it really helps out on groceries and medication. So I can see where it really benefits him,” said Mashburn.

Graham said the job gives him extra money and extra training but it’s also practical for him.

“They want me to go and apply for other jobs, but I don’t really want to,” said Graham. “It’s close to home and I don’t really have to drive that far.”

Graham said he likes how the job keeps him busy but still plans on doing a lot of gardening this summer.

“You should see my garden this summer. I have plants grown out past my cages, four feet tall. This job just gives me something to do,” said Graham jokingly, “If I sat down I’d just kick the bucket, I guess.”

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