Joe Buck, Trucker

by Rick Beck

Six Days on the Road/On The Road Again

Six Days on the Road/On The Road Again

When I was ten, riding in the backseat of my father's car, I looked out the back window as an International Navistar((H) tractor trailer truck eased up behind us. I watched the driver's concentration and focus as he eased out to pass us.

Seeing my interest in his manhandling his truck, he waved at me. As if by destiny, "Six Days On The Road" came on the radio. It was a song about a trucker, who'd spent six days on the road and he was gonna make it home tonight.

My first dream was born. I'd grow up and become a trucker, and I became one. It was the first time I imagined I would grow up one day. It was the first time I could see myself being something.

He had no one but himself to depend on out there on the road. The part I likd, the driver was alone. It was his world. There was no one to tell him what to do. How cool was that?. I put that dream away but I knew where to find it.

I took it out again when I turned sixteen, after I got my driver's license. For the first time in my life I found freedom. The feel of the steering wheel in my hands was magic. I forgot all my cares and woes, driving every minute I could possibly be driving. My dream went with me. One day I'd become a trucker. One day I'd drive to the other side of the country and back again.

I went to North American Van Lines to learn to drive a tractor trailer. I had to go through the NAVL Training School to get my Class A Trucker's License. Then you bought a truck to become a certified over the road Owner/Operator.

Like with everything else in life that required practice and the development of skills, I would get it once I was on the road and on my own. I did get it, eventually, but not without a struggle.

My first three months out on the road were a nightmare. I wasn't sure I would survive it, but I'd always been a survivor. It would have to kill me before I'd give up. The reality of eighteen hour days with no aid or comfort was a long drive from my dream.

The exhaustion set in during the first week and remained without relief. Anything that could go wrong went wrong. Each morning I woke up thinking this was the day I would toss in the towel. Each day I set my mind to making it one more day, and then I'd admit defeat. A dream dies hard.

Whatever lucky star I was born under kept my head ever so slightly above water as I learned my trade. Each time one of the tasks became a little easier, it left me more time for some other difficult task, until I could manage it. One step at a time, one day at a time, for most of the first three months, I continued to struggle.

One day after the end of the third month, I woke up, rolled out of my sleeper, slid in the seat behind the wheel, turned over the engine, listened to the Cummings power hum. I shifted into gear, eased out of my parking spot, and I was a big time over the road trucker.

It didn't slowly occur or all of a sudden dawn on me, I had too much to do to think much about the fact I was doing the job and it was no longer beating me. My dream had come true. There was never another day that made me doubt I was a trucker. What I learned made what I did easy on me. Each time I slid down into the seat, I was ready to roll.

I was a trucker.

Remembering the ten year old boy who was riding in the back of my father's car when the dream of being a trucker was born, I decided I needed to share what I did with kids.

How many of them had no clue what it was they wanted to do, or if they could do anything?

Enhancing what I did, when I rolled into a school to show off my truck and speak to the students, I knew I was doing the best thing I'd ever do. I was a big time trucker. I drove from coast to coast, and it was an amazing experience, but facing a classroom of kids made my day.

I knew in every class I talked to, there was a kid like me. When I pulled out of the school after a visit, I knew there were kids who decided after my visit, 'I can do that. I can be a trucker.'

Just like I did all those years ago.

Peace & Love

Rick Beck

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