By Randy Grider
Editor’s Note: Forty-nine-year-old trucker Donald Drye of Shreveport, La., was killed Aug. 11, 2004, along an interstate near Tonopah, Ariz., in an accident caused by a blinding dust storm. He left behind three young children, Joshua, Matthew and Misty, as well as a devoted wife and co-driver, Cindy Drye.
Dear Joshua, Matthew and Misty,
Your mother called me a few weeks ago looking for articles written about your father. She told me she was making a scrapbook to help you remember your dad as you grow older. Even though at your respective ages, 10, 9 and 7, you now remember him quite well, some memories will fade a little as you grow older.
She told me how your family traveled all across the United States. It was basically the only life you had known until the past year when your dad decided you might need to socialize more with kids your own age. Living in the cab of a tractor-trailer carries both dangers and rewards that few people outside of trucking can appreciate. Your mother said all of you loved crisscrossing the country, seeing things most kids only study about in school.
During the short time I talked to your mom, I could sense the pain she and you all must feel losing a husband and a father who obviously loved you very much. Hopefully, the memories of good times will help ease the pain as time goes on. Fishing with you kids, gardening or woodworking was your dad’s idea of a perfect way to spend the limited off time he had as a trucker.
I know your mother will tell you often of how she and your dad met. Both drivers at the same company who fell in love and enjoyed almost 12 years of marriage. She and your dad used to joke about being poor; then your dad would remind her that he actually felt rich because he was blessed with a wonderful family. Money certainly can’t buy that kind of contentment.
I didn’t personally know your father, but I know a lot about what kind of man he must have been. After all, good truckers, while from all different backgrounds, share some common characteristics. I know that because he drove for many years for the same company, he was dedicated to his job. And I bet he loved the freedom of the open road. My mother jokingly called it “itchy feet.” You see, my dad was a trucker, too, and couldn’t stand to be in one place too long.
I also know that your dad had to make a lot of sacrifices. That is, more often than not, a big part of the trucking life. It’s not a job for those looking for riches. Living on a budget and learning to survive on the basics is a fact of life. Maybe your dad couldn’t always buy you something you saw on the road and really wanted, but I’m sure many times he wished he could.
Making tough decisions was also something he learned early on in his career. Heck, making smart and sometimes tough decisions every single mile is what sets good drivers apart from the crowd. I believe your dad was one of the good ones.
The most important decision he ever made came just before he was killed. He decided while loading in Louisiana for a delivery to Los Angeles that you kids and your mother should get out at your house in order to get ready for the approaching school year. Whether it was divine intervention, fate or simply coincidence is not known, but that simple decision saved all of your lives. Personally, like all of you, I believe your dad is in heaven. That’s where good drivers and good people go when their work here is done.
Whatever happens down the road, please remember what your dad tried to teach you in the few short years all of you were together – do your best and don’t give up when times are tough. I promise that will bring a smile to the proud trucker looking down on you.