Another year has flown by like a 747 zipping from La Guardia to LAX! After a record hot summer, the cooler temperatures of fall are finally here and it will soon be Thanksgiving. One of the greatest things we have to be thankful for is our family and friends. Once again it’s November, which brings a painful reminder of a loss we suffered four years ago. Bette Garber was a writer and truck photographer but, more importantly, a close friend of mine. Bette was an inspiration to me, and now I have met a young lady named Ciara Sleeth who has also been inspired by Bette.
Last spring I got to see my dear friend Heather Hogeland for the first time in too many years at the “Women In Trucking” (WIT) meeting held on Saturday morning during the Louisville truck show in March. Later that day, she introduced me to Ciara (15), a young girl who was inspired by our mutual friend Bette Garber to one day become a truck photographer and writer. Heather took Ciara under her wing after the two had connected on the WIT Facebook page. While being home schooled for many years, Ciara would use her lunch break to do research on Bette. Now, Ciara has recently switched to a public school to get the credits she will need, to go on to college, to get the education required for the job she wants to tackle.
I am so happy to be able to share stories about Bette with Ciara, and we both wish that she would have had the chance to meet her. I want to share as much as I can about a woman who taught me so much – things that can’t be learned from just doing research on a computer. I have to say, it is very encouraging to see a young person today so passionate about something like taking pictures of trucks, and writing stories about those trucks and the drivers who operate them. Like Bette, Ciara wants to make this her career. And I, for one, say you couldn’t ask for a better role model!
After meeting young Ciara, Joyce Brenny, who owns Brenny Transport out of St. Cloud, MN, gave her a nickname. Joyce said, “You’re cute and little, but you are noisy in your own passionate way, so I want to call you Shortstack.” And the name stuck. Today, you will find “ShortStack’s Photography” printed in the corner of Ciara’s pictures.
Ciara shared with me that she has been interested in trucks since she was old enough to talk. Her passion really took hold when she got to ride in her friend Kenny (Rabbit) Harris’ brand new Kenworth W-900L daycab. Later, when she got a copy of Bette’s “Custom Semi Trucks” book as a Christmas gift in 2009, she decided that this is what she wanted to do. She hoped one day to meet all the people in that book, so it was thrilling for her to connect with Heather (her and her truck were featured in it). It wasn’t until Christmas 2011 that Ciara got a new camera with more capabilities. Her mom wanted to make sure that her enthusiasm didn’t fade, before investing in a new camera. But I don’t think that her mother has to worry much about Ciara changing her mind about the direction she wants her life to go.
In March 2012, her parents made a dream come true when they took her to the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky. I could hear the excitement in her voice as she told me about her MATS experience. They didn’t get there until Friday, but she still managed to cram as much as one person can in just two days at that show.
After getting registered, the first thing she did was head out to the truck show lot outside, and I think it was her lucky day because the first driver she met was “Tanker Dave” Marcotte (he was also in Bette’s book). A personal friend of mine, Dave is one of the great guys! Ciara said she was disappointed, though, that more drivers weren’t by their trucks. Next year, at Louisville, I want to make sure that Ciara doesn’t just get to see Bryan Martin of the Chrome Shop Mafia walk by – I want to make sure they meet and talk. I would also like to introduce her to the famous Ice Road Trucker Alex Debogorski, and lots of other people that I am sure will be as impressed with this young lady as I am.
We got to meet again when the trucks were leaving the lot, and I have to admit that Ciara got a lot of better shots of some of those trucks than I did. I want to thank Heather for introducing us and for seeing the budding talent that Ciara has. Like the song says, “Who is going to fill our shoes?” With so many truck writers getting older, it’s nice to see such a young person that is so interested and passionate about what we do.
I would also like to give credit to another young and passionate truck photographer and writer – Troy Miller from Denver, CO. Troy has been writing and taking pictures for 10-4 Magazine for close to a decade now, and he is still only 21 years old. He has the most amazing eye when it comes to taking pictures of trucks! Troy took photography classes in school to learn all the technical stuff, so he can do more than just point-and-shoot a digital camera (he writes great stories to go along with those pictures, too). Troy and I are Facebook friends, and I hope one day to meet him in person.
Troy and Ciara are also Facebook friends, and Troy is giving Ciara advice on the technical side of photography. I think she can learn so much from Troy, but I told her that she has to go out and develop her own style. You can learn so much from listening, especially to some good, constructive criticism. But the only way you truly learn is by doing, so Ciara is already planning on putting together a book of her own. Her vision for this book is to feature some show trucks, some old retired show trucks, and a majority of working rigs. She also told me that she feels like she is “wired” for the road. Boy, I can hear it in her voice – it was the same feeling I felt some 40 years ago when I fell in love with driving during Driver’s Ed class.
When she was younger, Ciara called Bill Warner’s shop “the truck wash” because there was always a lot of rigs being washed there. At that time, she didn’t really know much about trucks, she only knew that there was something special about them. Her family would often go camping just up the hill from Bill’s shop on the weekends. Ciara got to meet Bill in Louisville – he was there showing his 1989 Ford LTL 9000. And, in her words, “He has some knockout beautiful stuff – like a 1987 359 Pete and a 2007 Peterbilt Legacy, that have been built to be almost twins.” Apparently, Ciara knows her truck stuff now.
This summer, on her 15th birthday, her family just happened to get behind some nice looking dump trailers while driving, so Ciara started talking to them on the CB. They were going to unload at a quarry just up the road, so she asked if they could follow them in and take some pictures (this sounds so familiar) and they agreed. I can just imagine the looks on their faces when a 15-year-old girl jumped out of the car with a camera, wanting to take pictures of their trucks.
When I asked what her favorite trucks are, she said Peterbilts, especially the older ones. She likes 359’s, 379’s, and, of course, W-900’s are in there, too. She is a PACCAR girl. I told her that I am a Kenworth girl, and she said, “I know!” I am sure that one day she will have her CDL, as well. When I asked her if she wanted to be a driver, too, her answer was a definite yes!
I am quite confident in saying that Bette would have loved this young lady for her enthusiasm and her passion for the everyday trucks out there going up and down the road. Bette loved those, too. And I think that she would be proud to know that someone so young wants to continue the work that she loved so much. And even though she is gone, her work and her memory will live on. I so wish she could have written that book we talked about so many times – A Memory Every Mile – maybe Ciara Sleeth will one day fulfill that destiny.