Jim Routt: Grillmaster and Carpenter for Christ

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A hammer in one hand, barbecue sauce in the other

By Becca Owsley

Jim Routt of Sonora worked construction for 35 years. When he retired at 65, he stopped building frames and began building fires for barbecue.

Along with his barbecue business, Bucksnort Barbeque, he also volunteers with Carpenters for Christ.

Routt, 68, has lived in Hardin County most of his life. He lived outside the county for 10 years when he served in the U.S. Navy and worked for a telephone company in Florida. In 1969, he moved back to Hardin County and started to work in the construction business.

After retirement, Routt wanted to do something to keep up with the guys he had worked with during his career and all the people for whom he built houses.

“I thought, 'Everybody likes to eat,'“ Routt said.

The barbecue business began as a something to do for fun and grew.

“If you've got good food, people will come to it,” Routt said. “and you can't really mess up good barbecue if you do it the old way.”

The old way he refers to is to start with good meat and cook it slowly over a wood fire. He often lets it cook 15 hours.

“Now, in the kitchen I'm not worth 15 cents,” he said, adding outside is where he likes to cook.

He started cooking outdoors when he was primitive camping about 20 years ago. He cooked everything over an open wood fire.

His kids, grown with their own families, help with the barbecue.

“Basically that's who works on this barbecue business,” he said.

He gets up early to cook and sells barbecue Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Farmers Market in Elizabethtown.

Most of his customers are the same every week and he recognizes most of them. They are construction workers, police officers, firemen, doctors, lawyers and people from all walks of life, he said.

“I believe some of those guys would eat there every day,” Routt said.

Beyond the barbecue, he loves serving others through Carpenters for Christ. The organization based in Alabama helps build churches for congregations that cannot afford new buildings.

“We just go around to different places, wherever there's a need,” Routt said.

Usually 100 to 150 volunteers work on each job. The church they are working for pays for supplies and Carpenters for Christ provides free labor. The group Routt's part of usually frames buildings. He works on two to three churches a year with other volunteers from the church he attends, First Baptist Church of Sonora.

They can usually build a church for half of what it is appraised for.

Routt started doing mission work 20 years ago with Kentucky Changers. The organization allows 150 to 200 teens to work on outside projects on homes for people in need. He  had a crew of 12 to 15 teens to work on a project site. After that he worked with the Baptist Builders and later connected with Carpenters for Christ.

Routt said professional building experience was not required to help.

“There's all different kind of guys out there on the job,” Routt said. “A helper is just as important as the lead man.”

Anyone interested in joining the group and going on one of the build trips, Routt said, can call him and he'll get them on the list.

He has been told the next few years might be spent rebuilding storm-damaged churches in Florida and Alabama.