The next generation

By Jami Jones, senior editor

Pulling out of the parking lot at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center on Saturday, April 2, after the Mid-America Trucking Show closed, I asked my travel companions what their favorite parts of the show were.

What they shared didn’t surprise me as much as the fact they didn’t ask me what I really enjoyed. Then after I thought about it, I realized it’s because for two days it was pretty much all I talked about.

I had the chance to meet Logan Mahalek, the 2010 OOIDA Mary Johnston Scholarship Fund winner. But I didn’t just meet Logan; his younger brother, Mason; and his grandparents, OOIDA Member Dean Wills and his wife, Lucille. I was able to hang out with Logan and Mason for the better part of the afternoon, Friday, April 1.

Logan is a diesel technology major and an official truck junkie. Mason isn’t far behind. They are both truck owners with Logan holding the title to a 1953 Peterbilt and Mason a 1950 Kenworth. Both are in the process of restoring the trucks. They promised me pictures when they are done.

I knew full well the first stop on our MATS tour needed to be the “back lot” as it’s known at the show. Officially it’s the Paul K. Young Truck Beauty Championship staging area.

I introduced Logan to OOIDA Members Todd and Beth Roccapriore. They own one of the tallest show trucks around, “Widow Maker.” Todd does all of the work himself, everything from fabricating the metal to even painting it. Amazing what can be done in a one-bay shop.

Logan and Todd had lots to talk about, and Mason was never far behind, soaking all of Todd’s knowledge up, too. Beth gave both the boys T-shirts and we moved along on our way.

Next stop was “Extra Credit,” the truck put together by the Clarion County Career Center, a Pennsylvania high school shop class. Logan told instructor Donnie Doverspike that he wished his high school had such a program.

Logan was given a tour of the truck by Justin Harkness, a student in the program and quite the enterprising youngster. He presented me with his business card that identified him as a “Future Employee For Your Company.” He had a resume too if I wanted it.

Finally, we headed inside the show and picked up a fair amount of shwag. Mason, who is the same age as my daughter, was in hog heaven. We were able to find posters, bouncy balls, pens, paper, stickers and hat pins. His bag was pretty full by the time we wrapped up our afternoon.

Before the show, I was able to tell Brian “Boss Man” Martin with the Chrome Shop Mafia and 4 States Trucks about Logan.

“He sounds a lot like me when I was his age,” Brian told me.

“Be sure to bring him by the booth; I want to meet him.” So of course I did.

Brian and Logan swapped information, and Brian wants Logan to keep in touch and let him know how school is going and where he winds up after school. Makes me wonder if a job offer could be lurking out there for Logan. We might have to work on his nickname if he’s going to work with the likes of Boss Man and Ryno.

We made tracks around the show, meeting everyone I could squeeze in during the two or so hours and two-plus miles of shoe leather we wore out. I really wish we had had more time.

There’s no way I can describe how I feel about Logan and Mason – two very fine young men – other than to tell you how Reed Black summed it up: “Jami, I’m glad that Logan and Mason aren’t up for adoption. You’d have us figuring out a way to get them back to Grain Valley.”

He’s probably right.

Nevertheless, I can promise you that with the help of the scholarship fund, Logan is going to do fantastic things in this industry. If you don’t believe me, ask Reed, Todd, Beth, Brian …

Yeah, he’s that cool a kid. LL