I didn’t start driving trucks until I was about 47. I was a salesperson stuck in an office. I had gone through a divorce and decided I wanted to see more than the three states I had been in in my life.
I had to pay $3,500 for a commercial driving license, and I only had about $4,000 at the time, but I did it. And CDLs are tough to get — real tough. I think I was one of only two out of a class of 20 that got one. I went to work in Chattanooga, Tenn., and I drove all 48 states. I did that for two years. It’s tough work. You’re often gone for three or four weeks at a time and then you get two days at home before you’re on the road again. It’s better if you’re an owner-operator; then you have more freedom to set your own schedule.
Seeing Mount Rushmore and buffaloes in the Dakotas was a highlight. That, and just being in the fresh air and seeing the natural rivers and stuff. Seeing the coast of California was an eye-opening experience, too. What most people don’t understand is that we can’t really stop and get out though because of regulations. Our sight-seeing is done from the road. Still, in the warm months it’s gorgeous. The winter can be treacherous though.
I remember driving in West Virginia when I had first started out. They were closing the roads because of the snow and I had planned to stop at the top of this mountain. The veteran drivers kept on going and one of them told me I didn’t want to get stuck there, so I followed him down the mountain. I tell you this — driving on black ice makes you take your time and it makes you thank the Lord when you make it through.
But then I got to where I had seen all I wanted to see and wanted to find something more local. I met my current wife, Joan, online, and she’s the reason I came to Jackson. I got a job hauling scrap iron before I met the man I work for today, Mr. Leon Getty. He’s a great boss, and I get a lot of leeway with my schedule and have quality family time.
Now I don’t travel more than a 100-mile radius of Jackson. Where I used to have to sleep in the cab, now I get to come home every night and sleep in my own bed. You don’t make the money you do when you’re driving the country. I make about $20,000 less than I did then, but that’s the sacrifice you have to make to get the family time. I don’t have to work weekends anymore, either.
I do wish other people better understood how difficult it is to stop an 18-wheeler. People make it dangerous on the roads; we just don’t have the capability to stop like they do. The other difficult part of the job is trying to eat right. That’s why you see so many obese truck drivers. You can’t just drive an 18-wheeler into Subway, ya know? The places you can drive a rig into and park isn’t really conducive to a healthy diet.
I love my job though. My boss is very generous. And driving gives me time to listen to music and talk radio, or just to think. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing, and I’ve found what I want to do with my life.
— As told to The Clarion-Ledger