On a cold winter morning, Lee Mease loaded up his truck and headed for Highway 12 in eastern Washington to make a delivery for Lynden, Inc. When he merged onto the highway, he saw an upsetting sight. Also merging was a Ford Explorer with what appeared to be the body of someone very small clinging to its rear door.
“I thought it was a practical joke at first,” says Mease, of Moses Lake, Wash. He recalled having seen fake legs and arms dangling from car windows in the past. “I thought some college kids had put a dummy on the back [of the SUV]. But I didn’t think it was funny at all.”
Then Mease noticed the figure move, and he realized it was a real person. He sped up and saw the figure was a young boy in yellow pajamas, his hands grasping the rear-door latch and his small feet planted on the rear bumper.
“The kid was crying, and his face was red. It was only about 32 degrees out,” Mease says. “I tried to get up there as close as I could to the driver. I tried to wave her over and yelled at her. She looked at me and smiled nicely, then gassed it.”
Mease later learned the woman thought it was a case of road rage, and she had accelerated to get away from him. Afraid the child would soon fall off the vehicle, Mease sped up as well. By the time he caught up with the woman, she was going 70 mph. This time he pulled alongside her, determined to get her to stop. “I didn’t think the child could hold on much longer,” Mease said. “I didn’t have time to call the police.” Instead, he blew his horn and motioned frantically toward the back of the woman’s vehicle. Finally, she realized something must be wrong and pulled over.
When Mease explained to the woman that she had a child on the back of her vehicle and she went around to look, her legs gave out from under her. The boy was the woman’s 4-year-old grandson. She had visited the boy’s home that morning, and he had apparently climbed onto the back of her SUV before she drove away.
The two adults helped the boy down, and Mease asked the woman if everything was okay before he went on his way. But he admitted, “that scared me for a couple of days after. I had thought that was something you only see on ‘Cops.’ It really tore me up. I have kids of my own.”
As a result of his heroic actions, Mease recently received the Washington State Governor’s Lifesaving Award, in addition to the Highway Angel award. “I like to think that anybody else would do the same thing,” Mease says.
Mease’s company surprised him with the Highway Angel award at their company picnic in August. He received a Highway Angel lapel pin, certificate and patch for his efforts, and Lynden, Inc., also received a certificate for acknowledging a Highway Angel in their midst.
Since its inception in August 1997, the Highway Angel program has recognized hundreds of drivers for the unusual kindness, courtesy and courage they have shown others while on the job. Truckload Carriers Association has received nominating letters and e-mails from people across the country.
Highway Angels recognition is awarded for a driver’s good deeds, ranging from simple acts of kindness, like fixing a flat tire, to heroic life-saving efforts, like pulling someone from a burning vehicle and administering CPR. When you know of, witness or experience an exceptional act of kindness or courtesy by a truck driver, you can nominate that trucker for a Highway Angel award by filling out the electronic form at www.truckload.org or faxing the information to 703/836-6610. Make sure the fax says “Attention Highway Angels program” on the cover sheet and that the driver’s name is clearly visible.