In the month of November, the US celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday. People take the time to say what they are thankful for in their lives. Typically, people say friends, family, good health, and a job that provides income. I, too, am thankful for those same things, but I wanted to express gratitude to men/women that make the world go round. You might wonder who are these men/women? These men/women are those that get behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler each day to bring every single thing we have( rent or own) into our lives.
This month, I decided to show words of appreciation, gratitutde, and recognize the men/women that make the daily sacrifices for us. I wanted to thank them for all that they do. Part 1 of this month’s blog is dedicated to a father and his sons.
I think every man wants to hear these words. Dad, I want to be like you when I grow up. That’s what happened for Johnny Wooten. Mr. Wooten’s two sons, Robert and John, followed in the footsteps of their father and became a part of the transportation industry.
Transportation industry was not Mr. Wooten’s first job. He and his wife of 57 years, Sammie, farmed. I asked what made him decide to enter into the career path of transportation. He stated that it wasn’t many options in those days to provide for a family. He has been driving 18 wheelers for the last 47-48 years. He has enjoyed the benefits it brings. His hard work and dedication influenced both of his son to become truck drivers as well. His son, Robert, made it to almost 33 years, and John has been driving for the last 3 years. It took John a little longer to follow in the path of his father and brother.
John was in the restaurant business since the age of 15. He started off as a car hopper at Johnnie’s Drive In. Later, John would open his own restaurant in Saltillo by the name of John’s Place. He ended up closing it. Several years later, he went back into business for himself and opened Double Barrell. He had a location in Shannon and one in Tupelo. Due to the high cost of food and trying to keep doors open, he decided the restaurant business was no longer for him. He made a call to his brother, Robert, one night. He never looked back.
That Saturday night, John called Robert and told him that he wanted to talk to him. John wanted to ride with him on his next delivery. John knew that Robert was on his way to Clarksdale the next morning. On the trip, John informed Robert that he wanted to get out of the restaurant business and into trucking. Robert agreed to show him the ropes, but he told John that he wouldn’t last. He said John was only a “blowed up fry cook and a steering wheel holder.” Robert told John he wouldn’t last. John was determined to be successful in the business and make it last.
John recalls one trip. Robert, John, and their friend, Gary Kisner, had to take loads to Virginia. John said all the way there Robert gave him a hard time. It didn’t matter what he was doing. He was on his back and calling out every mistake. Finally, John had enough. He asked Robert to get off him. Gary asked Robert to leave John alone. On the way back to Tupelo to park their 18 wheelers, Robert called John on his c.b. He asked him how long he’d been driving. After John replied, Robert logged on Facebook and made a post. He told John how proud of him he was. John said he’ll never forget it.
I mentioned “cb” name. It’s the name that truckers call drivers on their radio. Mr Wooten said that he is called Pops or Night Owl (former night driver). Robert’s was Pig Tail. It had nothing to do with a pig. It was because of one incident when Robert tore his pig tail wiring loose on his trailer. His co-workers used it accident as a joke. John’s cb name is Snout. It is a play on names because of Robert’s mistake.
March 15, 2021, Robert went on to be with the Lord. They’d come off the road the night before and went to hang out at Sharp Shooters. John recalls seeing him walk out of the building and smiling back at him. That would be the last time he’d see his brother alive. Robert made a career in transportation. This year would have made 33 years that he drove an 18 wheeler. His career began at Stone Container. He drove for Fed Ex for 8 years, GBC, and Ashley Furniture. Williams Logistics is where made his home and was who he drove for prior to his death. John said that Robert never stopped picking at him, but it was brotherly love. John said Mr. Wooten was the patient teacher, and Robert was the tough one. John said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
I mentioned that Mr. Wooten has been driving for over 40 years. One day, John thought he was going to have more loads than his dad. He said he’d gotten up early one morning. He had done several trips. He was very excited entering in the office of William Logistics to turn in his bills. He thought he was going to rub it in with his dad’s face of how many he’d done. The business office informed John that Mr. Wooten had already been in hours before he had and had a head start on John. Mr. Wooten was tickled as John was telling the story. He said that even with bad knees he could still run circles around his sons. John said “he’s like an old gear that won’t stop.”
Driving trucks is not for the weak. There are some that come home each night and others do long haul. Those long haul drivers could be gone for days or weeks at a time. The longest Mr. Wooten was away was 5 days, and it was 4 days for John. Even though the pay is good on the long haul trips, Mr. Wooten enjoys coming home each night. He said at his age he is ok with working four days a week.
I asked them both what was something that made them want to keep driving. One thing that keeps Mr. Wooten motivated is the pay. He said he loves seeing that nice check each pay period. Also, he feels when he has delivered his goods and helped the economy out. The bad side of driving is when a delivery is not delivered on time. It is not always the driver’s fault. At times, traffic is bad, the weather is bad, or there is an accident on the road. They said that it isn’t an every day occurrence of these things happening, but it happens. Other times, people are on their cellphones and not paying attention to the road. People should be more aware because it is impossible to stop an 18 wheeler immediately.
At the end of each interview, I ask what advice would you like to give the next person. Mr. Wooten said that he advises anyone that is seeking employment in the transportation business to find someone to work with you. Do your best. Make yourself a good employee. Listen to someone who will help you.
Just as John had great examples in life to influence him, his son, Lance, does too. Lance is 15 and has decided that he wants to make truck driving his career as well. He said his has his grandfather, his dad, and his uncle that are an example to him. I’m not sure who will be the patient one to teach him, or who will be the strict one when it’s his time to get his lessons behind the wheel. One thing I do know is that he’ll make them all proud.
The title of this blog is “like father. like son”. One day, it will be three generations of truck drivers in the Wooten family. Thank you Wootens for all you do. You are appreciated.
If you would like to watch the full interview, here’s the link on my YouTube page. https://youtu.be/c3Q0oiqZOuU