The air horn on a Walmart semi tractor blared as the truck pulled out of a parking stall at the Enfield Rest Area on Interstate 94 west of Monticello.
The horn wasn't signaling a danger or issuing a warning. Just the opposite. The deep bellowing of the air horn was a sign of appreciation. It was a "thank-you" to a group of people who gave up their Saturday to recognize those who are keeping our ground transportation lines open nd store shelves stocked with food and merchandise as the COVID-19 slows much of our state and country.
Eric Metso and a group of his friends and family headed out to the rest area Saturday, March 21 in the name of "Operation Thank a Trucker." They thanked truck drivers for all they do with a fresh-grilled cheeseburger and a container of Von Hanson pretzels.
Eric Metso says it was an idea born a day earlier while at work in his sales job at Anderson Trucking Systems.
"I was at work trying to figure out what we can do to help truck drivers," Eric Metso said.
Helping truckers is important to Metso and his family. The trucking industry has also been an big part of the family.
Metso's Dad worked in trucking. His sister Dani Metso works in safety at ATS. Their mother Wendy Metso is the daughter of a trucker. Her uncle owned a trucking business in Fulda. Her brother was also a driver.
"Our hearts have always been with truckers," Wendy Mesko said of her family.
Truckers are America's unsung heroes, Wendy said.
For that reason, Eric Metso was happy to load up his grill and make the 10 minute drive to the rest area where from behind the grill he could offer up a simple thank you to truckers.
Dani and Wendy joined friends in taking aluminum-foil-wrapped burgers and pretzels to the drivers pulling into the rest area.
Word of "Operation Thank a Trucker" spread as the truck drivers shared word of the group's kind gesture.
"They were getting on the horn telling their fellow truckers," Dani Metso said, referring to a truck driver's CB radio.
Wendy Metso said it was an honor to recognize all the good a trucker does.
"It's sometimes a lonely life being a trucker," Wendy said.
"It's a special calling to be a trucker," she said.
And for at least one day in the Monticello area, it was a special calling over a radio system that was directing truckers to a small Minnesota rest area.
It was the warm hearts of the Metso family and its friends that made "Operation Thank a Trucker" a something special. But it was the giving spirit of a couple local companies that made "Operation Thank a Trucker" a reality.
Coborns Marketplace donated 200 hamburger patties and 216 slices of cheese with which Eric Metso cooked to feed the truckers. Von Hanson Meats of Monticello donated 200 buns and 200 containers of their infamous seasoned pretzels.
In addition, community members donated money to the cause, which was used to purchase $10 Speedway gift cards which were given to the truck drivers. By Saturday morning, the group had $500 in gift cards to hand out, Eric Metso said.
"They were surprised," Dani said of the truckers.
"They were very grateful, and we are very grateful for them, which is why we are doing this," she said.