It is unfortunate that we, at times, must say goodbye to those who make our lives better far too soon. As many in the 10-4 Magazine family may be well aware, I was jettisoned into the world of being an owner-operator in part because of a profound, unique and incredible education afforded me by veteran drivers of a caliber rarely seen today. Unfortunately, on the 1st of September, 2016, my mentor, Robert “Bobby” Ewing, passed away just a day before his 69th birthday.
A veteran of 53 years of driving, owning and wrenching on trucks in the transportation industry, Bobby was one of the primary men who taught me to drive heavy trucks. Conceived in a truck, Bobby literally spent his entire life in the industry. A monumental individual, Bobby saw the industry change in ways that many of us can scarcely begin to comprehend. From 4x4s and Iron Lung Cummins, to the latest advanced trucking technology, Bobby had immeasurable experience and had seen it all. But Bobby was far more than just one of the men who taught me how to drive a truck. In many ways, he showed me not only how to be a competent driver, but also how to be an adult – imperfect though my attempts may be.
Far more than simply a teacher, Bobby was a mentor, a friend, a father figure, someone I looked up to (and still do), and someone who looked after me in this industry. Coming from a generation of drivers wholly different from today, Bobby had a story behind every lesson he taught. His knowledge of the industry, from the esoteric mechanicals of long since forgotten components, to ownership, management, and every aspect of the industry, his knowledge was seemingly incalculable. Bobby may not have had the biggest ride on the block at the time of his passing, but he was a tried and true old school veteran, far beyond the posturing and posing seen today as some of the younger generation try to emulate the era he cut his teeth in. And he could tell you just about anything about trucking.
Like many in the trucking industry, Bobby had seen his ups and downs, having been bankrupt and broke, but also having one of the first-rate beer hauling operations for Coors. But, regardless of his situation, he knew how to truck, and knowing him taught me far more than I can begin to speak. Little things, too. I’ll never forget riding with Bobby one day, coming down the long grade off Genesee, as an older 359 went climbing up the hill with a two stroke Detroit buzzing right along. I said, “I couldn’t imagine teaming in a cabover with a two stroke and trying to sleep over that engine.” Bobby simply chuckled and replied, “We had a rule back then – if you weren’t tired enough to fall asleep when you climbed in the bunk, you hadn’t been trucking hard enough.” An attitude long lost in this industry about getting the work done, but a conversation, among others, I won’t forget.
I am happy I was able to know Bobby for the time I did, constantly pestering him with questions about the history of trucking – something that wasn’t history to him – just life. I’m happy to have known someone who could give me a window into the “golden age” of trucking, though I feel there is so much more I could have learned from him. Bobby, and the drivers like him, are a kind of man rarely seen today, not solely in our industry, but at all. He was tough and strong-willed, with an interminable work ethic, but he was also caring and had a big heart. I’m honored to have known him and I can only hope that I can live up to the sort of man Bobby was.
Bobby always looked after me in this industry, made sure I stayed after things, and didn’t shy away from chewing me out if he saw me making a mistake. He did that because he cared. It’s rare to meet that sort of person in this industry, and I’m lucky to have met and known him. Bobby, you are and always will be a friend, a mentor, and one of the greatest men I have ever met – someone I will always look up to and aspire to, and though you may be gone, I will never forget you. Bobby Ewing is the embodiment of an old school hand, literally involved in the industry from the cradle to the grave. I say goodbye, Bobby, but you will always be with me.