Authors note: Mr. Kraak lost his battle to cancer recently. He was truly an asset to the human race and will be deeply missed. RIP Mr. Kraak.
Once again, mankind has redeemed itself and we’ve met some of the coolest human beings alive.
We stopped at a rest stop on I-10 near Ft. Stockton, Texas where I noticed the old trucks immediately. I still don’t know a lot about trucks, but I know cool when I see it and these trucks were cool like Steve McQueen.
George and I ooohed and aaahhed over them on our way into the rest stop, I snapped a few phone pics, we went and did our business. We were still talking about how pretty and unique the trucks were while we were climbing back into our own truck. I noticed a group of people congregating around them and decided I had to get out and ask about these trucks. This magazine article thing was still pretty new to me, but I knew if I could get something written with pictures about these awesome trucks, the ever elusive and sometimes famous Max Heine (my editor) would be extremely happy with me.
“I’m going to interview those people about their trucks. I need pictures.”
George looked a little startled at my proclamation. This magazine article thing was still pretty new to him, too, and I had never actually done an interview.
“Are you sure? You just want to walk up to those people and start asking questions and taking pictures? Do you even have a pen? What will you ask them? Please don’t say anything about Sasquatch.”
“Gah. I think I can handle asking a few questions about some old trucks without completely losing my mind. I used to work with dementia patients, I can be reassuring and normal when I need to.”
“Reassuring and normal to dementia patients isn’t the same as interviewing strangers.”
“Pfft. I’ll be fine. Take pictures.”
Thomas Paul Kraak’s 1960 Autocar grabs your immediate attention, but his story grabs your heart. The closest truck to us was a giant yellow beast with beautiful curves and shiny chrome. She was beefy in a pin-up model kind of way, painstakingly restored, with obvious attention to classic details. The headlights gave away her age, but she definitely didn’t have any wrinkles or blemishes. I walked up to the man standing beside her, determined to get my first interview in the bag.
Thankfully, the guy was more than happy to show his truck off. Mr. Thomas Paul Kraak (pronounced Krake) from Houston was completely tickled pink I was interested in his pride and joy. He told me it was a 1960 Autocar DC 102 that he had cut and put on a Freightliner air ride frame. The rest of the truck was rebuilt and original.
None of this made any sense to me, but I diligently wrote it all down. He told me she rode like a dream, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone smile like he smiled when he was telling me about his truck. I could have sworn I saw the guy tear up a couple of times, but I discounted it to the blazing sun and thoroughly enjoyed watching him derive so much pleasure from talking about his truck. Everyone should have something they love that much.
Towards the end of our conversation, Mr. Kraak whipped off his baseball hat to reveal a very fresh and very large surgery scar on top of his head. He went on to tell me about surviving a brain tumor that up until it was removed a few weeks before, had taken away his peripheral cognizance. He was “jumbled up” – left seemed like right and right seemed like left. He had been unable to drive, or walk without stumbling. It was clearly difficult for him to even talk about; I couldn’t imagine someone so vibrant being an invalid.
This time I realized he really was tearing up. He was so thankful for the opportunity to recover from such a horrible illness and be able to drive his precious truck again, he was truly touched. I did what any decent human being from the South is supposed to do when someone chooses to tell them something emotional, I hugged his neck and God blessed him with all my heart. I pretty much forgot everything he told me about the truck, but I will never forget his humbleness and thankfulness for another opportunity to drive.
I was all excited with my excellent truck story but when I sat down and started writing it, I realized it wasn’t going to be about the trucks at all. The trucks need their own article, with someone writing things about them that are coherent. I don’t understand trucks, I understand people. I can’t write about the trucks and do them justice, but I can give you a tiny idea of how extremely awesome some people we met on the road are.
We all parted ways after getting contact information. There were about 12 stories in that one little group; there will definitely be more on these folks in the future. Mr. Kraak is still enjoying good health and recovery. Life is good.