Career–Harold: 36 years; Helen: 18 years
Chargeable accident-free–Harold: 36 years; Helen: 18 years
Leased to: Landstar Systems
Income: More than $80,000
Freight: Machinery, steel, building products and containers
Rig: 2003 Kenworth W900
On the cab of a shiny black Kenworth W900, “Mike” appears next to a small, white dove carrying in its mouth a ribbon wrapped around a cross. Harold and Helen Eanes have had a similar graphic on every truck they’ve owned since their 15-year-old son Mike died of cancer in 1982.
“He was a special person,” Helens says.
As a baby, Mike had kidney cancer. He received cobalt treatments, had one of his kidneys removed and was healthy until doctors diagnosed him with colon cancer at age 11.
The Eanes, a Landstar driving team for more than 18 years, have carried the memory of their son with them on every trip. Harold has been driving for 36 years and has been an owner-operator for 35; Helen began riding with him when he broke his arm a couple of years after Mike died. “He needed me,” says Helen. “I rode with him for a year or two and then I started driving.”
Neither has ever had a chargeable accident, but about 20 years ago, Harold’s only collision earned him the nickname Bullwinkle, reminiscent of “Rocky and Bullwinkle,” the classic TV cartoon show about a squirrel and a moose. “He was driving down the road and two moose stepped out,” says Sid Bean, a Landstar field representative who has known the Eanes for 25 years. “After I made sure he and Helen were OK, I said well, OK, Bullwinkle.”
But when it comes to business, Bean says, the Eanes are a model owner-operator team.
“They have a partnership that works,” he says. “A lot of folks could learn from them.”
Married for 42 years, Harold and Helen met at Auburn High School in Riner, Va., where Harold played basketball and Helen was a cheerleader. They got engaged a few months after graduation, got married and have lived in the same home in Christiansburg, Va., ever since. The key to a good marriage, they say, is friendship. “We like each other as well as love each other,” Helen says, adding that couples should exercise patience and never take each other for granted.
“They have good core values: honesty and integrity,” says John Powell, salesman for Truck Enterprises Roanoke and long-time friend of the Eanes. “The way they do business and live their lives, they are just a good example.”
Susan Hale, a third grade teacher at North Landing Elementary school in Virginia Beach, Va., met the Eanes 10 years ago through Trucker Buddy International, a non-profit organization that matches school classes with truckers to foster a pen-pal relationship. The Eanes send Hale’s class at least three postcards a month. The third graders plot each stop and measure the distance their trucker pen-pals have traveled from one location to another.
The couple visits the school once a year to visit the children and answer questions. “The kids crawl in the passenger side door and out the driver side door and on the trailer and under the trailer, asking questions about everything,” Harold says.
The Eanes also receive one or two letters a month from the children. “They write us some wonderful letters about their families, their pets and everything,” Helen says.
Hale says Helen also sends all 50 children small bags of holiday candy two or three times a year. “They have enhanced my classroom, not only developmentally with geography and things like that, but also because they are such good role models and they take the time to share it with the children,” Hale says.
From a plaque in their home, Harold reads what the couple considers an appropriate motto: “Live in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God will come to know God because they know you.”
They’ve enjoyed living their motto as they meet people in their broad travels, which have included some interesting hauls. One was transporting the Great American Flag from Washington, D.C., to Evansville, Ind., in 1992. Helen says the flag, made in Evansville, Ind., was the size of three football fields. “That was a very emotional and patriotic experience,” she says.
But both drivers agree that their best memories involve their only child. “The years with Mike outweigh everything else,” Harold says. Helen fondly remembers family vacations to Disneyland, Sea World and the Grand Canyon.
“He was just a terrific child,” says Helen. “He sure made better people out of us.”
HARDEST THING TO LEARN WHEN I BEGAN DRIVING: Harold: Securing the loads and taking care of the product. Helen: Using the outside mirrors. I always wanted to look in the rearview mirror and, well, it wasn’t there.
FAVORITE STATE TO DRIVE IN: Harold: I like the Western states because there is the least traffic.
WORST THING ABOUT BEING A DRIVER: Helen: You get out and work really hard and perspire, and you don’t get to go right to the shower. I like to take shower first thing in the morning, and I don’t always get to do that. Harold: Rush-hour traffic.
DREAM VACATION: Helen: Hawaii and Key West, Fla. Harold: A cruise to Alaska.
PET PEEVE: Helen: I don’t like criticism of this country and of our military. I know everything is not perfect, but this is a great country, and I love it. Harold: People complaining all the time about people they work for.
FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOW: Harold: “Law and Order.” Helen: “Jag.”