My wife and I were now in Canada and ready to pick her up. Nothing describes the feeling you have when you’re on that factory lot and they tell you she's coming off the line in a couple of minutes. And then I saw her. WOW, she was -- beautiful and coming right to me and the nightmare began.
You see, most people that know me do not know I have a secret and I have to battle it every day of my life. I came out of Vietnam with PTSD and it effects my life's accomplishment. Most men and women that fought that war never left it. We came back home with a sense of failure and un-accomplishment and here I was seeing something I designed, and she was beautiful, and I didn't deserve it. For the next few minutes, I just walked around her, talking to her and wondering if we would get along and when I got in that seat, she became real to me and we would now work together.
Most people would say it's only a truck, but not me.
At the factory they have to take her to the drop off site for some reason, about a mile away. So, I gave the keys back to the salesman and we followed her down the road. We only made it about a half mile because there is a scale right outside of the factory and they gave us a ticket for an overweight front axle and instantly I told myself maybe I really didn't deserve this truck. Fortunately, Western Star and the scale had different ideas to settle, but we were now on the road to get the sleeper put on.
To Oregon we went to meet the guy that was building our 120" sleeper. We checked him out as much as we could, and it all looked legal until we got there and found out he was only half done with it and wanting more money. I was starting to see a pattern and I dug in. Two week later with the state police and the final payment in hand we had him put the unfinished sleeper on and went to get the 48 ' double drop Trail King trailer and we were on the road.
With the time lost from the sleeper guy we already had a load we needed to pick up in California, so we headed off to work without supplies. Here is where you really find out about truck drivers and the hearts they have because we had NO equipment to even tie a load down, But with drivers that is no problem, because when we got there we had everything we needed and didn't even know some of the donor's names. I haven't seen that since Vietnam when the guy next to you shared his limited supply of food and water.
Over the next few months, we got the sleeper done and finished her with two lazy boy recliners, a Corian countertop with stove, refrigerator, cabinets and a microwave oven. Not a bad ride. O- did I note- there was no such thing as a Western Star show truck at that time. In fact, we were not even allowed in the Shell Rotella Calendar show that year because we were from Canada. That didn't bother me because I know we would have won. She was prettier than them all.
Sometimes you pick a job that your disability won't be noticed, and you can handle the disability properly without answering a lot of questions. Truck driving allowed that. It kept me calm. My wife hated that she could not listen to the radio when I drove because it was the sound of the engine that kept me calm. As a job we choose heavy haul and by the grace of God my wife was the people - person and the navigator for all our loads and we did very well. In fact, I knew very few people and I liked it that way.
Sometimes when you think you have all your ducks in a row the next door that opens might be your last and when I did open it, I didn't expect the outcome. A lot of men and women in Viet Nam got sprayed with agent orange and at the time the government said it would cause no health problems. That might not have been the truth, because in January of 2000 I found out the hard way that it had been eating at my lungs for years and it put me unconscious lying on the ground one Monday afternoon. I now had a left lung that was compromised and only 25% effective. So here I was on a cold winter day ready to go to work and I could hardly breath the cold air outside, how can I do my job? I didn't like this at all, and my secret only made me feel worse. Sitting in our living room I knew my truck was ready to go, but medically I could not, and it brought a lot of questions that I had no answer for, and I now had to make some difficult decisions.
Selling something you created and loved having was like a stab in the heart. For over five years we never let the other down and when I needed her most, she seemed to know what I needed and brought it forward in another gear. But now I looked across the yard and I was selling her. I did not know the buyer because it went to a dealership, so it was a few weeks later that sale drove me to tears. It was sold to an oil rig company, one that I knew could care less about equipment. Now, all that came to my mind was how could I have done that to her? All I could think of was what she thought and how she thought that she let me down.
After all she was just a truck. Right?
Over the next few years I would see her go by me on the road and I said hello each time and told her that I'm sorry for what I did, only to lose her one day to another state and I never knew what happened to her again.
Vietnam vets carry this type of guilt all the time because of their assumed failure of a war they wanted to win, so selling her was just another failure added to my life.
But sometimes what you think and what comes around in your life are totally different and this story started to prove it.
Fifteen years later I was coming home from Oklahoma City on I-40 West. As I crossed the Caddo bridge my eyes saw something I could not believe. My truck. She was sitting in the field of another oil rig company and she had a for sale sign on her. Could it be? I went right to her; didn't even tell their office I was out there. Here, she sat, sad, lonely. un-kept and broken, just like me, but somehow, I think she knew I was there. I just rubbed her with tears on my face, opened the driver’s door to look inside only to see what I expected. A beaten, torn down, dirty and uncared for truck. But wait. I could not believe my eyes and I slowly reached over to touch it to make it real. On the dash was my name tag that western star puts on custom trucks and it was still there. Fifteen years and no one tore it off. Why?
When the guy came out and saw me, he could not figure me out. I just looked at him tears and all and said I built her twenty years ago that's my name there. I talked about her like a proud father and he said it was a great truck but probably was going to be sent to Mexico this month, it was too expensive to fix. I asked what they wanted, and he said it had about $20,000 worth of parts on it and that's what they wanted, and I had no way of getting that type of money.
They say what goes around comes around and I believe that more than ever now. I went with him into their office and just like that was talking about what I did with drivers now as a Health & Wellness instructor and they said they just had someone in their office that had a heart attack, so I showed them some of our programs and left, only to feel the tears run down my face.
I now knew I would never see her again and the knife went deeper.
Today, 20 veteran commit suicide every month because of what they saw or did on a battlefield, I just happen to be a lucky one and it was because of this trucks turn of events that saved me. It was two weeks later that the salesman called me about her and what they were doing. I now thought I would be losing her for good, but that was not what I was hearing, because I was willing to help them that day for free, they were going to donate the truck to our program and twenty-four hours later she came back home.
Yes, it is just a truck, metal, plastic and rubber,
But not to me and the men and women that have secrets just like me. You see, - people - some are just not perfect, maybe their overweight, to tall, to small, or to dumb and all hide a secret and this truck can be designed to help them, like it does for me. Over the last 41/2 years I wondered what to do with her, just having her was a joy for me and I showed her off a few times, but she was still broken, and I knew I needed to fix her. In the back of my mind the secret said no, you will fail, don't be stupid, But I know she came back for a reason and I now know why, it was time for me to tell my secret and that will not be easy.
After all - it's just a truck story, right?
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