Colo. trucker into quilting for the long haul
Vail, CO Colorado
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – From the outside, the 9400 International cab looks as macho as its long-haul driver.
It’s a galvanized steel man cave with 10 speeds, a 200-gallon gas tank, tandem axles, and a 435-horsepower engine that can pull 40,000 pounds of tractor parts.
But don’t be fooled. Behind the monster cab’s studly bucket front seats lies a den of stitchery.
It’s where Dave White, 53, unwinds from the stress of crisscrossing the country in his big, honking semitrailer.
The 6-foot-2, 240-pound trucker climbs into the sleeper compartment, fires up his sewing machine and makes quilts.
“The mindset of eat-sleep-and-drive gets real old real quick,” said White, a retired Air Force aerospace weapons mechanic and instructor. “There are a good deal of other drivers suffering the same thing.”
The routine became even worse when the economy tanked, leaving White with fewer loads and more idle time while on the road for weeks at a time, away from Colorado Springs and his wife, Dee. He logged just 145,000 miles last year for Iowa-based Don Hummer Trucking Co.
During his first five years on the road, he killed time by reading action novels and flying a remote-controlled helicopter. Bored, he went looking for a pastime. Dee White, an accountant, suggested her hobby of quilting. “You can do this,” she told him.
He was desperate enough to try it.
That was last September. Today, he’s a gear-jammin’, quilting fool.
When he’s not highballing his 70-foot rig down the highway, he puts the pedal to the metal of his portable Brother sewing machine.
He can really steam the windows when he fires up his sweet little travel iron, which he stores near tidy bins of dainty fabric.
“I’ve sat in here for six hours, sewing away,” he said.
Sometimes, jazz music from the satellite radio keeps him company. Sometimes, it’s NASCAR races booming in the background.
“I’m not totally void of involving myself in manly things,” said the father of two adult sons.
Truckers have heard White pounding away, knocked on the door and asked what in thunder was going on.
He gladly tells them, and shows off his quilt tops.
“One guy walked away shaking his head,” he said.
So be it.
“Others were enthused that I had found something to occupy my time,” White said. “It’s a productive activity. I can take ownership of my time.”
White isn’t the only long-hauler shattering the traditional trucker image and developing nimble fingers, said Dena Boelter, Don Hummer human resources manager.
Several of the company’s other 160 male drivers crochet, knit and do needlepoint. But in the past they were really secretive about it, Boelter said.
“They would make me promise I wouldn’t tell,” she said.
Now, she is dragging the crafty fellas out of the closet by putting their work on display. Boelter is setting up an exhibit wall in the corporate office to show off drivers’ handiwork, which includes sewing and fine art photography.
Besides providing White a productive, creative outlet during his nomadic adventures, quilting has another benefit. The need to feed his habit forces him out of his cab and into quilting shops, where he gets to interact with other people.
“Driving is a solitary and sedate job,” he said.
“You are alone a lot. So I use it as a release mechanism to get out of the truck and meet local people at quilt shops.”
It’s not the usual truck stop conversation about women, weigh stations and speed traps.
It’s more about threads, colors and stitch ripping.
“I was dumb as a rock when it came to cloth,” he said.
Not anymore. He’s learning about patterns and designs from his hours staring out the windshield at the changing landscape.
“It makes you aware of the vividness of nature,” he said. “I like the purples. Don’t ask me to do anything in pinks. I haven’t ever seen a pink quilt that I went ooh-aah on yet.”
Pink aside, he’s finding inspiration everywhere.
“I was looking at the George Washington Bridge in New York City thinking: ‘That could be a quilting pattern.’ The way of the wires on the suspension bridge and the masonry work,” he said.
Ditto for the ripples on water, crop patterns and sunsets.
White has really put his quilting hobby into high gear. He has made eight quilts since he started last September, outpacing his wife. He’s even taught her a thing or two.
“He learned how to use a seam ripper and taught me the proper way,” Dee White said. “I’ve created a monster.”
So far, he’s made quilts for family members as well as donor quilts for a children’s hospital.
Quilting is becoming more than just a hobby. It’s becoming the couple’s life.
“Now he calls me and says, ‘Can we go to the fabric store when I get home?”’his wife said.
How much are they into quilting?
Ask them about their recent Vegas getaway.
They went to a quilt show.