Friday, November 16, 2007

Forrest Lucas, self-made man

If you’re a motorsports fan – drag racing, dirt track, off-road, boat racing, tractor pulling – you’ve noticed the Lucas Oil logos plastered everywhere.

If you surf the speed and sport channels, you might think they are the Lucas Oil Channels.

If you’re an NFL fan, you’ll soon be hearing about Lucas Oil Stadium, the new home of the Indianapolis Colts, now under construction.

The Lucas in Lucas Oil is Forrest Lucas and you’ll be reading about him and his wife Charlotte in the upcoming issue of Land Line.

Forrest is an OOIDA member who started out as a trucker years ago. He has been an acquaintance of mine since I was a pea-green trucking reporter. He has been an expert advisor in all things fuel, additives, etc., and a loyal advertiser in Land Line Magazine.

How he got to be a self-made millionaire is quite a story. He still has his CDL and owns 30 trucks that make up the Lucas Oil private fleet.

When a good opportunity came along to interview Forrest and Charlotte in October – they were planning on spending a few days in Missouri – Staff Writer Clarissa Kell-Holland drew the assignment.

We drafted one of OOIDA’s best photographers – Natasha Smith from OOIDA’s Marketing Department – and she and Clarissa spent the day with the Lucases at their ranch in Cross Timbers, MO.

With Forrest and Charlotte as their guides, Clarissa and Natasha also toured the state-of-the art Lucas Oil Speedway dirt track in Wheatland, which is only about 20 minutes from their 13,000-acre ranch, the Circle-L.

Clarissa said it was the only reporting assignment she ever walked away from carrying her notebook and a couple of packages of ground beef – Lucas-raised ground beef from Forrest and Charlotte’s freezer.

Another big highlight of the trip, Clarissa bragged later, was getting to try on a bona-fide Colts’ Super Bowl ring, owned by Forrest and Charlotte.

Watch for the exclusive feature in the December/January issue of Land Line Magazine.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lesson learned

Don’t let skepticism get in the way of finding the truth.

I admit I was a little skeptical – and I think others in the newsroom were as well – when I pitched a story in our morning meeting based on a phone call I received from a member who wanted to get a special “message out” to fellow drivers about helping a boy with cancer who wanted to set a Guinness World Record for receiving the most get-well cards.

After all, the Web site, Snopes.com, which researches Urban Legends, has disproved many such “claims” in the past.

However, the sincere tone in OOIDA member Doug McCauley’ voice convinced me to pitch the story, and our managing editor, Sandi Soendker, urged me to check out and verify whether the story was true.

After reading about a 13-year-old boy, Josh Adkins’ wish to set the world record for the most get-well cards, Doug called Land Line wanting our help to get the message out to our readers either through the magazine or on our daily Web news to send cards to help Josh achieve his goal. He had already mailed his card and had sent a message by Qualcomm to other drivers, urging them to do the same.

After doing a little digging around, I confirmed that this rumor was indeed true. At first, I was excited because this is the type of thing I know our members would wrap their arms around, helping others, but my mood went from high to low rather quickly after finding out that Josh lost his battle with cancer a few weeks ago.

On the city of Stanford’s Web site, there was this message: “Many of you throughout the community have been showing your support and sending cards for 13-year-old Josh Adkins. He battled cancer and was taken off of life support on Oct. 24, 2007. Josh died Oct. 25, 2007.”

Although there was a sad ending to this story, I plan to check with the Guinness people to see how close Josh got to achieving his goal – I’ll bet he got real close.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coming home to roost

As part of my job here at Land Line, I check different government Web sites to find stories tied to trucking. Occasionally the straight-laced headlines on news released here or here are comical, whether they’re meant to be or not.

When I searched this morning and found this story, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

Five workers at the Richard Bolling Federal Building in downtown Kansas City were indicted for using false Social Security numbers. Yes, it’s the very same 18-story building that houses 4,000 federal employees who are everything from

human resources to the Department of Commerce to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

It seems five employees of the building’s cafeteria used Social Security numbers that weren’t their own, and each was charged with Social Security number fraud, identity theft and making false statements to the government.

The federal government’s refusal to formally address how to handle illegal immigration has come back to embarrass Uncle Sam.

Another headline at the ICE news release site showed that 23 workers were recently arrested at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. A temporary employment agency apparently helped the 23 workers get unauthorized access to secure areas at the airport including the tarmac. That story is available here.

When U.S. companies and apparently the U.S. government profited from cheap labor while looking the other way, the demand for illegal labor and competition between firms artificially deflated services and salaries immeasurably.

We can only hope that the congressional repudiation of Mary Peters’ bid to implement cross-border trucking between Mexico and the U.S. will prevent similar deflation to hurt trucking.

Mom and pop trucking operations are counting on it.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Veterans Day

My dad was in the Navy. During World War II, he was in the South Pacific arena. In my life, I have a million stories about Wake Island and, of course, the Battle of Midway.

Mom’s brothers were all in the service and her folks put their foot down about her going in, so she moved to Washington, DC, and worked in the Pentagon, processing papers for the Air Force. Her parents owned a truck stop outside Springfield, IL. Mom had never worked anywhere but the truck stop.

Honoring our veterans and days like Veterans Day has always been a big deal in my family. Family picnics and all the men telling war stories and women telling “Rosie the Riveter” stories. Those stories are ones I need to keep safe in the part of my brain that holds parts of my life in fine focus. When I took my 89-year-old mom to the cemetery yesterday to put a flag on Dad’s grave, I was reminded of this.

It wasn’t unlike other Veterans Days in one way. Mom always relates some fond memory of Dad, like how he kept his Navy uniform in a duffle bag in the basement for 30 years, how many flight hours he logged on Christmas Day 1941 and more. I always find myself gritting my teeth and saying, “I hope to God I never forget any detail of these stories.”

The thing that was sadly different is that it was just us two. It seems everyone else in the family was too busy to honor the long-gone sailor in our family and all others like him.

No carload of family headed to the cemetery, strolling the leafy paths, and pointing out familiar names on tombstones. No Sunday dinner with family, looking through scrapbooks.

I was surprised that there were not many cars at the cemetery and the place was not full of flags. I heard on the news last night that some Vietnam vets decorated a memorial over on the Kansas side and some jerk tore all the flags down during the night. I wanted to go over there and sit all night to make sure the bums didn’t do it again.

I hope we don’t ever lose the spirit of Veterans Day. It’s a valiant spirit and one that I am glad is alive in my soul. But yesterday – just me and Mom planting a little flag in the ground – I wondered how many young Americans even know the words to George M. Cohan’s songs or who Rosie the Riveter was.