Rodney Bonvillian, 44, has worked in railroad gangs for nearly 25 years. His father put in more than 47 years with gangs, and an uncle did 50. He met his wife on a gang where she was working as a cook.
"I don't even hear the trains anymore," he said.
He figures this is the only kind of work he'll ever do and was incredulous when asked why he chose to work on the railroad.
"Where I come from, the only things to do for work are this or with coal mines or with coal trucks," Bonvillian said. "Everyone tells their wives if they could find a different job that was just as good but close to home, they'd take it — but you can't find it."
Chris Warren, 43, is the gang's supervisor. He has a wife and seven kids at home in Virginia and has been working on the railroad for 20 years. The job seemed like a natural fit, he said, after he left the military.
On the gang he found another schedule that demands separation from his family but also a similar sense of companionship with his team.
"You go home and as soon as you mow your grass, wash your clothes, it's time to come back," he said. "We spend more time together than we do with our families, but we're kind of like family, too."
And for many members of the crew, working on the gang is a way to see more of the world than they could if they worked jobs at home.
Burchett, for her part, has met her favorite football player — Troy Aikman of the Dallas Cowboys. And she managed to visit Kansas, where she was born but hadn't visited since she moved back east as a child.
"We've got all the comforts of home here," she said. "And I get to see so much stuff, and see so many places," she said.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.