SONORA, TX — Donald Lee Van Zandt has been working the road for 50 years. He's worked in Stamford, Seguin, and Sonora. Now, just a few weeks away from retiring, he shared a little about his career and some memorable moments.
""May 1, 1968."
That's the day Don Van Zandt began his career out on the interstate in his first patrol car.
"A 1967 Plymoth. It was all white, had black doors with an emblem on the door and one red spotlight. No air conditioning. It would run,” Van Zandt said.
Now, he's on his 23rd vehicle, which has a lot more gear than the original.
"We had a clipboard and a flashlight, that was about it. A ticket book. A wanted book. We of course carried an accident pad. Now-a-days you almost need an SUV to haul all the equipment we need out there on the side of the road,” Van Zandt said.
That's not the only thing that's changed either.
"A law book at that time was about the size of a paperback, size of your hand. A law book today is this size,” Van Zandt said.
When don went through the academy, it was 16 weeks long.
"We had one classroom in those day,” Van Zandt said.
And the firing range was in town right next to that building. Now the academy is 24 weeks long. There's also a new training facility located on about 14-hundred acres in Florence. But there are a few things that haven't changed.
"Courtesy, Service, and Protection."
And state troopers are still out stopping cars. Don says throughout his career he probably has the most stops within the department.
"A rough estimate, 120,000 to 150,000 cars,” Van Zandt said.
A few of those were pretty memorable.
"Stopped Evil Knievel one time. Visited with him. He was in a big motor home. Stopped several pro football players. The one I remember played for Pittsburg. One that played on the line with Mean Joe Greene back in Bradshaw's day during their super bowl years,” Van Zandt said.
Now reaching the end of a career that's spanned 5 decades, I wondered if he wished he could go back and do anything over.
"Everybody makes mistakes. No body's perfect. I'd change all the mistakes I've made over the years,” Van Zandt said.
Over all, Don says his time on the road has been wonderful....and it was blessing to serve.
"I feel honored,” Van Zandt said.