By Jennifer Kocher, Cowboy State Daily
Floyd Hermes would have been proud of the truckers in the “People’s Convoy.”
Floyd Hermes was a trucker right up until his death last month. He parked his truck for the last time on Feb. 10. Two days later, he died.
He didn’t know that would be his last day, his wife Corinne said. Floyd died just shy of his 70th birthday and their 30th wedding anniversary.
Heartbroken, Corinne wanted to do something in Floyd’s honor and took a couple of his reflector coats, pants, boots, some candy and a few odds and ends that he’d always found handy to carry in his big rig and dropped them off at Bears Dry Cleaners in Gillette, where donations for the truckers in the “People’s Convoy” were being dropped off.
It was her hope that one of the big rig drivers in the convoy might be able to keep her husband on the road, in a sense.
“My husband was still driving until 2-10-22,” she wrote in a note attached to the gear. “He died 2-12-2022. He is proud of you. Keep trucking.”
She asked simply that the gear be given to a trucker who needed it.
“I was so glad to take some things down and keep him on the road,” Corinne said Friday, one day after the convoy had stopped at the Cam-Plex in Gillette, where truckers were greeted by hundreds of people who gifted the truckers with a barbecue, gift cards and bags of homemade goods and other provisions.
Corinne’s heart-felt gesture struck a chord with Gillette resident Melissa Stephens, who had received the donation. She and 16-year-old Grady Younkin were both volunteering at Cam-Plex Thursday, helping pass out provisions and find a new owner for Floyd’s gear.
“Imagine what this coat meant to her,” Stephens said with tears in her eyes.
Stephens herself comes from a trucking family and has her own a commercial driver’s license. She knows the long hours truckers put in and how hard they work, she said, and they hold a special place in her heart. Corinne’s gift was more precious to Stephens than any donation she could think of passing along.
Grady agreed to help and took it upon himself to find a trucker who could use Floyd’s gear. He weaved through the crowds, yelling up into open windows and asking guys standing in front of trucks if they knew anyone who needed a reflective coat and the other equipment.
One guy did. He pointed to Las Vegas trucker Steven Phillips who was standing outside of his purple semi-truck. Phillips could definitely use the stuff, he said.
Phillips had jumped into the convoy in Washington but could only go as far as Wisconsin, he said, because he was technically still on duty. But his boss let him take the slight detour as long as he delivered his refrigerated goods on time.
Driving in the convoy was pretty indescribable he said, and Floyd’s gift added a whole new level.
With his hand over his heart, Phillips struggled to find the words to describe what it meant to be the recipient of such a thoughtful gift.
“It means a lot to have him riding in the seat next to me,” he said. “I’ll do him proud.”
Keep On Trucking
Corinne wasn’t there on Thursday to meet Phillips or the other truckers, but appreciated hearing that Floyd’s gear was in good hands.
“He was my husband for 30 years,” she said. “Thank the young man from Vegas for his reply, and I’m praying for safety for this convoy. God’s speed.”
Floyd is smiling down from heaven, Corinne said.
“We both have so much respect for truckers and those out on the road,” she said.
Corinne talked about Floyd’s own history as a truck driver. He drove all sorts of trucks, had all the endorsements and drove in Wyoming and all over the West. He hated doing over-the-road hauls, she said, and so she tried to make his rig as homey as possible.
“It didn’t work,” she said. “He missed being home.”
In later years, Floyd slowed down and was tired of “white-knuckling” it Wyoming winters and had even recently talked about retiring. He’d had some health troubles in the past six or seven years that made it impossible to truck for long distances, so he stuck to local routes in Campbell and neighboring counties.
In all of his years of driving, he never had an accident, Corinne said. In fact, he took safety so seriously that she could pass him in town, honking and waving, and his eyes would never deviate from the road in front of him.
Corinne met Floyd at a mall in Billings, Montana. She had been in the food court having lunch at a table with friends when Floyd pulled up a chair and started talking to them like he knew them forever.
Having moved to Gillette from Chicago, Corinne was still getting used to that laid-back “cowboy way of talking.”
“Floyd came over and talked to us like he knew us all his life,” she said.
He’d grown up in Montana and had been a rodeo clown, traveling the West to perform in various rodeos. When Corrine met him, Floyd was building pole barns. He told Corinne he’d look her up when he came to town.
At that point, Corinne was 43 years old and had been alone for 20 years. She certainly wasn’t planning ever to get married again, she said.
But that was before she met Floyd.
“He was a good-looking cowboy,” she said. “So, laid back and storytelling.”
It was the second marriage for both.
Her two boys – both city kids – always tried and failed to put one over on him, Corinne laughed, and together they all had a great life.
He wasn’t supposed to die, she said. She had been on her way to take him home from the hospital.
“But he was such a good man and I know he’s in heaven,” Corinne said. “I was pretty proud of the guy, and I’ll miss him for the rest of my life.”
She takes solace in thinking about a piece of him out there on the road still traveling the country doing what he loved.