I’ll not dream of winning fortune or fame.
While the wheel is turning, turning, turning,
I’ll be yearning, yearning for love’s precious flame.
— As sung by Kaye Starr
by Dick Larsen, senior editor
Several truck drivers have won the lottery recently — and I wondered if some guardian angel’s hand is on destiny’s steering wheel.
Such an angel would make the following case in the netherworld: Truckers often don’t get paid enough to make ends meet, they must comply with federal regulations Einstein couldn’t explain, dangerous split speed limits threaten safety, expensive tolls and rising diesel prices eat away at the bank account and there’s a general lack of respect from employers and the public.
In view of all that, someone “up there” must have decided truckers deserve a break — and that someone probably doesn’t have anything to do with McDonald’s. Rather, there’s a karma or kind of mysticism at work here.
As the angel might say, “Truckers are grounded in reality — they generally do good by helping people, and they even save lives while on the road — but they’d be the last to brag about any of this.”
In fact, winning truckers typically react to their sudden bounty with a shrug.
For example, driver J.R. Triplett of Winchester, VA, and his wife, Peggy, recently claimed a $239 million prize from the 11-state Mega Millions lottery. Triplett, who drove a truck 47 years, bought the ticket at Red Apple in Stephens City, VA, just a few miles from his home.
He discovered the winning numbers Feb. 21, 2004, but didn’t claim the prize until April 1. He later said, “It didn’t excite me all that much. It’s no big thing to me.”
Then he told The Washington Post: “I’ve been a poor man. Now I’m a rich man. I’ll probably buy me a lot of real estate — land — ’cause they don’t make no more dirt, you know.”
You can’t get much more “grounded” than that.
Or consider Leroy Lee, who was featured on these pages last month. Toward the end of an interview in which he talked about the joy of working with his daughter, he casually mentioned he started his truck stop business after winning $500,000 in the Illinois Lottery.
Then there’s 60-year-old Elliott Lycette, a sugar hauler from Oak Hill, FL, who decided to get an oil change at TravelCenters of America in Brunswick, GA. He won $10,000 as part of a ticket scratch game offered by Shell Rotella T and TA.
“I actually remained pretty calm,” Lycette told the press. “I did not realize until later that there was only one winning ticket in the whole country.” He wants to pay off some credit card bills and buy new tires for his pickup.
Driver Donald Ritacco, 48, Fort Lauderdale, FL, recently won $1 million in the Cash Spectacular scratch-off game. Ritacco, who drives an 18-wheeler for Show Management of Fort Lauderdale hauling boats and other equipment to shows, said he had no plans for how he would spend the money.
And when Ron Lantz — the Ludlow, KY, truck driver who spotted the Washington, DC-area sniper suspects — found out he would not get a cut of the $500,000 reward, he said, “I’m not a bit disappointed. It doesn’t make a difference to me either way.”
Or consider the recent story of Guadalupe Lopez, 58, who won a $2.4 million jackpot while playing $1 slots at Atlantic City. She was playing Wheel of Fortune at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa when she hit for $2,421,291.76.
Us Weekly later reported that Guadalupe, the mother of actress Jennifer Lopez, plans to use a portion of her winnings to start a $100,000 college fund for her two grandchildren.
Ms. Lopez, to my knowledge, isn’t a truck driver and may not even know one. But what she did sounds just like something a trucker would do.
Dick Larsen can be reached at email@example.com.