My family has had a truck for as long as I can remember. Today, my grandpa Don's GMC has more rust remaining than paint, but he still drives it to work and keeps the bed full of things he says he might need (although I don't think he's used any of it in years!). I helped clean out an old pig truck my granddad Paul Clemons bought in 1977 (we never could get rid of all that smell!) And I still remember passing "granddad" in his white Ford F-150 as my grandma Myrt drove him to the hospital in January 2000 (He would pass a day later).
I bought my first pickup truck in 1994. It was a Ford Ranger with a 5-speed manual transmission and a small four-cylinder engine. No back seat. No four-wheel-drive. Just a truck. And since then I've grown (in both waist size and truck size). And with the exception of one weak moment, I've been a Ford-truck guy all my life. But on Tuesday night, I got to see the ultimate truck in the city of Neosho – a truck like no other in Neosho. It was the new pumper truck (Engine 6) coming into service at the Neosho fire department.
I pulled up to city hall a little before 6:30 p.m. Fire Chief Mike Eads and Engineer Wade Sterling were also pulling up, with Wade parking the new rig just across from the council chambers on the north side of Main Street. It was my first time to see the truck in person and I was eager to see it up close and personal.
Wade greeted me with a smile. He looked like a proud poppa showing off a newborn. Chief Eads, while a little more restrained, still had the proud "grandpa" look. Both men shook my hand and offered to give me a quick tour. You could tell they were excited to show me all the bells and whistles!
From 50 feet away, the truck may look like any other fire truck. But when Wade and Chief started showing me the new features and how this truck can do things better, more efficiently and safer than any other truck in the fleet, that's what excited me the most.
And you can't help but notice the "black and gold" theme that overlays the otherwise red truck. "Home of the Wildcats" is proudly displayed along both sides with our school mascot beside it. As a Wildcat myself, I liked that! And it's an example of that small-town pride that you don't get in bigger cities.
There were three things that stood out to me the most.
First was how bright LED technology has made the lights on the truck. It's a light intensity you can't get from an incandescent bulb. And it's more reliable and takes less energy. Wow! What a difference.
Another was the remote-controlled light apparatus stored in the roof of the cab that allows a fireman to flood any area around the truck with lighting. When Chief Eads turned on the switch, darkness turned into daylight. It looked like a movie set with lights filling Main Street and lighting up the buildings, both inside and out.
The last was the integration of extraction tools into the front of the unit — both were hooked up and ready for use with the turn of a knob. When seconds and minutes count, having those tools at the ready to help save lives will certainly make a difference!
It makes me proud to see our city reinvest to keep our Neosho Fire Department prepared and staffed to take on any emergency. And seeing this truck, parked on Main Street in downtown Neosho, surrounded by people excited by its arrival, gave me a feeling of satisfaction and resolve — a reaffirmation that we're making the right decisions and pursuing the right path that will continue to make Neosho stronger and safer for many, many years to come.
The truck will have a "formal" ceremony when it is put into front-line service in the next few weeks. When that happens, I hope all of you can come down and witness the event. It will be yet another memorable event focused on our city's future!
Until next time: Stay the course, keep the faith, and may God bless Neosho!
Richard Davidson is mayor of the city of Neosho.