He died on the road: Mylo Heimbuch April 28, 1956 - September 5, 2021

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Updated Jan 25, 2022

Last weekend I got the text I'd been dreading.

Paul, The doctors are telling me that Mylo isn't taking oxygen very well in his lungs because they are really scarred with scar tissue and he's dying. They will allow you to come say goodbye if you want. I know you were like a brother to him. I hope you and Denise have gotten the shots.

It was from Tamera, wife of my old friend Mylo Heimbuch.

Then, upon waking up in the morning on Sunday:

Just to let you know Mylo passed away tonite.

Mylo Heimbuch (pictured with his wife, Tammy Heimbuch, of Michigan), April 28, 1956 - September 5, 2021Mylo Heimbuch (pictured with his wife, Tammy Heimbuch, of Michigan), April 28, 1956 - September 5, 2021

Back in the early 2000s, Mylo and I were both owner-operators who hauled tropical plants for the same broker. We serviced the super-nurseries, like Costa and Delray, and a few of the smaller outfits as well. We both mainly ran the Northwestern states out of South Florida. Mylo took the Canadas when they came his way. I took a couple Alaskas.

Hauling tropical plants was difficult, physical work. You had to have a trailer equipped with load-bearing e-tracks, load bars and plywood decking. Usually, it also involved fingerprinting around 3,500 loose plants stacked double-decker-style at up to 24 different big block stores. 

Dyed-in-the-wool plant haulers were true characters, and there was a small group of them who became my closest friends out here. Mylo was the last one standing. 

Imagine a reefer hauler as willing to sweat and get as much dirt on his hands as any steel hauler and you've got yourself a plant hauler. 

By the way, can you tell when a steel hauler's been eating chicken? The tips of his fingers are clean. 

Anyways, Mylo had gotten cross-threaded with the folks he'd been leased on with and was looking for a change. That's when he and I started talking some 15 years ago. Mylo didn't have any trouble telling someone they were a crook. He was a hard-headed German with a hair-trigger sense of righteous indignation. He also had a work ethic that earned him a handsome living with the carriers that hadn't yet pissed him off.

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Still, you mess with Mylo's money and he was gone in a flash. It didn't matter if he had $30 or $30,000 in that box he kept in an undisclosed compartment somewhere in that old Freightshaker. 

Consequently, Mylo moved around a lot. He and Tammy were bona fide gypsy truckers. They'd have nothing but their truck for a home, sometimes for years at a time. It was more like  houselessness than homelessness, though. I've experienced the gourmet meals that Tammy prepared in their truck before. They rivaled anything any of the great cooks in my family ever came up with. 

Then they'd find a place somewhere, usually a little spread with a few acres, and rent it for a while. But Mylo was a slave to the old wanderlust. Just as soon as the dream of a little ranch on a few acres would pull him in, the highway would call him away. Six months or a year later, he and Tammy would call the highway their home again. He was always just a day away from where he wanted to be, as Jackson Browne once put it. 

Both Mylo and Tammy had worked for Uncle Sam in the U.S. Army,  where Tammy had sustained serious and life-altering injuries. I never knew a man as dutiful toward his wife as Mylo. Even when chronic pain, time and age took away Tammy's ability to walk, Mylo still took her with him on the road, and cared for her valiantly. 

He was a man who lived by his own code, and didn't always fit in with the traditional trucker mold. He wore rings on nearly all of his fingers. Before I knew him, I saw him once at a shipping office in Goulds, Florida, his huge arms crossed, waiting for his paperwork. He looked to me like a man who had killed before and would eventually kill again, like some kind of biker hitman. But Mylo spoke like a Methodist choir director. He was a born-again Christian, one of the few of those I've met in the trucking business who didn't eventually disillusion me with some compromise of ill temper or secret moral turpitude. 

More than once, when they were stranded and down to no money, Mylo would pawn those rings and live to fight another day. They were like his emergency fund. Once his family broke down in their personal vehicle somewhere in Arkansas. They had left Oregon, and Mylo was taking another job on the other side of the continent. Mylo pawned his rings, found a job with an ol' boy named J.D, and worked there for years. 

Truth be told, I was always a little jealous of Mylo. I never saw anyone get knocked down as many times and get back up again. Sometimes he'd send me his pay stubs, trying to convince me to get back in the owner-operator game. It takes heart to be an owner-operator, heart like that of a prize fighter in the ring. I was a veritable glass jaw compared to him. The guy had a chin like Marciano's. Maybe that's why this death is tougher than most. 

I never saw Mylo not get up again.

Tammy also fell sick with the COVID-19 Delta variant shortly after Mylo did, winding up as a patient at the same hospital in Dalton, Georgia. Thankfully, she has recovered.

"We had taken all the vitamins, taken all the precautions," she added. "We had no idea it was this powerful."

[Related: Vaccine skepticism -- reasons for it are as varied as the trucking community]

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