Just a Phone Call Away

Truckers Rebekah and Emmett Butler were inspired by their own three children to set up a hotline for troubled teens.

Trucker Emmett Butler didn’t start out on the right path. As a teen he took illegal drugs and was arrested for drug trafficking.

But he turned his life around and went undercover wearing police wires to help law enforcers nab other drug dealers.

Today Butler, 38, continues his work fighting against drug dealers but in a different way. A year ago he started the Give the Children a Chance Foundation in his hometown of Quinlan, Texas, after discovering his then-16-year-old son experimenting with the meta-amphetamine known on the street as “ice.”

He cleaned his son up and realized that children need someone they can talk to about drugs, stress and life.

“When you’re a kid, you have a hard time talking to your parents, but you can open up to a stranger,” Butler says.

Butler, along with his wife, grandmother and some friends in the Quinlan law enforcement offices, started the foundation and set up a hotline children can call when they need to talk with someone.

The 24-hour hotline always has a sympathetic ear on the other end of the line ready to listen to teens vent about their problems.

“We get three or four calls a day, and they are all confidential,” Butler says. “We don’t care who they are.”

The foundation’s motto, according to its website, is “never turn anybody away that needs help,” and Butler’s foundation works with other organizations to help as many people as it can – not just those with a drug problem but pregnant teens, battered wives, anyone who calls and just needs to talk.

Butler says he believes his foundation is valuable because the people answering the phone have gone through what the callers are going through and can give them something to relate to.
“I’ve lived that life,” Butler says. “A lot of people tell you not to do drugs that have never done them. They don’t know the ups and downs, the highs and lows. I do.”

But with that substance abuse history comes a deeper understanding for Butler. He knows that the drugs kids do now are so much more dangerous than the ones he did 20 years ago.

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“It’s gone from getting high to getting dead,” Butler says.

Butler says drugs now are often cut or distilled with poison that makes them more dangerous than the still-dangerous cocaine.

“Drugs can only lead two places: prison or the cemetery,” Butler says.

Butler realized that a long time ago and began moving away from the illegal substances and traveling down a different road – a road that would eventually lead him behind the wheel of a big rig. Butler and his wife Rebekah, who also spends time manning the hotline and searching out donations, drove team in their 2001 Volvo, hauling produce for Stanley Refrigerated out of Dallas.

“My handle is Texas Two-Stepper, and hers is Sunshine,” Butler says. “We’d haul chicken from Texas or Louisiana to the West Coast, then haul produce back when we got hired to.”

But all that changed in October. In Banning, Calif., as Butler was asleep in the cab, Rebekah swerved to miss a car. She didn’t hit the car, but she rolled the truck, totaling it, throwing her from the vehicle and bouncing Butler around the sleeping compartment.

She ended up with nothing but superficial cuts and bruises. Her husband was a different story.

Much of the hair and skin was taken off the top of his head, his colon was bruised and he needed seven stitches in his left eye. But the worst trauma was to his right knee and left shoulder.

Butler went under the knife in November for reconstructive surgery on his knee. He says he is doing fine, and his doctors are surprised at how well he is recovering.

“I had to get up and about,” Butler says. “I like to stay busy.”

A second operation, this one to remove a bone spur growing on the shoulder, was scheduled in December.

Butler tries not to let the injuries slow him down. He likes being up and able to help the teens at the foundation. Even injured, he is lobbying for harsher punishments for those who deal drugs to children.

“Drugs come from adults,” Butler says. “If adults aren’t giving drugs to kids, then it doesn’t give them the opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no.'”

Call (903) 567-3364 or visit this site for more information.
–Lance Orr

Millionaire Driving Team
Trucker Jimmie Dale Palmer hit the jackpot – big time – but that doesn’t mean he’s giving up the road.

Palmer and his co-driver wife, Laurie, make a habit of stopping at casinos along their routes out of California, always hoping to strike it rich. One of their favorites is the Route 66 Casino off Interstate 40 in Albuquerque, N.M., where they visit semi-weekly.

“Every time we go to California and come out of California, we stop there,” says Palmer, 42.

The Palmers, leased to Ronnie Dowdy, Inc., made their usual stop at the Route 66 Casino on a run from California to Arkansas in December, but this time would be different. After 40 minutes of play on a penny progressive slot machine, the Millioni$er, Jimmie hit the million-dollar jackpot – the first one at the 2-year-old casino.

“I had just said to my wife ‘I’d like to hit the Millioni$er jackpot just once.’ I had no idea,” Jimmie says. “It took a while to soak in. I really couldn’t believe it.”

The Palmers, who have been married eight years and have five children between them, lived in their yellow 1998 Freightliner until they struck gold. One of the first things they bought was a new three-bedroom home in Arkansas. They also paid off the truck and bought new joyriding vehicles – a Harley for Jimmie and a 2005 Chrysler 300 series for Laurie.

They took six weeks off from work to get their affairs in order – and go on a few shopping sprees – but they don’t plan to give up driving.

“I enjoy my job,” says Jimmie, who was raised around trucks and truck drivers. “People think I’m nuts, but I do.”

The native Californian has been a driver since 1989; his wife has been a driver since 2002. The Palmers bought their Freightliner, which includes a sleeper with television, DVD, VCR, microwave and refrigerator, in November 2001 and have been on the road since.

“I like to drive and I like to travel,” Jimmie says. “What better way than to get paid to
do it?”
–Kristen Walters

Trucking in Black and White
Half a century ago, trucking was a different way of life, says former driver Peter Browning, who spent the ’50s hauling new vehicles over the road.

Browning, born in 1928, spent a year and a half in the Navy before taking up trucking from 1949 to 1958. His memoir Working for Wages: On the Road in the Fifties details his decade on the road in “an account of who we were, how we lived and how we talked – the record of a vanished way of life in a country that has changed beyond belief during the last 50 years,” he says.

The book includes stories such as “Little Reno on the River,” “The Skirmish of Tippecanoe,” “The All-Bran Affair” and “The Kid With the Jealous Eyes.” Browning says two of his favorites included in the book are “The Good Soldier” and “Defender of Freedom.”

Browning says driving in the 1950s was more difficult, and the equipment was a far cry from the trucks folks drive today.

“The roads were almost entirely two-lanes,” he says. “The older roads sort of followed the contour of the land. Some of the things we were driving

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