Just playing devil's advocate --
Question: Would a man who wins all the local steel driving contests work as a mucker? Isn't the mucker a less-skilled, lower paying position? (Honestly, I don't know, and couldn't find the answer, but it makes some sense.)
Is there any genealogical proof that their John is John Henry Dabney? John is a very common name, but the late-1800's are pretty easy to document.