West Texas Children Get Up Close Look at, Feel of Trucks

Pay attention to these words: Touch-A-Truck.

Calvary Baptist Church held an event on a recent Wednesday during an evening AWANA youth program.

"AWANA stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed," explained Jayna Hunter, the church children's director. "It comes from II Timothy 2:15, and it's about training children to serve the Lord."

The kids range from 2 to fifth grade, she said. About once a month, they hold a theme night, this month it was Touch-A-Truck. During their study breaks, adults led groups of children across the street to visit and interact with a small fleet of service vehicles.

"All kinds of trucks," Hunter said. "Firetrucks and bucket trucks; dump trucks, trash trucks, monster trucks. Just anything I could get together."

Hunter got the idea off of Pinterest after searching Google for AWANA theme ideas.

"Maybe it will spark their interest in a future career," she said. "Respect for authority, knowledge of what other people in the community do to serve them."

Shawn McCowen, a cotton farmer who lives about 100 miles south of town, brought a pair of large tractors. Nearly every kid took a turn sitting inside the oversized rims on the big rear tires.

"Yep, that's what I did when I was their age on my dad's farm," he said, chuckling. "It's a neat deal; we go to church here and I'll do anything for kids."

McCowen echoed the words of several others in the church parking lot on how interacting with these large machines is beneficial to young minds.

"It's something that they don't get to do, especially in town. It makes them think," he said, waving at the tractor behind him. "They see this stuff occasionally, but they're usually far away. They don't realize how big it is. So here they get to sit in it, touch it, and crawl around on it."

Nathan Hines, a fire marshal in the Snyder Fire Department, gave fire shield stickers to the kids after showing off one of the department's fire engines. He explained how young children getting an up-close look at the truck, the firefighters' air tanks, and all the other gear might pay off in the future.

"For the little ones, it's really good because they're not scared when we show up," he explained. "That's the main thing we're looking for, that they won't be scared when we do show up at a fire scene."

Dana Evans, a clerk at the city barn, brought a truck with its own special scent.

"This is a trash truck," he said.

But what is its technical name?

"Garbage truck," he deadpanned.

Earlier, he appeared to lament that his truck didn't have any flashing lights, fancy tires or even a lift to carry him into the air. His truck did come with one thing none of the others did -- a pungent aroma.

Granted, you couldn't tell that from the outside. This was a pretty clean-looking garbage truck. But nearly every kid that approached was lifted by an adult to poke a nose inside and sample the smell.

"I do career days at the schools, also," Evans said. "We talk about what you do and don't put in the trash can, which is very important.

"We talk about recycling, I'm always trying to get new employees so I'm always trying to recruit. I figure at a young age, I might get one or two sooner or later."

So, what are the do's and don'ts of the trash can?

"No furniture, no appliances and preferably no animals," he answered. "Just bagged household trash."

He's pondered drafting a manifesto for what should go in a dumpster, but was concerned no one would read it. The author of this article suggested he write a song, or maybe even a limerick, suitable for all ages.

"A clean limerick for garbage?" He rubbed at his chin, thinking it through.

Joey Roland's 1953 Willis delivery truck -- at least, part of it was that at one time -- sat off the ground so high, kids were using an overturned five-gallon bucket to climb in and out.

"It's a little mean-sounding," he said, laughing over the sight of kids covering their ears when he'd rev the engine.

Roland's ranch is home to a Texas Tech dig that has been ongoing for some years now, recovering the remains of giant tortoises and other critters that roamed these parts long before people did. They were featured in a June 25, 2016, Big Country Journal.

Dirt was crusted on his oversized tires, and a lot of kids barely had to duck when they walked underneath it. Roland said he doesn't use the truck as much, but sometimes they'll still take her for spin on the ranch when the mood strikes.

"You should come back out and we'll crank her up," he said, laughing. "Then you'll really feel that inner 8-year-old."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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