|Posted on September 25, 2018 at 10:20 AM|
What you do with what your given discides your next step.This story is about us and what we do. It's about drivers and with drivers, it's about our trucks and in 1994 I started to design my own. For over six months I organized the parts I needed to build her, from the engine to the transmission and all the way up to the twenty-gauge dash board lights.
No matter if you're a company driver or an owner operator the first time you sit in that seat she becomes yours and I must say she was going to be gorgeous with her Forest Green body, a 300”-wheel base and a 120" sleeper and in six months we went to get her.
My wife and I were now in Canada and ready to pick her up. Nothing describes the feeling you have when you’re on that factory lot and they tell you she's coming off the line in a couple of minutes. And then I saw her. WOW, she was -- beautiful and coming right to me and than the night mare began. You see most people that know me do not know I have a secret and I have to battle it every day of my life. I came out of Viet Nam with PTSD and it effects my life's accomplishment. Most men and women that fought that war never left it. We came back with a sense of failure and un-accomplishment and here I was seeing something I designed, and she was beautiful, and I didn't deserve her. For the next few minutes I just walked around her, talking to her and wondering if we would get along and when I got in that seat she became real to me and we would now work together.
Most people would say it's only a truck, but not me.
At the factory they have to take her to the drop off site for some reason, about a mile away. So, I gave the keys back to the sales man and we followed her down the road. We only made it about a half mile because there is a scale right outside of the factory and they gave us a ticket for an overweight front axle and instantly I told myself maybe I really didn't deserve this truck. Fortunately, Western Star and the scale had different ideas to settle but we were now on the road to get the sleeper put on.
To Oregon we went to meet the guy that was building our 120" sleeper. We checked him out as much as we could and it all looked legal until we got there and found out he was only half done with it and wanting more money. What the Hell did I do, is this my karma? Two week later with the state police and the final payment in hand we had him put the unfinished sleeper on and went to get the 48 ' double drop Trail King trailer and we were on the road.
We already had a load we needed to pick up in California, so we headed off to work even without supplies we needed. Here is where you really find out about truck drivers and the hearts they have because we had NO equipment to even tie a load down. With drivers that is no problem, when we got there we now had everything we needed and didn't even know some of the donor’s names. I haven't seen that since Viet Nam when the guy next to you shared his limited supply of food and water.
Over the next few months we got the sleeper done and finished her with two lazy boy recliners, a corian counter top with stove, refrigerator, cabinets and a microwave oven. Not a bad ride. O- did I note- there was no such thing as a Western Star show truck at that time. In fact, we were not even allowed in the Shell Rotella Calendar show that year because we were from Canada.
Sometimes you pick a job that your disability won't be noticed, and you can handle the disability properly without answering a lot of questions. Truck driving allowed that. It kept me calm. My wife hated that she could not listen to the radio when I drove because it was the sound of the engine that kept me calm. As a job we choose heavy haul and by the grace of God my wife was the people - person and the navigator for all our loads and we did very well even though I knew very few people.
Even when you think you have all your ducks in a row the next door that opens might be your last and when I did open it, I didn't expect the outcome. A lot of men and women in Viet Nam got sprayed with agent orange and at the time the government said it would cause no problems. That might not have been the truth, because in January of 2000 I found out the hard way that it had been eating at my lungs for years and it put me unconscious lying on the ground one Monday afternoon. I now had a left lung that was compromised and only 25% effective. So here I was, it's now winter and I could hardly breath the cold air out side, how can I drive? I didn't like this at all and my secret only made it worse. Sitting in our living room I knew my truck was ready to go, but medically I could not, and it brought a lot of questions I had no answer for. I now had to make some difficult decisions.
Selling something you created and loved having was like a stab in the heart. For over five years we never let the other down and when I needed her most she seemed to know what I needed and brought it forward in another gear. But now I looked across the yard and I was selling her.
I did not know the buyer because it went to a dealership and it was a few weeks later that sale drove me to tears. It was sold to an oil rig company, one that I knew could care less about equipment. Now, all that came to my mind was how could I have done that to her? All I could think of was what she thought and how she thought that she let me down. After all she was just a truck. Right?
Over the next few years I would see her go by and I said hello each time and told her that I'm sorry for what I did, only to lose her one day to another state and I never knew what happened to her again.
Viet Nam vets carry this type of guilt all the time because of their assumed failure of that war and selling her was just another failure added to my life. But sometimes what you think and what comes around are totally different and this story started to prove it.
Fifteen years later I was coming home from Oklahoma City on I-40 West. As I crossed the cado bridge my eyes saw something I could not believe. My truck. She was sitting in the field of another oil rig company and she had a for sale sign on her. Could it be. I went right to her; didn't even tell their office I was out there. Here, she sat, sad, lonely. unkept and broken just like me, but somehow, she knew I was there. I just rubbed her with tears on my face, opened the driver’s door to look inside only to see what I expected. A beaten, torn down and dirty interior, but wait. I could not believe my eyes and I slowly reached over to touch it to make it real. On the dash was my name tag that western star puts on custom trucks and it was still there. Fifteen years and no one tore it off. Why? When the guy came out and saw me he could not figure me out. I just looked at him tears and all and said I built her twenty years ago that's my name there. I talked about her like a proud father and he said it was a great truck but probably was going to be sent to Mexico this month, it was too expensive to fix. I asked what they wanted, and he said it had about $20,000 worth of parts on it and that's what they wanted, and I had no way of getting that type of money.
They say what goes around comes around and I believe that more than ever now. I went with him into their office and just like that I told them what I did with drivers now as a Health & Wellness instructor and they said they had someone in their office that just had a heart attack, so I showed them some of our programs and left, only to feel the tears run down my face. I now knew I would never see her again and the knife went deeper.
It was two weeks later that the sales man called me about her being sold. I could not believe what I was hearing, I have finally lost her, but it wasn't what I expected. Because I was willing to help them that day they were going to donate the truck to me and twenty-four hours later she came back home.
Yes, it is just a truck, metal, plastic and rubber, but not to me and the men and women that have secrets just like me.
Over the last year or so I wondered what to do with her, just having her was a joy, but she was still broken, But I knew she came back for a reason and I now know why.
In the last years we have seen a sharp increase in our truck driver’s poor health. Mentally and physically these men and women are fighting an internal battle with themselves. Not much different from the men and women that protect our country. We need to remodel this truck and put it out there so all drivers can get the help they need in a secure and safe location and we can do that with your help.