By John Latta
In October of 1977, the initial editors of this magazine were putting the finishing touches on our very first issue, and Louis and Cindy Antoine were getting married. They were two kids from Mobile, Ala., barely out of their teens.
She knew he was a trucker before she married him, knew he pulled flatbeds and drop decks and that it was dangerous work. She worried some, but pushed those thoughts to the back of her mind. Last month they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. The best present Louis gave Cindy for the big occasion: “He was home from the road.”
Thirty years ago, Louis had just graduated driving school, earned his CDL and signed on as a long-haul driver. He’d always wanted to drive. He’d hauled felled logs out of the woods to local access roads when he was 12, and he was driving local routes in an old cabover Ford when he was 19. Cindy knew she shouldn’t even try to talk him out of it.
“For our honeymoon his company let me ride with him for two weeks,” Cindy says. “Not very romantic, I suppose, but over the past 30 years I’ve been grateful because it not only showed me the dangers, it also showed me how good a driver he was. I saw how hard he worked, what it took to load and do paperwork. I worried over the years, but I also took comfort in knowing he loved what he did and was very good at it.”
The honeymoon offered more insights. “At six o’clock one morning at a truckstop a knock on the window woke us up,” Cindy says. “I opened the door to a lot lizard. I got rid of her quick enough, but Louis was about to die laughing.” Cindy realized something immediately. “I knew they were out there, I knew there was nothing I could do, and when I looked at Louis in the bunk I knew I wasn’t going to worry.” But she did ask him to always wear his wedding ring, for his safety and her peace of mind.
The years rolled and rolled. Two daughters arrived. Now three grandchildren are part of the family. Louis has never lost pride in what he does, something Cindy finds very important. “When he could bring his trucks home, we’d all be out polishing and making them look like new,” she says. “I never imagined I’d do this, but when he got his new Mack I’d make little seasonal costumes for the bulldog, a Santa outfit or a green one for St. Patrick’s Day.”
Cindy and the girls built their schedules around Louis’s home time. “We both think that I’ve sort of been a single mom a lot of the time,” Cindy says. “But over the years, we made it work. The girls, too. Our close friends knew our lives were a bit unpredictable. I wasn’t lonely even though I missed him. In fact, I think he got the short end of the stick. He missed a lot.”
Louis tried to work in Mobile a couple different times to be home more for his family. It didn’t work. “He wasn’t happy. We both needed him to go back on the road again to be happy. You know, he found his niche and it’s been a blessing, really. It’s been great.”
The biggest single difference between being a trucking wife in 1977 and 2007: The cell phone. “In the early years, I had to wait for him to call when he got the chance. It always seemed to be one or two in the morning, so we put a phone on my side of the bed. Now I talk to him two or three times a day. If there’s a bad storm or an accident, I know he’s nowhere near it. I used to worry every time I heard something bad on the news.”
Louis doesn’t wear his wedding ring any more – Cindy does. One of the couple’s driver friends lost his finger when his ring caught in an accident, so Cindy asked Louis for it back. But he doesn’t really need one. There’s not much doubt that after 30 years, Cindy and Louis Antoine are still in love.