March is National Women’s History Month.
The 2017 theme honors women who have successfully challenged the traditional role of women in the workplace. Karla Boots,43, Welda, is a local woman who has not only challenged the role of women in the paid labor force but also challenged herself to go outside her comfort level.
Boots, the daughter of Gene Laver, Moran, and retired Gas Postmaster General, Pat Spencer, was born and raised in Gas and graduated from Iola High School in 1992.
For 16 years she delivered mail in Garnett.
“I was hurting,” she said. “My feet were killing me and I’d had two surgeries on my feet. It was a point in time in my life that I didn’t think I could do another 16 years of that job and I wanted a change, so I took a chance.”
Boots bought a dump truck and at 40 years old, after driving lessons from her brother Brian Laver, obtained a Class A CDL.
U.S. Pipeline was replacing oil pipelines from Cushing, Okla., all the way to the east coast, she said. Boots jumped in on the action hauling rock and overburden and following the pipeline company from Mound City to Independence. Although she had casually driven trucks around her dad’s farm as a youngster, driving a dump truck for a living was a whole new experience.
“There was some steep grades they would have us back down into and you had to make sure you were level so your beds did not tip,” she said. “It was challenging for a brand new driver,” she said laughing.
Boot attributes common sense, acquired through both her parents, with keeping her out of treacherous predicaments.
“I don’t ever remember getting myself in situations that were scary,” she said. “I was careful.”
When that job ended in 2014 Boots and her husband, Justin, decided to start a business together,“Pair of Boots Trucking.”
Boots has been driving her own rig, a 1998 Peterbilt Day Cab, for three years. She pulls behind it a grain hopper trailer which she loads with grain or fertilizer and hauls to Arkansas, Missouri and Kansas City. It could be said that trucking is in her blood. Her dad, a truck driver and farmer himself, taught her to drive by the age of 7. But blazing down the highway was not what Boots dreamt of.
“My heart was with the horses and with the rodeo,” she said. “I always wanted to be a professional rodeo cowgirl.”
That is something that Boots and her 17-year-old quarterhorse, Pete, still do for fun. Boots, a mother of three children, also owns a dog grooming business, “Boots, Barks and Beyond,” which she said she fits into the nooks and crannies of the week.
“There so many things to do,” she said.” Somebody still has to do laundry and household things.”
The advantage of owning her own businesses is that she can set her own hours. Working hard is a value she said she learned from both her mom and her dad and hopes to instill in her children.
“I want my kids to always know how to work,” she said. “It might not be an ideal job but it can lead to an ideal job.”
Trucking, as ideal as it seems to be for Boots, has its drawbacks. Boots doesn’t like to drive in metropolitan areas.
“The scariest part is driving down the road and somebody is crossing the centerline at me,” she said. “That scares me the most.”
Motorists often don’t seem to understand the danger associated with driving such a large vehicle and sometimes cut her off and do not allow her to switch lanes.
“We can only stop those things in so many feet,” she said.
Adverse weather can make things tough. Last year, during a winter storm, she had to park the truck on a side road and call a friend to pick her up, Boots said.
“If it’s even thinking about icing this kid ain’t going,” she said.
Boots said she doesn’t let her female gender hold her back but she knows her limits.
“When I put my mind to doing something I do it and it’s not a feminist act or anything else,” she said. “It’s just because I grew up doing whatever it took to get the job done.”
She is not trying to prove anything to anybody, she said, and calls on her dad and her husband when she needs help.
“I will be the first one to let those guys help me when something is not working right. If I can’t get a door open on my trailer and a man steps up to help me I’m going to back up and let him help me,” she said. “The whole feminist thing really gets my blood boiling because it’s not always our job to do what a man can do.”
But when it comes to mechanical repairs, younger men can’t do the job any better than she can, she said. She takes care of her own minor repairs.
Boots said she works hard for the sake of her family and would give her daughter the same advice.
“Do it to the best of your ability,” she said.
March is National Women’s History Month.