Faith Driven Trucker
John Parks of Fouke, Arkansas is this month’s Legends nominee. Originally born in Germany the year of 1966, his family was stationed overseas while his father, Phillip Parks served in the U.S. Air Force. They moved back to the states when he was three months old. Upon returning, John’s parents separated. Later, his mother Judy remarried. Being the youngest of four children with only one brother, both boys followed in the footsteps of the man that raised them. Though he was not John’s biological father, John considered the relationship he shared with his stepfather,
William Cason special and respected him all the same. William was a truck driver full-time with an extensive list of secondary jobs when he was not on the road.
John’s family lived on a farm in a town known as, Delight. Aside from trucking, William managed time to work the farm, a gravel business, and their grocery store. John was taught the importance of a good work ethic, discipline, and the value of time from his stepfather. He incorporates those very principles toward his own career in trucking and family, demonstrating the same morals William practiced. Providing a lifestyle full of love and appreciation were not the only attributes John picked up along the way.
Today John wears several hats, just as his stepfather William did and each role is performed out of love for his family. He puts into words his personal outline in the order of the type of person he has spent his entire life striving to become in the eyes of those around him. A family man that is courteous and respectful of others, but above all he praises God for His grace. Stating, through Him he can be the father figure, husband, and the professional he is today; admired by many, he enjoys a humble life, living each day to the fullest with a few simple rules: work hard, give respect, and spend quality time with your loved ones.
A Little of A lot
Further from town, out in the country John’s family ran a hog farm accompanied by the usual suspects; cattle, chicken, and everything in-between. When John reached his early teens, the family started a gravel operation on the farm, as well. His days were long and busy, beginning at daylight and through the night.
“The gravel pit went on for about four years and kept us constantly moving with the trucks and scales. We would work on the farm and when the trucks came in, we would switch to working on the trucks. From changing the tires to whatever needed to be done to get them ready for the next morning. By then I was running two trucks. A dump truck and an old 1966 Cabover Ford with a 13-yard bed on it. I was riding a tractor years before that, at 8 or 9 years old. We also had a grocery store in town that I helped at. My whole family had to pull together to do what we did. We worked hard,” he said.
When John was not on the farm, he was at the store stocking groceries or cutting meat. Anything required to keep the business successful, his family provided. John maintained the shelf life of their inventory, while managing to fit it all into a single day’s work. At 18, a new chicken plant opened their doors and as if John didn’t
already have a full plate, he took a position as a supervisor on the night shift working the shipping and receiving docks. Many days he operated on two hours of sleep in between jobs. From tending to the farm animals, working the land and maintenance on trucks, to finishing out his day preparing and organizing a food store before clocking in at the plant, John managed to juggle it all until the passing of his stepfather. John was 20 at the time.
John moved to Prescott, a city about twenty miles away. He was working for a trucking company based out of Florida, running long-haul for a terminal located nearby. He pulled flatbed as a company driver for two years before moving over to a company in Nashville, Arkansas. For over eight years, he swapped back and forth between reefer and flatbed until 1998.
During this time, he had acquired the CB handle, Skinny Chicken. Before that he went by Road Runner, chosen from his favorite jacket with a Dodge and the title Road Runner on it. He says, “When I was with this company, I ran with some older boys, together we would leave from Arkansas to Ohio and Pennsylvania and back. One day, one of the guys was like, ‘Where is that chicken guy?’ Talking about me. He told the others, ‘He’s the little, skinny chicken boy…’ I was a skinny boy back then. When I got to meeting everybody, they were calling me Skinny Chicken. So, that name was sort of given to me by another driver, which I thought was neat. I was branded Skinny Chicken. Now I just go by, Chicken because I’m not a skinny boy anymore.”
He left there in hopes of taking on more. “I wanted to spread my wings and see if I could fly a little,” he said. “So, that October I became an Owner Operator.” Soon after, he purchased his first truck. It was a 1999 Peterbilt that went on to produce well over a million miles for John. Later, he switched trucking companies, stayed on for nine years, in which he traded trucks for an 07 Volvo. In 2008, the economy went into recession.
Keeping the faith, John decided to buckle down and fine tune his instrument. He came off the road and began taking college courses studying computers. Fully aware that one’s mind must stay as current and willing as the body, he choose to attend classes that could further develop into a career that could be beneficial in the ever-changing work force.
As the saying goes, ‘You can take the man out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the man.’ For John, in reference to ‘taking the country out of the man’ means that he was accustomed to physical labor, so much so, that he managed to land a job working for a department store unloading trucks and stocking shelves. He may have slowed down a bit, focusing on computer courses, but if he wasn’t in a truck, John was going to find a way to be around them.
He jumped back into trucking running over the road, and made his way to the current company that he leased on to in 2013, CRST Malone. He kept noticing the trucking company’s ad on a popular job board and decided to do his homework.
“Everything I pulled up about the company was good stuff. I was immediately amazed at the freight and the pay. That’s the thing, when you get to where you’re going, they usually always have a load ready to go out. They have agents all over! They keep me busy…they’re phenomenal at getting me loads.
CRST Malone goes all over 48 states. This company is a great place to come on as an Owner Operator and make great money. Trucking is not an easy job, especially running over the road, but if you work hard and stay at it and find where your freight runs best and then stay in those lanes, you’ll do great.
There is no other place that can beat CRST Malone. It’s home here!”
Depending on his freight, John may stay out a few days or a couple of weeks at a time. When he starts leaning towards three weeks out, his hunt for a load back home begins. The flexibility of his schedule working as an Owner Operator plays a huge benefit on hometime.
John’s professional trucking career extends over a period of 33 years, and counting. He has accumulated 3.5 million lifetime miles to-date. Throughout
the last three decades he has been awarded Driver of the Month multiple times, as well as, accepting the honor of Safe Driver of the Year in 2007 by a previous employer. He credits his older brother and brother-in-law for their positive influence as truck drivers. His brother started trucking before him, at the age of 18 and continued driving a truck for twenty years. With their patience and skill, John was able to apply that level of experience to his craft and create himself a bit of success on his own. His advice to other drivers are words he lives by on the road:
“I just want to encourage everyone to be respectful of others at all times. When you’re driving, especially when you see others backing up; when you’re in traffic; just all the
time. And treat truck stops like you would your own home, because it’s our home away from home. Also, remember trucking is something you must love to do. It can be extremely stressful, but if your job is something you love, then it’s not really a job.
Two common issues truck drivers face are mechanical problems and the financial struggle, as an Owner Operator. And maintaining the distance in relationships with
loved ones while away. John recommends preparation and communication…
Prepare for the unexpected and keep money put back for a rainy day. Better yet, plan for a tsunami. Otherwise, if your truck has to sit due to funds after the maintenance is complete, no money is being made. It’s better to have a plan if an accident occurs, then to be surprised and left behind to play the game, Sitting Duck.
Communication is key. John explains. “Being away from home is a struggle too, but in today’s world, unlike back in the day when you had to pull over and use a pay phone, there is no reason a person can’t communicate. That’s how Marie and I find balance, because she’s a workaholic too. Our biggest thing is communication. When I’m out on the road, we try to talk a lot. Call, video chat, whatever works, do it! Even if you both just sit there on the phone, put in the effort because it all matters. Try not to bring your job home with you. And when you are home, spend that time with your family. Make it count.”
John and Marie have been married for 17 years, they have 5 kids in total with 6 grandchildren. Marie’s roots are in Fouke, Arkansas; that is where they have lived together since the beginning. They built a house in her hometown from the ground up, large enough for eight people. When John is home he enjoys spending time at the lake, camping or on their boat with everyone. Balancing his home-time and family as a truck driver can be difficult, but having faith in his ability to provide a good living for his
family through trucking has got him this far. He must be doing something right!