Shooter of eagles

| December 15, 2005

With the ever-present alligator logo from the University of Florida and an alligator head atop his CB, it’s natural to call Thomas Register what everybody calls him – Gator.

Gator Register loves to shoot eagles.

It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, he’s about as happy as a truck driver can get.

Not every trucker who loves to get out in the fresh air and take shots at birdies wants to spend time in the woods or fields and come home with a fresh-killed dinner. Register’s passion is golf, and his birdies and eagles have come on golf courses in all lower 48 states. So look out Tiger Woods – there’s a Gator on your tail.

Register, 44, who drives the lower 48 in a 2005 Volvo for Super Service, says he can often manage to play at least some golf several times a week while still making long hauls and deliveries. Super Service, a trucking company based in Somerset, Ky., has been in business for 25 years and uses dry vans to haul all over the country but mostly east of the Mississippi. Register’s routes have let him play golf in all lower 48 states.

The trick, he says, is time management. He tries to have most of his downtime during the day, and preferably on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday when it costs less to play golf and courses are less crowded, letting him go right out and play, and play quickly.

“I try to make long breaks start early in the morning, in which case I’ll drive through the night and be the first guy at the course,” he says. “Or I’ll get a break coming in the late afternoon, and in summer that means I can play quite a lot before it gets dark. The dispatchers at Super Service work with me, and we find ways to get it done. As long as I am on time, my down time is my own.

“A lot of places I’ve played over and over. They’re places I can call ahead and they know me, and that helps get me on the course in a hurry sometimes. People at the golf clubs remember me. I guess it’s a novelty having a big rig pull in, a driver get out and play golf. And I enjoy playing with young people and kids. I have my own golf balls – I bought dozens of them with my logo on them – and I give them to the kids I meet on the course. I always remember starting out playing as a kid and how good it felt when someone would give me a new ball and encourage me.”

He also stays in touch with some of his playing partners and the staff at courses he’s played. “I keep all my scorecards, and at Christmas I send the people at the clubs a Christmas card. They’re all the same, with a picture of an alligator and a palm tree. I bought a whole lot of them, hundreds of them; they’ll last me for years. But it helps people remember me when I’m coming back through their town and call them from the truck.”

So far, the tractor-trailer hasn’t been much of a problem. You can’t miss Register’s tractor – Gator logos and the head from an 8-foot alligator sitting atop his CB peering out the windshield. “People ask me where I got [the alligator head], and I tell them I shot it in my back yard. They’re excited by it and want a good story. Truth was I bought it off the shelf in a store, but I don’t think they want to hear that.”

He keeps his truck washed and waxed, and he calls ahead to the golf course before he arrives.

“Mostly the people at golf courses treat me like a king,” he says. “The ones I know will usually say ‘C’mon over, Gator, we’ll find a place for you.’ A lot of them will find a place for me to park and mark it out with cones so no ones takes it.”

If there’s no space for the truck at a golf course, sometimes the staff will help squeeze him in somewhere or pick him up from another parking lot.

“I’ve parked in some course workshop areas, in shopping centers or empty lots,” he says. “A club in Pennsylvania had me park at a shut-down shopping center a couple of miles from the course, and they sent one of their guys who cuts the grass down to get me. When I finished playing, he drove me back to the truck.”

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