July 2001

A big hand from little buddies
Bill and Robyn Taylor of Meriden, Conn., participants in the Trucker Buddy program that matches long-haul truckers with school classes, learned friendship is a two-way street. The second grade class at the John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Windsor, Conn., raised $410 through popcorn and bake sales to help out the Taylors after their truck was stolen and recovered stripped and damaged.

“After we found our mouths, we thanked them profusely,” Robyn says. “We’ll never forget what that school did.”

The cash helped pay for the Taylors’ airfare to Los Angeles after the truck was repaired. Robyn says the students had sent the Taylors concerned messages. “They were very worried about how we were taking it emotionally,” she recalls. “They’re like little adults sometimes.”

Frankly, my dear, I can’t operate these gizmos
Gone With the Wind’s Rhett Butler lived in the days when no one had even dreamed of a Class 8 tractor. Rhett Butler, owner of Alabama-based Rhett Butler Trucking, dreams beyond the reality of today’s standard tractor. His Gone With the Wind truck, a Kenworth T2000, showcases the future of trucking by road-testing the latest in safety and operational technology. Among other things, the truck is outfitted with an Alpine Navigation System, Kenworth side-vision camera, Bendix night vision system and a Safetrac Drowsy Driver Monitor. Yankee-detection system not yet available.

‘Poet’ carves a trucking niche
When he was a trucker, George Johnson – CB handle “The Poet” – got calls from men asking him to write poems for their wives or girlfriends. He did so, “based on their tone of voice and what they said,” Johnson says. Now retired after 36 years in the industry, Johnson preserves his love of the road by driving school buses with his wife and crafting detailed models of various types of trucks, patterned after pictures in Overdrive. “I made my first truck in 1996,” recalls Johnson, of Hot Springs, S.D. “You wouldn’t want to see the first one.” Maybe not, but more than 500 people around the world have been willing to pay $60 for ones that followed. Johnson can be reached at (605) 745-3789.

Snug as a bug on a rig
What do the Smithsonian, Orkin and a Freightliner topped with a 26-foot praying mantis have in common? They are all part of the Smithsonian O. Orkin Insect Safari, a 53-foot mobile unit that travels across the country through October to educate elementary students about insects. Learn more at www.insectsafari.com.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to drive
A North Little Rock, Ark., man tried to capitalize on the Land of Opportunity by illegally bringing in immigrants to work as truck drivers. Philip Ruston, 27, pleaded guilty to visa fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering March 13 in U.S. District Court. Apparently, the judicial system doesn’t share the same concern for the driver shortage as the trucking companies who, according to the government, paid $14.6 million to Ruston and nine other defendants.

What goes around
Thanks to trucker Walter Wagner, John Phillips has one of his two long-lost rings. A ring honoring Phillips for 25 years of service at Sharon Tube Corp. was lost 11 years ago. He thought it fell off his pinky while he was picking corn.

It turns out that the ring was under a pool table at the Bayer’s Den tavern in Sharon, Pa., where Phillips had stopped before going to his farm. Waitress Geraldine Knight found the ring and gave it to Wagner, her brother-in-law, figuring he might hear from the ring’s owner on his rounds delivering oil.

He didn’t, but he kept the ring. Wagner was driving by Sharon Tube one day, and it clicked – the initials “S.T.” on the side of the plant matched those on the ring.

Phillips plans to make sure his recovered ring doesn’t meet the same fate as his wedding ring, which he lost on the job when he accidentally threw it into a furnace. “I’m going to Super Glue it on,” he says.

A worthy job
“Similarly, it’s scarcely imaginable that the son of such a family could opt for the career of auto mechanic or trucker instead of physician, lawyer or businessman.”

– Salon.com columnist Camille Paglia, criticizing America’s “gigantic, self-perpetuating school system” because it discourages students from pursuing career paths that lack prestige.

Have something for Channel 19? Send it to Max Heine, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403 or [email protected]. You’ll get an Overdrive cap if your item is published.