Friday, October 12, 2007

On a sad note

We got the word Thursday morning, Oct. 11, that OOIDA member David “Rusty Nail” Broyles had passed away after a long battle with cancer. It had rapidly spread throughout his body in the past year.

Donna “Saddles” Baggett, David’s friend, had let us know and had kept tabs with us in recent months, and had even helped write a poem with David and his girlfriend, Pat.

We faced an interesting dilemma with this story that many publications face on a near-daily basis: What do you write after the death of a reader, a friend, or an acquaintance?

Unfortunately, many drivers, OOIDA members and others do pass on during every given year. We couldn’t possibly write the words to encapsulate each Land Line reader or OOIDA member that passes on.

I remember the death of a young policeman in one town where I used to work. Many members of the local police department wanted us to write a large feature about him after he battled a chronic illness. On the other hand, the young man hadn’t died or been afflicted while in the line of duty, and wasn’t particularly known in town.

We chose to run a standard obituary for the man.

“What makes him different than anyone else that dies of a heart attack?” my editor at the time asked.

At Land Line we tend to not write about the deaths of many drivers, unless there is a story angle that makes it particularly interesting or important to our readers. Sometimes things seem unfair, and sometimes they are unfair. The mere absence of news one particular week and the availability of an extra few minutes of time could dictate why we write any individual story.

In David’s case, his story was particularly touching.

Cancer forced him from the road after 22 years of driving, including many years that he admitted to me were spent being lonely and bitter, and sometimes angry.

A few years ago, however, something spurred David to call into a trucking radio show. Soon he was taking phone calls.

David and I played phone tag a few times before I was able to sit down and interview him. He had a brief break between chemotherapy and other aggressive treatments, and I instantly recognized why David had so many friends in the trucking industry.

David’s positive outlook on life was powerful because it was carried by a voice that offered no BS. Nothing but honest and direct speech.

The interview quickly expanded from its allotted 30 minutes into nearly two hours.

He was enjoying a crisp spring morning outside his Tennessee house as he described the change in his life after he chose to be friendly with others at every truck stop, loading dock and diner. He shutoff his CB after hearing too much negativity and decided to help newbies to the trucking business rather than chime in with sarcasm, David told me, and it made him feel better.

Birds chirped in the background as he became emotional while talking about cancer.

He laughed as he recounted beating multiple timetables for fatality.

He told me how stunned he and Pat were when they heard that a FedEx package with $15,000 was on its way to help with medical expenses. Truckers, many including strangers, had held an impromptu fundraiser at the 2007 MATS show to help him.

There’s one less good guy out there today, but it’s clear that the world is a little bit better because of him.

Below is a brief poem David worked on with a friend, forwarded by Saddles.

“I won’t be home tonight”

It’s quiet here in Heaven tonight. I need to send this through. I want’cha all to think of me and know I think of you.

And Pat, please know I love you, gal. I hope things are alright, but Babe I gotta tell ya, I won’t be home tonight.

I’m up here in a better place, and I don’t hurt no more. Please find the strength to carry on, I miss you, that’s for sure.

I’ll miss you at each sunrise, as night begins to fall, I’ll miss those smiles you gave to me, you made me feel so tall.

I’ll miss all of our good times, I’ll miss even the bad, Because we were together, so please girl, don’t be sad.

The trail of life was something else, I really liked the ride, But now that it’s all over, I wish you were by my side.

I’m making loads of friends up here, such beauty fills the sky, But Babe, please know I miss you so, sometimes I almost cry.

Hey, thanks for taking care of me in those awful, final days, your love showed through so many ways I wanted so to stay.

I’ll wait for you to join me in this peaceful place, alright?

Remember me forever ’cause I won’t be home tonight.