‘If cats and dogs drove trucks,’ or: Sharing yourself can make a difference

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Updated Sep 19, 2020

It’s the beginning of a new school year, and I’ve been reminiscing about so many of the enjoyable experiences I’ve had visiting schools. Tops among them: Being invited to the schools with my truck and trailer, meeting with students, teachers, sometimes parents while teaching safety programs. Beyond safety, though, these events offered opportunities to share my life’s experiences and to hear others’ stories of sharing the roadways.

Those were among the best parts, on a personal level.

On a public relations level, too.

These events broke down whatever barriers may have existed between all of us. We’re all users of public roadways, after all.

I tried to dispel the popular notion that it’s all large trucks v. four-wheelers in a battle for highway dominance by always contextualizing the person behind the wheel or in the passenger seat — we share the highways with people, not just cars and trucks. I was often enough helped along in this by the children in attendance who had parents or other family members who were truck drivers. Others might offer stories of an accident involving injury or death – those can be instructive, too, though it’s equally important to tread lightly and listen, recognize the pain involved.

And while the goal of most of these visits was to encourage safe driving, standing in front of each of these individuals made me work more directly toward the same for myself. If I’m going to talk the talk, as the old saying goes, I’d better walk the walk.

A child’s imagination

I think we all like it when a child pumps their arm to try and get us to blow the air horn. It’s that little moment of receiving recognition. And I remember visits with the younger children at grade schools as the most enjoyable of all those I made. All these visits I shared with my little traveling partner, Scarydog, who just seemed to love and greet everyone who came to visit.

Despite the name, she really wasn’t very scary.Despite the name, she really wasn’t very scary.

She became a real barrier-buster when it came to my work with the students. With their wonder and excitement, these children were full of imagination, with a million questions about where Scarydog and I had traveled, what it’s like sleeping in a truck, whether she protected me, etc. The younger the children, the greater their imaginations, the more brilliant the wonderment in their eyes as they sat in the seat to pull the air horn.

kid inside semi truck

I would tell stories of driving across the country and through the mountains or next to the oceans. These children helped make those memories even more enjoyable. I had a map to show lots of the places where I had picked up or delivered — little stars scattered throughout the states and Canada. They always wanted to know where the most interesting or prettiest places were.

I loved to encourage all the students to not be afraid to follow their dreams, to know just how much the world has to offer and will continue to change. You may be surprised how many children dream of having exciting work someday – even being a truck driver traveling to new places.

letter and drawing from kid to Gary Buchs

Sometimes I received thank you notes like you see above, involving stories or pictures. One depicted Scarydog with 18 legs, as a tractor-trailer has wheels.

semi truck drawing and letter to Gary Buchs from kid

drawing of a cat and dog driving a semi truckAnd my own grandchildren are not to be left out of the experience. This summer, while staying with Marcia and me, our oldest granddaughter Anna asked if she could send something to all of you about our pets driving the trucks, including this illustration, too. Here’s her story:

You can click/tap through the image to access a larger copy.You can click/tap through the image to access a larger copy.

I’d encourage everyone to slow their lives down just a little. The next time you have the chance to share a moment with a family traveling at a rest area or travel center, or to go and visit a school, remember your childhood roots and the good times — and imagine the barriers you could cross by sharing a good story.

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