a challenge to keep

You know, you can do anything if you put your mind to it.

This is not just something your grandmother tells you and there are certainly excellent examples in our own lives of this.

It seems like every summer there is something or someone that takes center stage for their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame. Some with great cause and purpose, and others just juvenile exercises in who can flame out the fastest in the category of distaste.15-minutes-of-fame

Every so often something comes along that sticks around awhile longer than it’s intended fifteen minutes – and we are all actually ok with that.

This summer, all across the country, people including yours truly, were dousing themselves with ice buckets of cold water and all in the name of a charitable cause. You know the one, and there is a strong chance you even participated in some way – ice bucket or cold cash.

The Pete Frates family of Boston, Massachusetts is widely credited for launching the latest awareness blitz into the social media stratosphere and subsequently now into American History.

There were some other, early iterations of the cold-water challenge for other causes going back to 2012, but none so focused and perhaps so effective as what became affectionately known as simply, the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.”

By now you know how it works, but what you may not know is that the man who launched the challenge has been living with ALS for two years and he’s only 29 years old.

imagesNow October has got to be one of the best months of the year – and no, my birthday is not in October, but you do have football in full swing. Dove season is underway as well as white-tailed deer and turkey archery season officially launched. Texas is a sportsman’s paradise and it’s on full display with the cooler weather approaching.

In addition, another long and popular season is winding its way down to the apex – the boys of summer are whittling down their days on borrowed time as the World Series divisional championships are underway.

Pete Frates knows a thing or two about baseball, he’s a former Division I collegiate athlete with the Boston College baseball team and has worked tirelessly in a relatively short amount of time to spread awareness through the ALS Association’s Massachusetts Chapter. You are also likely aware that ALS goes by another name that evokes emotions among America’s Favorite Past-Time enthusiasts the world around – Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Lou Gehrig's Luckiest Man Portrait by Adam Port

Lou Gehrig’s Luckiest Man Portrait by Adam Port

“This is a creative way to spread ALS awareness via social media and in communities nationwide,” said Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of The ALS Association in a press release dated September 7. “We thank Pete Frates and his family for getting so many people involved in spreading the word about ALS.”

In all of 2013, the National ALS Association reported $19.4 million in total donations. As of two weeks ago, they reported having raised over $115 million for 2014 thus far.

Needless to say, they are busy now trying to decide how best to invest this huge cash infusion into their mission of finding a cure and treatments for this debilitating disease. Unprecedented awareness has been achieved and is still growing. ALS reported 739,000 new donors, Twitter shares of 2.2 million with the #IceBucketChallenge moniker attached to it alone. Even the ALS chapters around the country are reporting a 30-100 percent increase in participants in their local organized activities. Truly a gift that gives in more that just dollars.

Now, for those of you who have been around the Texas trucking industry a few years, you will have come to know, or certainly run across the name McClatchy.

McClatchy Bros., Inc. out of Midland, Texas has been servicing the oilfield since 1944. Founded by brothers, D.A. (1902-1971) and C.V. (1908-1998) McClatchy, the business is still family owned today and under the careful tooling of C.V. (Cecil) McClatchy’s grandson Richard Minnix.

A generation in between, we find another unforgettable West Texan, Jim McClatchy who just turned 80 this year. Jim is the son of D.A. and was hands on at McClatchy Bros. for over 50 years.

McClatchy Bros. got its start in Wink, Texas in ’44 where D.A. (Dwight Alton) was actually in the dry-cleaning business. Jim was 10 years old when his father and uncle struck a partnership by purchasing 4 or 5 trucks. By 1948, they opened a yard in Snyder and at the request of the Humble Oil Company, another yard followed in Stanton in 1950. The business headquartered in Midland that year as well, where Jim graduated from high school.

"Roughneck Country" by G. Harvey

                   “Roughneck Country” by G. Harvey

As many of my frequent readers know, Jim’s health of late has not been as well as it once was. Jim also happens to be one of over 5,600 people who are diagnosed annually in the United States with a disease affecting the nerves and cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. That disease is called Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.

If you’re counting, that’s about 15 new cases a day. It can be said that “only” 30,000 Americans have ALS at any given time, and when you think about the millions of people in this country – well, that just may not seem like a lot to you. But when I think of Jim McClatchy, it sure brings it closer to home.

I share this not to ask you to feel sorry for Jim, no quite the opposite in fact. He knows exactly what he’s up against. I ask to encourage him in his fight, it’s getting harder for him to travel and get around sure, but I have it on good authority that he would love to hear from his old pals still out there.

“I have to say I am very proud of Richard, he is doing a really good job – a great job,” Jim told me on a Friday afternoon. “He bought me out in ’05 and my partner in ’09 and he still has some of my folks over there.”

“I’m just so proud of how good a job he’s doing and that when I decided to sell – he stepped up and took it on.”

Truth is, while I have known about Jim for years, he’s retired and I’d never talked to or even met Jim before our call. But as he shared his enthusiasm over his successor with me, he also shared a rich history of trucking in the West Texas oil patch that I will not soon forget.

We shared stories that people raised in West Texas could especially relate to and Jim’s passion was still very evident. Certainly that West Texas pride we both share was on display this day.
As our conversation winded down, he thanked me for calling him and even shared how he was proud a good West Texas boy was running things these days.

If his conversation with me was any indication of how he worked with so many of his drivers, technicians, clients and customers over the years – well it’s no wonder his success and pride are still evident. I’m even sitting a little taller in saddle over now having talked to him myself I don’t mind saying.

Jim is well aware of the challenge ahead and more than once expressed gratitude for his wife, for putting up with him and dealing with his ALS along side him, all the while caring for her 93 year old ailing mother in assisted living.

I asked what advice he had for someone in the trucking industry today and he didn’t have to think very long.

“I’ve seen this business in good times and bad. I was about to be chairman of TMTA (Texas Trucking Association) but we were in a real bad place at work and I knew I couldn’t be going back and forth to Austin,” Jim said. “No matter how things look right now, there will always be ups and downs in this business, you can count on that.”

What a metaphor for life – no matter your chosen profession.

According to the ALS CARE database, 60 percent of people with ALS are men and 93 percent are Caucasian. Awareness is at an all-time high and we are fortunate to have so many dedicated volunteers and folks who care about people living with this disease. And people like Pete Frates and Jim McClatchy who take it head on.

So while I don’t know Pete, I have a new friend in Mr. Jim McClatchy, and if you are among those that have called Jim a friend over the years, I offer a new ALS challenge to you and it doesn’t require an ice bucket.

Drop Jim a line, I know there are still a few readers out there that know him, it would do him well to hear from you. Jim admits he’s learned from his mistakes in business like any good businessman would, but I know he’s not wrong when it comes to the value he puts in good relationships and in good friends.

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