"There are 3.5 million truckers in America, and only 200,000 of them are women, and only a fraction of them are black women, and only one of them is Sputter." That's how an article in this month's issue of Oprah's O
magazine starts out,
describing Shannon Smith, who runs solo for a small fleet leased to Landstar Inway.
The 35-year-old "Sputter" hauls everything from caskets to ketchup with her royal-blue International 9400 Eagle, which has more than half a million miles on it, but her dream is to drive Navistar's Lonestar model. Her dad fixed trucks and it was her childhood dream to drive one, so when an Army recruiter came calling and said he could make that dream come true, she took him up on it."Joy Ride: How One Woman Found Bliss on the Open Road,"
paints a vivid picture of the woman and the job."When you're in a long-haul truck you are in a different zone, a shared space high above the rhythms of vacation, commuting, visiting. You are in a moving neighborhood above all that. Friendships are virtual up here, and Sputter makes them easily, gabbing with the guys on channel 19 on the CB, or listening to infomercials on the satellite radio; late at night she'll call 800 numbers to chat with the operators standing by."
So how did Oprah's staff end up featuring this woman trucker? The Women in Trucking Association, which is mentioned in the article, explained. When Smith learned about Women In Trucking in 2007, she immediately joined. In 2008 Shannon was interviewed by Career World magazine where she talked about her childhood desire to drive a truck. The story was discovered by Jeanne Marie Laskas, who is writing a book about people who work in the unrecognized jobs that support America. Laskas wrote the article for O.
"Shannon's story has done more to show women that they can have a great career as a professional driver by sharing her story in O Magazine than this industry could have imagined," said Ellen Voie, Women In Trucking's President/CEO. Watch for Smith's story in Laskas' upcoming book, "Hidden America," to be released in September by Putnam.
The only off note was perhaps the tale of the hot summer night she decided to drive naked from the waist up, but the article manages to make it sound adventurous and affirming more than sleazy.
Overall, though, it's a feel-good article, culminating in the fireworks at the Walcott Truckers Jamboree at the Iowa 80, "The World's Largest Truckstop." "Fireworks unload into the sky, and all the trucks in the Super Truck Beauty Contest put their lights on display-a shower of blinks and pulsating truck lights-and then they blow their booming truck horns in unison in great cacophonous celebration. Her knee of course aches, and the Michael situation weighs heavily (how much compromise does love require, anyway?), and she longs to start a family, but right now there is chrome, there is bouncing color gleaming to the beat of caroling horns, and there are new friends dancing. For Sputter, it is a very fine place to be."