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Police in a Denver suburb discovered a cab driver wounded in a shooting early Wednesday, another reminder of the dangers in this crucial but low-paying profession.

Many local cabbies will share their favorite stories. Several have been robbed or assaulted (see page 21). Yet they take it all in stride.

They also complain about fickle earnings, especially amid record gas prices. But this soon evolves into talk about why they do the job. Some support kids they'd never let down. A few do it as a sideline, and others are just simply cabbies. That's what they've always been.

They deserve tips when they deliver us home safe and free of a DUI on Saturday night, when they tell tourists about the best parts of our city, and when they get us through a blizzard. They may have even helped someone we know by giving them a free ride when they were flat broke and had nowhere else to turn.

They can be rough around the edges, but they're also sharp. A recent study proves it. A cabbie's hippocampus, the part of the brain associated with memory and navigation, actually grows in this line of work.

Now that's street smarts.

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