Technicolor Man: Paul Wesley Gates

I picked him up in a bar (OK, I was with my sister and brother-in-law and we were in a crazy mood), but I never meant to keep him. There he was, leaning against the wall, swaying to the music, just about the only one in the place that had a bit of spark. And I noticed. I walked up to him and asked “Do you want to dance?” We’ve been together ever since…………

Yes, it’s been 20 years of togetherness through some incredibly turbulent times when we were both wracked by crises. We’re an unlikely couple by all accounts; in fact, some have called us the Odd Couple. But that quick assessment is hardly accurate.

He’s a guy who was born and raised so far back in the boondocks, he says: “They had to pipe in sunshine,” while I grew up in a milltown in Rhode Island. In his youth he trucked water from a stream a half mile away for his family’s needs while I lived in a little white Cape plugged into suburbia. He hunted and fished for their supper, while I had a job in a local A&P (remember those?)

He went on to be roofer (in sticky 100+ degree weather) spreading hot tar on roofs in Arkansas and then, in a supreme move to survive more easily, he traded that gooey work for another job in the same company. It was there he found his talent in life–trucking. That, too, was happenstance. The regular guy was tearing down mailboxes, hitting cars, and generally causing mayhem on job sites when the boss said “What am I going to do?…This guy can’t drive.” Paul answered the plea and proved his talent. He got on the big rig and drove it flawlessly, backing it up on long driveways without incident.

The next years saw him “join the Navy and see the world.” What did he see? Rhode Island. He came and never left. As part of the Navy’s contingent of builders, he was a SeaBee, that crack construction crew so useful for building. He went on overseas junkets, too, building playgrounds, schools, and airfields. Throughout that period, he trucked supplies and honed that craft.

When he left the Navy (after 4 years), he bought his own rig and went into long-haul trucking, moving households across America. At the same time, he joined the Army National Guard and eventually rose to leading his men, as Sergeant First Class of the 861st. Engineer Co. Rhode Island Army National Guard.

After 28 years of trucking, he sold his rig and joined the Department of Corrections in Rhode Island. He didn’t fear it: A career in trucking across the United States taught him how to interact with all types of folks. What he didn’t learn there, military service taught him. He spent another 17 years as correctional officer, eventually retiring.

So, he’s a roofer, trucker, (did I mention plumber?), military man, sharpshooter (he led his National Guard team in national competition every year), correctional officer, husband, father, and grandfather.

What do we have in common? We’re both wickedly independent. He’s traveled this great land while I’ve traveled Europe (backpacking and Eurail). And we both love touring and driving: Nothing thrills us more than the open road.

That’s what we both plan to do: Travel across the United States…

This time we’ll do it together.

(Note–in the picture above–his boot up on the fender of his truck, a 1977 Ford Ranger F-150, an “antique” with the icon signifying such on its plate. It’s a classic–just like its owner.)

And below is the “Bombardier Bumble,” (my name for the little guy, subject of a previous post: ) the iconic figure that represents the Seabees, that construction/workforce for the Navy…Note all his legs have weaponry and tools…He stands before the former Quonset Naval Station, a throwback to another time when my husband was a member of that august body.

Why ‘Technicolor Man’? He’s a man of many stripes, honed on life experience, and he’s been colored by it all. It’s the prize one attains by living life fully, meeting all types, and taking a little away from everyone one admires and respects.

About admin

A lifetime teacher and realtor who's now a published writer, Colleen Kelly Mellor is a humorist first, ever aware of the thread that connects us all. Her works have appeared in the WSJ, Providence Journal, and CNN and NY Times-acclaimed medical blog,, to name a few. All material on this blog is exclusive property of the author and cannot be reproduced without this author's express written consent.
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