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Three-time cancer survivor is doing what he loves
App, web-based service provides lien-holder contact information
Digital Recognition Network CEO lays out company's vision
Unit designed to bring greater awareness to Move Over law
Buddy's gets farmer's tractor with corn silage in open field
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American Towman Magazine Presents the Week in TowingAugust 23 - August 29, 2017

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A Dog By Any Other Name...

Dobermann 4b778By DON ARCHER

A few weeks back, I critiqued the interview that American Towman Editor-in-Chief Steve Calitri did with AutoReturn CEO John Wicker. In an attempt to explain AutoReturn's modus operandi, I compared what they do to that of the motor clubs. After that article was published, I received an email from a motor club representative who took offense at this comparison.

His email said, in part, "To me nothing could be further from the truth. AR is not functioning anything like a motor club. ... AR may dispatch similar to how a motor club would dispatch, however working for AR is nothing near the league of working with a motor club."

Could it be that we've developed an unlikely ally in our desire to keep profits and autonomy? Or is it that they see us as cash cattle they'd rather not be further weakened lest we collapse altogether.

As anyone who's ever lived in a mobile home can attest they're not built to last: The construction is weak and the walls are thin. They let in the cold during winter, the heat in the summer and you can hear your neighbors whispering three trailers down.

When I was 12, we lived in lot 159 in Jefferson Regency Trailer Court and we had a neighbor who owned a Doberman Pinscher. It was chained outside most days and barked continuously. It was annoying and scary; but we dare not say anything because the owner was just as bad as the dog. He was always hitting it and yelling at it, and you could hear it yelp and whimper in pain after the many attempts he made to stop the barking.

One day while my younger brother Troy and I were outside playing in the open field behind the trailers, the dog got loose. He stood on the ridge at the edge of the field for a moment as if studying his prey, and then started walking toward us. We weren't sure if he meant us harm or just wanted to play. But rather than find out by being bloodied we started running and—of course—he chased.

He was on us in no time, knocking me down first and then going for my brother. When he caught up with him, he clamped his mouth tight around Troy's ankle and whipped his head from side to side. I got up, ran over and began punching and kicking at the dog, doing whatever I could do to get him off my brother, but his hard head was unaffected by my blows.

Finally my screaming and Troy's cries drew some welcomed attention. My dad came running out of the house wearing cowboy boots and carrying a broom. At the same time the dog's owner heard the commotion and threw open his back door. My dad got there first and began hitting the dog with the broom, breaking it over his back, and kicking him, fearing that my brother was going to lose his foot.

When the Doberman's owner forced himself into the melee, he pushed my dad aside, grabbed his dog by the collar and gained control of the whole situation. Needless to say, my father was upset as he tended to my brother's leg, which turned out to be less serious than it looked (torn jeans and a few scratches). But the dog's owner was even more upset. He started yelling at us for hurting his dog.

My father couldn't believe what he was hearing and confronted the larger man.

"Your dog could have killed my boy; besides, you've beaten that dog much worse than what just happened here," he said.

With anger in his eyes, the coarse man twisted the dog's collar and jerked it as he turned to walk away. Deep down I'm sure he knew he was in the wrong but this day he held tight to his beliefs as he finished by saying, "Yeah, but it's my dog."

What I believe he was attempting to say with that statement, that day, was that because he feeds the dog, gives him water and provides him the bare necessities with which to sustain life, it's his to do with as he pleases. But he won't have anyone else doing it.

Don Archer lives and works in Jefferson City, Mo., where he and his wife, Brenda, own and operate Broadway Wrecker, a 12-truck operation that's been in business since the 1950s. Email him at

You Are the Culmination of Your Decisions

growthchart2 e21ffBy Don G. Archer

John Tatum was driving to what he hoped would be the last call of the day, a simple tire change. It was 5 p.m. in the middle of July, and the hot Arizona sun was taking its toll. The heat was bad, but what John disliked most about driving a tow truck was the way people treated him.

As he watched and waited for someone to notice him after almost eight months on the job, nothing had materialized. He'd done his part, he thought—but it wouldn't come today.

After 20 minutes of trying to get a lug nut off the wheel of a beat-up, last-century Toyota, John finally felt it start to budge. The excitement mounted as he anticipated getting out of the sweltering sun and back into the air-conditioned comfort of his truck.

He put all of his weight on the four-way.

He was about to win in his man vs. metal struggle for dominance ... when his hand slipped off the tire tool, and he hit the ground face-first.

Upset, he quickly lifted himself up and reached for the four-way. In disgust, he flung the iron cross discus-style into an adjacent field.

As his rage smoldered, he was reminded of an incident that happened weeks earlier. He had scratched the paint on a car while attempting to unlock it. Of course, he contended it wasn't his fault.

The locks on both doors were broken, making the task almost impossible. What made it even worse was the car owner's boyfriend attempting to coach him through the process. After a few minutes of ill-equipped direction, John became frustrated and mistakenly scratched the paint.

Walking to fetch the four-way, he thought to himself, "Why do I always get the bad calls?"

Then he remembered what his boss Terry had said while admonishing him for scratching the paint on that car: "It's not what happens to you, it's how you respond to what happens to you that matters," and one that really stung, "You are the culmination of all of your decisions up to this point."

John kicked the dirt and howled, "That's easy for you to say; you're the boss, you're already successful. I'm the one out here in the trenches getting my behind handed to me every day."

Two months later, he was let go. Eighteen months after that, John and his young family would travel more than 1,000 miles to end up at my door, looking for a job.
He seemed like a nice-enough guy, had experience and was willing to work as many hours as I could give him. As always, I did my due diligence.

A call to his old boss in Arizona revealed issues with anger and incidents of damages. What really struck me was after all the stuff Terry had told me ... he was sad to see him go. He said that he really liked John and tried to help him succeed and grow, but it was hard because he refused to take responsibility for his actions.

I did not hire John, but the discussion led me to thinking about my own reactions to my day-to-day struggles. How I continued to falter—even though I was the boss and somewhat successful.

When a customer would challenge a bill and it got up to me, it was hit-or-miss how I handled it. Some days I would take the time to explain the purpose of each line on the invoice and why it was required. However, on other days I might take offense, believing the customer was challenging whether or not the services billed were actually provided.

I was a (sometimes) benevolent boss with employees. Often I would listen and propose solutions to their concerns. Other times I might question their motives, believing their concerns were less constructive and more about work-avoidance or office politics.

This thinking slowly caused me to believe they were the problem. Because I believed outside forces kept getting in my way like John, I couldn't get closer to what I wanted: harmony in my business.

I needed to change, but that's easier said than done. One day you're Zen-like and you think you have a handle on it; then some new challenge presents itself and you lose it. Then you beat yourself up for losing it. It can become a wicked downward spiral if you don't get a handle on it.

The best approach, it seems, is to treat every moment as if you consciously chose to be there ... because the reality is, you did. We are the culmination of all the decisions we've made up until this point.

American Towman Field Editor-Midwest Don G. Archer is also a multi-published author, educator and speaker helping others to build and start successful towing businesses around the country at Don and his wife, Brenda, formerly owned and operated Broadway Wrecker in Jefferson City, Mo. E-mail him direct at
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