Truckers offer interesting stories over coffee
By By Lowell McGill
Over the last 30 years or so local truckers have always been a part of our coffee sessions.
This column is the second in a series of our "coffee-drinking buddies" who have now passed on.
D.V. Johnson and his "sacred harp singing" was the first column in this series, which was written several weeks ago.
Bill Moseley, Willard Everette and J.P. Madison were three local professional long haul truckers. Because of their traveling the entire USA and because of my interest in geography, I always found our discussions enlightening. I suppose it was because I found my work carried me to some of those same routes to cities and towns they traveled.
I wrote about J.P. in an earlier column where he came to my aid many years ago when I had a flat tire over in Coffee County in the small town of Jack. If you remember I did not have a jack in my car that rainy day and he changed the tire for me.
All these men devoted most of their working life to the trucking business. I learned during our coffee sessions about certain towns that had speed traps. Drivers had to slow down in these areas or get a speeding ticket. All three agreed that Alabama had more speed trap towns than any other state they traveled. One town in particular where you frequently see radar- patrol cars is on east I-65 as you enter Mobile. Of course, we really should appreciate these local patrolmen who keep those speedsters slowed down to a safe driving pace.
They told me about their early association with Mr. Rudolph Peaden who made long haul trips to Homestead, Fla. to bring back loads of tomatoes. He knew all the good locations down there and he never came back with an empty load. They also made many trips to this part of the country hauling fruit and produce. On two occasions I worked hurricane flood losses in Homestead. One time, several years ago a couple of adjuster friends and I drove from Homestead to Key Largo. There we ate at a restaurant that displayed on the walls pictures of scenes and movie stars featured in the movie "Key Largo." There were pictures of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and other stars in that movie.
But, you remember, that town was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Andrew was one of the most devastating hurricanes to hit our country.
They often spoke how lonely it was to be on the road hundreds of miles from home. But, they were sincere in their profession and they devoted their lives to the trucking business.
Bill told me one time that traveling across America was like getting a college education. There were so many historical things to see and so many interesting people to deal with. We often talked about Harlington, Texas, one of the further most southern cities in Texas. That town was located on the "same level" as south Florida. That's why so much fruit and vegetables were grown and shipped. It has a tropical atmosphere, which stretches all the way across the Rio Grande Valley. This includes the towns of McAllen, Brownsville and South Padre Island on coastal Gulf of Mexico. Bill often talked about all the beautiful murals on walls, buildings and in museums in Harlington. This city is known as "the city of murals."
But these truckers not only traveled Texas, they saw the entire USA. We all concurred that traveling did increase one's knowledge about geography.
Willard often talked about traveling the narrow, dangerous roads in eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia. He said it sometimes took hours to travel only a few miles in this part of the country. He said there were so many trucks hauling coal back in those days. There were no passing lanes, thus traffic was extremely slow.
They often talked about the many parkways up north. These were routes that had toll stations where you paid to drive on these highways.
Going through snowy mountains in the state of Washington was often a challenge for these truckers. But, the beauty of the snow that sometimes covered entire mountains were sights to behold.
After their retirements they came to our coffee sessions and told of their experiences.
All the men met each morning and some liked to play tricks on each other, of course, always in a friendly manner. I remember one day Willard had gone home to take a nap in the early after noon. When I got home my wife told me to call him to come and see why her lawn mower would not start. He was also a master mechanic. I called Willard and woke him from his nap. I said, "Willard, this is Lowell, my wife needs you to come and get her lawn mower going." He told me he would be right down. Well, we waited all afternoon and he never showed up. When he came in for coffee the next morning several of us men were sitting around and when he came up to the table I asked him if he worked on any lawn mowers yesterday. He said, "yes, I went down and fixed Lowell Harms lawn mower." I said "Willard it was I who called you yesterday." He said "I knew I should have finished that nap, there wasn't anything wrong with that mower I worked on." About 15 minutes later Lowell Harms came in as he usually did. Big Johnny Woods who was sitting with us asked Lowell "how's your lawn mower running these days?" Lowell said "that thing cranked up like a top this morning. It runs like a new mower." Everyone at the table laughed about it and told Lowell what had happened and kidded Willard for "sleeping too hard in his afternoon naps."
Yes, we all enjoyed each other's company back in those days. But, sadly, over 30 of my old friends have now passed away. Those friends included the ordinary working men as well as local successful businessmen. I have the names of all those coffee shop friends written down and placed in my Bible. I often just sit and look at that list and try to relive those wonderful conversations we had over the years.
I am preparing columns on each one of these friends. You'll see these stories pop up from time to time.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org