Going Cold Turkey

| April 11, 2005

Struggling with her smoking habit wasn’t easy for retired trucker Brenda Hawkins.

Retired trucker Brenda Hawkins met with her 15 minutes of fame when she joined the cast of Cold Turkey 2, a reality show on PAX TV.

The Cold Turkey series involves its contestants going cold turkey and quitting their smoking habits. For Hawkins, this proved to be especially difficult, as she had been a smoker for 44 years when the series filmed.

Cast members were told they were going to be a part of a Survivor-like reality show, complete with mountain climbing and braving the wilderness, but after a few days of roughing it, the truth came out. Contestants on Cold Turkey 2 were then told to put down the cigarettes and kick the habit. The show can be viewed on the PAX network in April.

Hawkins, 61, a resident of Blue Springs, Mo., got into truck driving after her fourth husband Bennie – who she calls her true soul mate – told her he wanted them to hit the road together.

“Bennie told me I had two choices,” Hawkins says. “I could be a driver or be his navigator, and I did both.”

Unfortunately, Bennie passed away from lung cancer in June 2003. They had been together 13 years, 10 of which they spent on the road driving together.

Hawkins says she studied every night for the exams she had to take to get her license.

“I had no clue what a fifth wheel was,” Hawkins says. “I didn’t even know what air brakes were!”

But after a few months of coaching from Bennie, Hawkins became an expert driver. Of course, when she first started out, she missed her family.

“It was difficult to pack three or four weeks worth of conversation with my family into three or four days,” she says. “I cried all the time at first because I wanted to go home to my kids and grandkids, but it got easier when I got a cell phone.”

Hawkins has three daughters, a son, one stepson, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Driving with Bennie was the most wonderful part of my life,” Hawkins says. “Being a truck driver was a truly wonderful life, and it helped to bring my husband and I even closer together. We were a team that worked off each other’s strengths and forgave the weaknesses.”

Hawkins says she wanted to let America know what a real truck driver is like during her time on the reality program.

“I think I represented myself quite well,” Hawkins says. “It was difficult to do the show, because I was living in total chaos. But I would just take a deep breath and concentrate on the people I met and the friendships I made during filming.”

Hawkins says that during the show she learned a lot about the dangers of smoking and how important it is to kick the habit.

“I learned a lot about secondhand smoke and a lot about myself,” Hawkins says. “I think Cold Turkey 2 is an encouraging thing for anyone who watches it. A person can walk away with something positive from this show.”

Hawkins had some advice for truckers who are looking to quit smoking.

“It’s definitely difficult,” she says. “My husband and I both tried to quit. The key is having someone to talk to and communicate with about your addiction. The most important part is realizing you must start a new lifestyle before you can walk away from your old habits.”

Although she loved trucking, Hawkins says she wouldn’t want to drive again without her husband by her side.

“I’ve had a lot of friends ask me to go back on the road and drive their trucks, but it’s not a place for a woman by herself,” Hawkins says. “There are a lot of women who do it, and I applaud them, but I wouldn’t go back without Bennie. That’s where our life was.”
Kathryn Tuggle


$10,000 DOT Inspection
A clean DOT inspection equaled a big payday for Maverick driver Lester Carpenter.

Carpenter, a resident of Gore Springs, Miss., won the $10,000 grand prize in Maverick’s Inspection Perfection contest. The contest gave every driver that received a clean DOT inspection in 2004 the chance at the grand prize. At the end of the year, Carpenter’s name was drawn.

Carpenter, who has been with Maverick for eight months, was stunned by his good fortune. “I couldn’t believe it. My wife thought I was playing a joke on her; we were both shocked,” he says. “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime type things.”

Carpenter plans to use the money to pay off some bills and have fun with the rest.

He says his time with Maverick has been great. “Even before the prize, I’ve really enjoyed working for Maverick,” he says. “They do things the right way, and I get a lot of time at home.”

Maverick created the contest to encourage safety and DOT compliance, the company says.

“People were surprised that we would give $10,000 away, but that is how serious we are about safety and compliance at Maverick,” says Dean Newell, vice president of safety for the Arkansas-based company. “It is always great to be able to give drivers some incentive and reward for doing things the right way.”
Kristen L. Walters


Alert to Danger
An AMBER alert and the watchful eye of Arkansas trucker Charles Cogburn saved the life of a kidnapped 17-year-old girl.

Shauna Lee Owens was abducted on Valentine’s Day by her 19-year-old ex-boyfriend, who coerced her with a semi-automatic handgun.

After viewing an AMBER alert on a local news station in Arkansas, Cogburn, a 63-year-old driver for TLI, headed out on the road toward Little Rock, bound for Texarkana.

“When I first saw the AMBER alert, it caught my eye, because the girl was from Plano, Texas, and my sister lives there,” Cogburn says. “I headed out on I-40 eastbound when I saw this little black Chevrolet with a Texas tag that was going real slow. My first reaction was, ‘What’s this driver’s problem?’”

The driver, a young girl, sped up when her abductor seemed to threaten her, Cogburn says.

“The guy had his back to the window, and then he pointed right in her face, and she immediately took off from about 40 to 75 miles an hour, and that’s when I thought maybe she was trying to tell us something by going slow.”

Fortunately, before the car took off, Cogburn memorized the last four digits of the license plate, and he called 9-1-1.

“When they heard the license plate number, the state trooper said, ‘That’s the one! That’s the one!’ and hung up to call for backup,” Cogburn says. “They told me not to try and catch up to them, because it might set them off.”

The little black car stayed in the hammerlane until the cops arrived and surrounded the vehicle to slow it down, Cogburn says. The police immediately opened the doors of the car, handcuffed both the driver and passenger, and got the gun off of the kidnapper.

Once the girl got into the police car, she asked the authorities how they had finally found her. The girl said she had waved frantically at two state troopers while her kidnapper was asleep, but no action was taken until Cogburn called the authorities.

“When they told her it was me who called it in, she reached through the door to hug me and burst out crying,” Cogburn says. “She made me think of my granddaughter, and I almost cried myself.”

Then the girl wanted to phone home to let her mom know she was OK, but the state trooper had to dial because her hands were shaking.

“I suspect she wouldn’t have made it through another night, because he had her for 18 hours,” Cogburn says. “I was shaking when I thought what could have happened to her.”

Fortunately, the girl was not hurt, and the FBI is investigating this as a Federal Interstate Kidnapping case.

A truck driver for two years, Cogburn says he did only what any other trucker would do in his situation.

“Don’t make me out to be a hero,” he says. “I’m not no hero.”

The Arkansas State Troopers disagree. They presented Cogburn with a plaque honoring his heroism in saving a young girl’s life.
–Kathryn Tuggle

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