Today marks the one year anniversary of the loss of my father, Daniel Arthur Thomas. It’s been a rough year. For many people who knew my Dad as “Dan,” they knew him as a milk truck driver. And it’s true, he was a milk truck driver for 34 years. He epitomized the term “Professional Driver,” back when the term could be synonymous with “Truck Driver.” He was an amazing driver, no matter the weather conditions, with temps that ranged from sub-zero to over one hundred degrees. He cut his teeth on the back-roads of North Idaho, and could nimbly navigate doubles like no other. On trips, whether on the milk truck or in the car, he always just seemed to know how to get there. No map, and definitely no GPS!
But, he was so much more than an expert truck driver. He actually got an art degree from college, and was an amazing artist. I’m privileged to have some of his pieces today. He had a life-long passion for trains, which he handed down to me. He loved classic muscle cars, something he shared with my brother. He loved boats and just being on the water, and he loved animals, especially dogs.
The one thing thing I miss most is listening to his stories. He was an amazing story teller. Not fiction, but real accounts of his life. He led such a full and interesting life that I never got tired of his stories. Now, when my brother and I are together, we find ourselves recounting our own stories of growing up with our Dad. Of course, many of the stories revolve around milk trucks. From his childhood riding on milk trucks with his Dad, to his early days of driving as well as later with my brother and I riding with him. But, there are many other stories as well; Family history, Farming up on Green Bluff, Studying at EWU, Boating, His Dodge Duster, Sitka, Alaska, Railroads and trains.
He also had a great sense of humor. One story I like to recount is how my Dad had a milk tanker he pulled for many years in North Idaho and NE Washington. Eventually, he sold it to a dairy in Hawaii. When he pulled it over to Seattle to put it on the barge to take it across the Pacific, he intentionally left the snow chains hanging on the rack for them. He thought that was the funniest thing!
He was fervently proud of the men my brother and I became, including my Coast Guard service and my brother’s Navy service. No doubt that my brother and I are who we are today in part because of who our Dad was. He loved us deeply and let us know it.
I see my Dad in something every day. Sometimes it’s overt, such as when I walk across the farmyard and steal a glance at 12, my old Kenworth truck that I’m restoring. It was our family’s company truck, but it was also my Dad’s personal truck for a time. Sometimes it’s more subtle, such as when I might be riding along some road, and I’ll see something that sparks a memory that comes flooding back.
I miss you Dad.