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Todd Dills

Learning early from the ‘gentle giants’ of the highway

| February 17, 2014

Michael Irving wrote in with this excellent reminiscence of trucking through the eyes of a child, which follows. Irving once aspired to be a driver himself — “I love to travel and see what the world has to offer,” he says — but life took him in a different direction. He studied to be a teacher and today works in a bank, “though I think every day brings an opportunity to learn and teach.”

 Irving says he “always admired truck drivers for the discipline it must take to do their job and be so safe on the road. ” He lives with his wife and daughter in Knoxville, Iowa, where he writes, jogs, goes fishing and can “be a kid again doing those kid things like going to the park” with his daughter. His story follows. 

 

Trucks on highwayThe Mistaken Identity of a Gentle Giant
Growing up often being the shortest person in the room, I learned that I had two choices in life — either I could resent those taller than me or I could be grateful for the fact that gravity would be less kind to the taller folk than it was to me.  And if I chose to be resentful toward those taller than me, I would not only have to get used to the limited company of friendships with me, myself, and I, but I would have to become more adept at climbing shelves in grocery stores due to the fact that those I resented would be more reticent to help a bitter little old man like me. I learned, though, that there are gentle giants among the taller folk if I just looked up or took a glance in my rear-view mirror and smiled.

Childhood with an open mind teaches you that interstates and highways offer a plethora of game boards for a child’s entertainment.  From “I spy with my little eye” to “slug bug no slug-backs,” I believe even today’s most advanced portable gaming technology cannot match the creativity and originality of the spur-of-the moment traveling games of my youth. Yet, one game we are all familiar with helped me shatter my own preconceived fears and notions of the most prevalent vehicle on the interstates and highways — the semi. We all remember trips in our youth where we would vigorously pump are arms up and down when a semi passed our car with the hope that the driver would sound his commanding horn, which no other vehicle of the road could match in decibels or length. Yet I discovered that there was a deeper joy I experienced from this “game” of my youth than just the victory of the horn, it was the discovery of a gentle giant of the road – the truck driver behind the wheel. 

I could have held on to my fears of seeing the giant beast-like presence of these vehicles in our rear-view mirror or turning to see them barreling down the road thinking they were some bully trying to push us aside.  But I did not realize that the weight of the cargo they were pulling for millions and millions of people like me that was their bread for feeding their families could elicit such a mistakenly menacing presence on the road. That was just it, the menace was not them, but our own misconceptions. If I was not able to overcome these misconceptions, then I would have not been able to meet and get to know a lot of true gentle giants. Yes I look at many of you as Andre the Giants of the road as you command your tip-top-shape giant semis with your even larger hearts. Therefore, like a kid on a small town corner standing in awe as a giant red fire truck goes by building a sense of security in his heart knowing that this vehicle, and especially its driver, keeps him safe, I will always feel like that kid when I drive on the road and see a semi passing by. I will feel safe, secure, and especially inspired, because I know that each and every driver endures a lot, whether it is bad weather or bad drivers, to name just two, to keep the rest of us safe. And your strong presence and smooth, yet often unnoticed, precision in movement on the road reflects the giant dreams of my heart contained in my short-statured shell. 

Yes, that is a 10-4 from the heart of this grateful 4’4”.  –Michael Irving

  • Paul Ashabraner

    I am retired after 40 years of trucking,but I still appreciate what Michael Irving had to say about us— thanks Michael

  • http://www.truckertwotimes.com/ Truckertwotimes

    Great article, reminds me when I was a kid and the old Greyhound bus with the great smelling 238 Detroit would pass by the house in this small town, as it accelerated up a small incline with that beautiful black smoke I could smell that motor for several minutes later, I got to where I could tell an engine by the sound and smell, but they all seem the same now days

  • mousekiller

    Thank you Michael. Your words and feelings are appreciated by this driver.

  • Mike

    Thank you very much everyone for your kind words. This piece was a pleasure and an honor to write. I’ve taken a number of trips by myself by car (my miles on the road have been a drop in the bucket to the number of miles all of you have accumulated I am sure) and realize the journey can be lonely and challenging, yet, with the right mindset and appreciation, the road can be an inspiring with the great scenery and company (if you choose to engage yourself with that company). I commend all of you for your hard work and being role models on the road. Have a great day!

  • Certifiably Nutty

    Wow, i used to live outside a small town in Pennsylvania as a kid. Whenever we went to town I would always have to go pass the Greyhound Terminal to check out the buses … I definitely remember the smell and the smoke. Thanks for the memory flashback. I had almost forgotten about that.

  • Steve

    Thank you Mike for letting us in the trucking community know that there are still some people out there that appreciate what we do for our country. God Bless you and your family from a 35 year veteran of the highways.

  • Jon McLaughlin

    Thank you Michael, I hope to see you on the highways. I used to sit on the bank in front of my grandmothers home and solicit a toot from truck drivers too, and as I drive down the hi-ways and bi-ways and I see kids young and old ask for a TOOT, I give it to them. Hoping that I do not scare the driver. ;-}

  • JERICO

    Michael, that was a beautifully written piece. You are hereby commended for the great heart-felt words you expressed. You also show appreciation for the things which you receive from those you wish to have been a part of.

    You are truly a truck driver at heart! May you always keep your sunny-side up!