The Final Lookin' Back With Dick Lower - Part 3by Jake Tully - Published: 9/01/2016
If there’s one thing that speaking with Dick Lower can teach anyone it’s that a positive attitude and outlook towards life can go a long way.
In the final installment of Truck Driving Job’s interview with the veteran driver and author, we spoke to Lower about how the industry has shifted to online groups and started to accelerate into modern times.
Still, Lower felt very secure that at the core of trucking were the same principles that drove truckers and the industry many years ago.
“People are out there working for their families doing everything they can to earn a living that is the real reason they are truck drivers,” said Lower. “One thing is a fact and that is no one ever learns it all in trucking. It is a changing industry. However, the personal feelings of the drivers and their families remain constant.”
Lower exemplifies not just a traditional way of looking at the industry, but stands as a figure that represents the good Samaritans that exist within the industry.
Conversations with Lower proved that despite having a difficult life and an unforgiving career, one can still look back fondly on the good old days and find the happiness in their current situations.
Find parts one and two of Truck Driving Job’s interview with Dick Lower.
TDJ: There are a multitude of online message boards, groups, websites and other pages online for truck drivers and the trucking industry. Did you ever think that the trucking lifestyle would permeate so greatly into the online community?
DL: Message boards, groups or websites about trucking have appeared and seem like they are very active. However, I never had time for such activities when I was trucking. A lot of these groups seem to be from people that are stationary in one place who are just chatting.I don't feel truckers have much time to chat unless they are laid over somewhere with nothing to do.Then you might find a driver just trying to pass time while he is shut down.
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The type of online activity that you may see is where you are looking for a load after you empty out. Since my retirement as a truck driver in 1995 the online communications now offers the driver the capability to reach home through his computer. He now has more ways to contact love ones at home. That is good! However, this is not a community service as it is rather personal for the driver.
No, I never thought trucking lifestyle would permeate into the tech world as it has.
TDJ: It seems that many current truckers who write are coming from a more luxurious position on the road. Do you think that current drivers who keep online blogs or publish pieces online have much to talk about nowadays or that the industry is do different that it skews topics they can approach?
DL: Yes they do! I cannot keep abreast with the changing equipment or the mode of operational features presented in today tractors and trailers. Truck drivers of today talk about what you may call new school and I am old school when it comes to the transportation industry. With the aspect of driver to driver experience some things never change and that is a story in itself!
However, it is not only speaking to drivers of today it is talking to people of today that becomes awkward at times because of the difference in age.The older you get it is evident because we find ourselves saying, "I remember when..." In the business I followed after driving a truck it became apparent I must adapt to the cooperate world and watch what I say. In the bus business it is necessary to be pleasant to everyone even if they are grouchy your response must be polite.
The highways are the same and they even change every year. Cities you run into and out of never remain the same. Chicago and all the major cities are constantly changing. It is a system you have to stay tuned into no matter what kind of equipment you are driving. Just before I retired in 1995 a driver from New York City asked me and another driver about getting into down town Chicago. He wanted to know if I-94 would take him into Chicago? I asked him just where he was going. He replied he could find it just head him in the right direction. He said he is from New York City and if he could drive there he can drive anywhere!
Jake, to make a long story short we saw the driver three days later and he was wide eyed and exclaiming he was never coming back to Chicago ever! It is a nightmare he said. Here is a seasoned driver that got lost in the maze of Chicago traffic. Even with GPS you should know where you are going especially down town Chicago your GPS will go nuts amid the tall buildings.The lady in that little black box will say, "recalculating”, “recalculating..." yet you will still be lost so you must know your way in and around downtown Chicago.
I am old school and cannot talk new school.
TDJ: Is there any specific aspect of life on the road you wish you could go back and experience and/or chronicle again?
DL: Yes! I remember times when I did not recognize some one's life was at stake! If only I could have known maybe it would have made a difference. I'll put it this way; What if you talk to someone and in no way realize the pain they feel? They seem to be all right but later find out they killed themselves later that day by putting a 45 to their head! Or, you see a car parked alongside the road and think nothing of it and then later find out some one froze to death in it. Or you talk to a trucker during a snow storm and try to get him to come at the truck stop and wait out the storm. He wants to go to the warehouse and wait it out. You find out later he froze to death.
Do I wish or miss good things? Yes! I fell in love with Mother Earth. She is beautiful. Over the mountains across the desert onto the swamps you travel across God's country that they call Wisconsin into the western states of tall mesas.
I miss calling my wife and asking her for a date because I am coming home for the weekend. She would go get her hair fixed up and be pretty for me when I got home. She died 13 years ago of cancer. One thing about living a long time and that is you have to watch your friends and family leave this world before you do. Meanwhile you keep on trucking doing what you know the best way you can until you get that last dispatch.
TDJ: Your salutations in writings and emails is the phrase “Happy Trails?” What importance does “Happy Trails” hold?
DL: There is a song that Gene Autry a cowboy use to sing, "Happy trails to you," and it just stuck in my mind over the years.His record still sings, "Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer" each year.He was an entertainer for 70 years.His life was very meaningful and he was such a good family man. In the course of my trucking years and meeting so many people I would not only send them the good numbers but also wish them, "Happy trails to you on whatever path way in life your journey takes you!"
I really meant it to be heart felt and a warm wish almost like a prayer. If I were never to see you again that would be my parting words, "Happy trails to you Jake on whatever path way in life your journey takes you!"
That is what I would say to you, but we are not parting so I will just say, "I'll see you on the flip flop!"
Author's note: Dick Lower talked to TDJ through the midst of poor weather, long nights and countless requests from the author for photographs and stories on the road.
When I first made contact with Dick initially told me, "... Jake I will not waste your time or mine if I feel this is not going anywhere. I am not being rude and I would expect the same from you. There fore this is something new and you sound like you know what is going on! So that makes me excited! I welcome your questions..."
I am so thankful that Dick took such a generous amount of time to speak to us. Please take the time to look at his site, World of The Truck Driver.
With Dick Lower, you know that you have a friend in the trucking world.