He ‘Never Learned Easy’

***Please note:  While Colleen Kelly Mellor completes her book Patient Witness, documenting her lifetime experience with the health care industry (it’s ‘wicked interesting’ as they say in Rhode Island), she’ll post to biddybytes on Mondays, only…..


trucker paul

Oh, it was many years ago, when my hubby was in the eleventh grade.  He was a sight, for sure, one that set the girls’ hearts a-flutter. “Looked like Elvis, in a way,” according to one sister, although in the pictures I’ve seen, I think he more resembled that perennial Bad Boy, James Dean.  

Whatever…We know the future of that actor was bleak.

Paul was mischievous, for sure, tho’ he had the swagger…the charm…that allowed him to dance out of most dire situations…until that day on a woody knoll aside Joe T. Robinson School.

He and Joe Grover were enjoying a smoke, and of course, it was illegal on two fronts:  First, they were underage and then again, they’d obviously ducked out of the school building for their smoke break and would ostensibly be late for the next class—or cut it altogether.

No matter…They puffed away.

When his cigarette butt was down to the wick, Paul flicked it off, casually (just like a James Dean character would,) unmindful of where it would land.  

Then, the boys just as casually strode back into the building.

Some moments later, they heard the commotion:  The woods abutting the building had burst into flames.  Fire trucks were summoned. Some who’d seen the culprits defying school law and property, had reported them. 

After all, Paul and Joe had placed all in mortal danger.

James Dean bravado quickly turned limp under pressure, as Paul and Joe confessed. 

What happened?  They were expelled from Joe T. Robinson school.  But because he was a real rebel-type, Paul decided to leave school altogether, from that point on.

Shortly after, he ended up doing hard labor, as a roofer, in the heat of the Arkansas summers when temps climbed to well over 100 degrees.  That’s when he first discovered:  There are far worse things than public school rules. 

But, he didn’t know that, early on.

For the next many years, he was educated in the trades, learning roofing and trucking.  Then, he went into the Seabees, by way of the US Navy. He did four years there, and then left the Navy to begin a 28-year stint in the Army National Guard, where he rose to lead his unit as Sergeant First Class. He was his team’s pistol team instructor, too, leading them in national competition each year in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now, the non-student was an educator in his own right.

All along, he maintained a career as long-haul trucker, too.

And his education? He got his GED (yes, he now knew that damned high school certificate mattered).  With that, he went on to get his Associates’ Degree, during the time he began his second career as a Correctional Officer for the state of Rhode Island.

Yep, James Dean (aka Paul Gates) had gone full-circle, from “Rebel without a Cause” (at least, one that was justifiable) to one with a serious goal…To get the education that would allow him advancement in the world of employment…and more money.

But he never learned that in his Woods-Burning-Down-Event…That would take many more years of hard knocks training.

Some don’t learn easily….

Got your own Hard-Knocks Story?  We’d love to hear it…Comment section below.

Now, if you’d like to read up on the series of children’s books (or hear excerpts) based on this lovable character, go to www.grandpandthetruck.com  where you can order and request personalized books for little ones. Paul Wesley Gates is definitely the personification of why education matters in that he’s a true Hard Knocks Hero who didn’t learn easy…

It’s also why this teacher chose him as model for our books.



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, kevinMD.com, 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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