Thoughts from the President: Another Walter

Posted on Apr 2, 2018

Happy Monday from our office to yours! We’re here to help you start your week off right with another story from president John Willis. This time, he introduces us to an old trucker friend he once knew and some of the times they spent together.

Featured Story: Another Walter

Winston was a truck driver friend of mine, very old school, not like the steering wheel holders out there today. I needed some mechanical help so he introduced me to his brother.

Walter was a mechanic, also old school. He lived in one of the oldest houses in our county, pre-Civil War I was told. I don’t think much had been done to it since.

He had gone to the tech school in Americus Georgia back in the 60’s. Then worked for a truck leasing company. The son of the owner of that company told me they used to call Walter “Flash”, in the same vein Curly of the Three Stooges got his nickname.

Coming back home to Harris County he saddled up with a family running a logging operation and sawmill. Years of working on skidders, trucks, trailers, sawmill equipment. Not a computer-controlled engine or process in the house. Old school.

Walter and I rebuilt a few motors in big trucks together, brakes, service work. Then I started doing more logistics, less owning. Working out of an office in my house to begin with.

He would come by to see me, visit. All we had at the time for heat were those propane space heaters in each room. It could be July and Walter would still put his hands behind him and back up to the heater, which was off. Old habits die hard.

Walter is one of those people who is the same person every day. Through his life he taught me how important that simple trait is, and how rare it is.

He was still turning wrenches some, mainly for people he liked or felt obligated to. Occasionally he would borrow my big torque wrench. When that happened I knew he was building a motor for someone and we would talk about it. Sometimes he solicited advice. He was still carrying the unmistakable smell of decades of grease worn into his pores. My wife would come home from work, walk in hours after Walter had left, sniff the air and ask, “Walter stop by?” Winston passed away. Hard on Walter, tough to see him like that at the funeral.

Moved my office, he would still come by, sometimes his hair would be standing straight out one side of his head where the wind had blown it, going down the road, windows open. Walter didn’t care. I would tell people that his blood pressure probably never varied more than a few points. He certainly didn’t get caught up in worrying about what other people thought of him, or much of anything else.

Walter came by about a year ago. Told me he had Alzheimer’s and would be moving in with a sister. We talked a long time, not about much. I cried when he left.

His son and another friend have brought him by a few more times since. Little harder to understand each time. I treasure these visits, not knowing which will be the last. He has finally detoxed all the grease out of his system.

Walter, thanks for showing me what’s important and what’s not.

This story was originally published on April 3, 2017. For free access to this and other stories by John Willis, click here to visit his website.