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Not Just a Joke

By on November 1, 2016

Life on the Road with Four Friends

Meet Roderick Green. After four years aboard the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN69), he was fed up with cooking for a crew of 3,200, plus an air wing numbering 2,480. After consultation with his wife, Cassandra, he decided to become a professional OTR driver in 1997. He credits a SWIFT trainer with providing a solid foundation for building his career.

He credits his wife for keeping him well grounded in life. They have an adult son, Roderick, Jr., who lives in Florida and a daughter, Myricle, the caboose, born on Christmas Day in 2009. Since June of 2015, Roderick has driven for Dedicated Logistics LLC based in Crossett, Arkansas, his boyhood home. He’s in the process of owning his first truck used to haul recycled paper, primarily to mills in Wisconsin, returning to the South and Southeast with finished paper goods of all kinds.

A Crowded Cab 

With the blessing of his employer, Roderick takes to the road with four cab mates. An elderly couple, Henry and Evon, a two-year-old, Lewis, and C.J., a gorilla, are his daily companions. Although they get along very well, they make for a rather crowded cab.

Always one to make his classmates laugh in high school, a talent inherited from his mother, Roderick had a four-year run as an amateur standup comedian. In 2009, he met a man who just happened to be a preacher and encouraged him to give ventriloquism a try. He offered to make his characters at a discounted price in exchange for the commitment to only use them for doing good.

During a recent return trip from Wisconsin, Roderick and Mr. Henry (left) stopped at the TA Janesville Travel Center to engage drivers coming and going from the fuel desk. Many were intrigued by their presence and struck up a conversation. Much to the delight of those who participated and those who listened in, they learned about the special relationship between Roderick and Henry. The occasional loud bark of a watchdog on high alert turned many heads searching for the source.

Henry had been on the road for 57 years; traveled every road in the Lower 48. Driving only Petes, he racked up nine million miles with no tickets and no accidents. It was his first day with Roderick, whom he was charged with training. The banter between the two of them and the TA customers hit on all sorts of familiar trucking topics. Much to the delight of TA Janesville owner, Jim Campbell, Henry unknowingly mistook him for a doctor during several brief encounters. Henry was seeking advice about his Stage 4 case of termites.

Connecting with Audience

To observe Roderick and Henry engage their fellow drivers in conversation is an exercise in the art of human interaction. As a result of being very observant, Roderick and Henry successfully engaged drivers and other passersby in conversation. Showing the wisdom of his experience, Henry was particularly adept at connecting. It could be the company names on their shirts, the logos of sports teams on their caps, a favorite NASCAR driver, the way they dressed, their regional accents, or any number of other features that most wouldn’t even notice. Some people even returned with their fellow travelers in tow just to meet Henry. He magically remembered serving in Vietnam with Dick; commented on how he hadn’t changed a bit, and recalled the medals he won including a Purple Heart.

“It’s easy to learn what I do,” said Roderick. “The voices and inflections come with practice. The hard parts are mastering a character, conveying his or her unique personality traits, and syncing up the movements.” Roderick and his companions typically log their 11 hours between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. To stay sharp during their time off the road, they like to engage drivers and other guests, usually numbering in the hundreds every week, at their favorite truckstops. They’re even working on adding Spanish as a second language.

Kids Are Special

From day one, Roderick’s only goal was influencing people’s days in positive ways. When home, he regularly works church events, handles Chamber of Commerce and corporate meetings, visits burn units, cancer wards and vacation bible schools. He accepts payment when people can afford to pay, but only in amounts they volunteer. He has no set fees. “Performing for people is like a drug,” he says. “The resulting high is addictive. Putting smiles on people’s faces of all ages with clean humor is reward enough.”

Roderick has a special place in his heart for kids. “I love it when kids light up; when I can instill a spark in them,” he says. “I’m able to convey messages that encourage good behavior—things like responsibility, safety, bullying, respect for authority, the value of education, minding parents, being different is okay, even eating vegetables and brushing teeth. Kids really love it when I can work in animal sounds.

“It’s also important that kids understand what I do is not just a joke. Jokes get me in the door, but messages of support and positive reinforcement come through loud and clear. Parents, teachers, superintendents and coaches love motivational messages wrapped in humor. I’ve even handled some fire-ups on Thursdays before big games and motivational speeches at halftime. The gifts I’ve been given need to be shared. It’s my way of giving back, trying to be a positive influence on everyone I meet, especially the kids.”

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