Roger Hodge had planned to drive a truck until he was 70 years old, but a mishap with a tarp put an end to that dream.
He had been driving for 25 years, when, in Conshohocken, PA, in 2002, he was helping to take a tarp off a trailer at a tree nursery. "The tree was about 13 feet tall, and when the strap came out of the bell housing, it flung me to the ground. It did a lot of damage to my skull and the doctors told me I had a really bad brain injury. "
He tried working – driving was out of the question – but was unable to keep a job because of severe headaches. Reluctantly, he applied for disability. "I finally got disability but wanted to do something more with my life than go to the doctor all the time, so I decided to write a book."
The Galax, VA, resident toyed with the idea of an autobiography. "I had thought about writing a book on my life history because I was abused by my parents when I was growing up. My father is an alcoholic. I kept thinking about it and… I keep a lot of prayers and anxiety-filled thoughts of my father…"
Instead, Hodge turned to a more pleasant topic and decided to write a children's book titled "The Elves and the Ice Cream" which was published in December. "It's about the elves who help Santa Claus at the North Pole, but they haven’t had any breaks at all, no vacation in years. And they decided – there are four of them – to see the world. But Santa Claus will only give them a week." On their travels, the elves discover ice cream, which they had never seen before and bring it back for Santa who loved it. "All the other elves try it, and they learn to make it themselves."
The comparison of elves, never having time off, busy all the time and keeping to their tasks, just like truck drivers is apparent. "Truck drivers always have appointments; they’ve got to keep on time, and they can’t just sit and goof off and do things that they want to do. The job comes first."
Like many children's book authors, Hodge takes cues from his two young children, 8 and 2, about what they would like to read. "My son and daughter pre-read anything I write. I’ll read it to them, and if they think it’s good enough to publish, that’s my line right there. My wife is a bookworm, so are my children; they love reading."
Illustrations, which are crucial to children's books success, were done by a local artist Catherine Gural, who Hodge found through a local arts center.
Hodge's book has been well received. Several local libraries, including those in schools, have copies. It's also carried in bookstores including Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon and other places. It has also made him a local celebrity. "I went to the doctor to get some blood work done, and this lady saw me and asked me what my name was. And then she was like 'oh, I saw you on TV.'" Hodge's story has been featured on several local TV stations and local newspapers.
What's next? Hodge hopes to write at least five more children's books featuring the elves. "I’m hoping that I might make some money out of it. I’m not going to be a millionaire except by chance, because that would take a long time. But I’m hoping that things will work out better for me, my wife, and my children."
He adds: "I really loved driving. I’d be out there now if my body would let me. That’s the way it goes. I just about cry every time I’d see a truck coming down the road."