"Diamond Dan, the truck drivin' man"
Yesterday was another surprising adventure in the life of Diamond Dan.
I went to visit my dad’s best buddy, Joe Hughes, Snowman, as his trucker handle goes. He’s a retired long-haul trucker, drove for Leggett & Platt back in the ‘80s with my dad, until taking the ultimate trucking job of driving for NASCAR’s Bill Elliott and Earnhardt, Jr’s team. Joey and my dad were ‘Smokey & The Bandit’ kinda friends, looking out for each other on the road, getting into enough trouble to cause the preacher man some worry, and they could outmaneuver any 18-wheel challenge with a laugh. They were friends for 30 years.
Joe collects vintage International cabover trucks now. He’s got 3 at the moment, using one as a parts truck. He takes them to vintage truck shows, as well as on day trips with his wife Nita, and their cat, Mittens. As I listen to Joe's stories, it is clear his passion for these trucks runs like the blood in his veins, from the time he was a kid watching his dad drive these tractor-trailers, to his own storied history of being an ‘asphalt cowboy’.
And it is the one ‘Blue Deuce’, as he has named it, that is such a special truck on my visit. He bought this rig in 2000 after a fluke conversation with a friend who talked him into looking at it. This wasn't a truck he was really interested in at the time, he was not looking for that specific model but he loves and appreciates all International trucks and decided to look at it anyway. He found out it was one of the old 1980 Leggett & Platt cabovers like he used to drive from his days at the company alongside my dad. And with another huge plot twist, he realized that it was the exact same truck my dad drove! Truck #4246 as he so easily recalls to this day. He bought the truck, restored it to the original Carolina blue, and kept the interior as original as the day my dad drove it, brown shag carpet and all. As I climbed up the side and into the drivers seat, put my hands on the bright white and glossy steering wheel, I was sitting where my dad did on so many trips, so many miles, while he listened to his radio and talked on his CB. This was a truck he worked in, lived in, and one I probably even sat in as a kid! I couldn’t believe I was sitting in his truck!
Everyday, I find even more layers to my dad’s story, to his life, much more to tell over the years to come I am sure. It's with these connections and surprises that keep my dad alive and well, and always around. As Joe Hughes always called my dad, “Diamond Dan, the truck drivin’ man”, my dad will always be near my heart and in the memories of so many others.
What a great day.