Vern Mathis dreamed of owning a unimog truck. When he finally found one he never thought it would inspire him to begin a children’s book series.
Mathis was a pilot and noticed that the Longmont Vance Brand Airport did not have a fire department on the premises. He took it upon himself to find a truck that fit the bill. After purchasing it, he thought he would set up a volunteer fire department at the airport, however, the city of Longmont declined his offer, he said.
He had purchased the unimog fire truck from a fire department in Guffey, Colorado. He had no idea what he was going to do with it since his idea hadn’t worked out. His granddaughter, Autumn, suggested that he write a children’s book and so he did.
Mathis attended the Disney Art Institute and worked for many years in the movie industry at MGM. There he said he worked on just about every aspect of a movie at one time or another, following in his father’s footsteps.
Now retired, Mathis thought he would use the skills he obtained from his career to write a book. At first, the book was supposed to be a gift for his grandchildren. He thought the process would be easy, however, as months passed he realized just how much went into the project.
Mathis didn’t just write a story, he also developed the characters after his grandchildren and drew all of the illustrations in the book. Throughout the book — “Bailey & Logan are Junior Fire Rescue Cadets” — Mathis includes some personal touches that only his family will recognize and some that close friends may see, including the appearance of his dog Dar.
Although Mathis added personal touches to the book he wanted to make it relatable to all children. He visited the Boulder Fire Department and the Cannon City Fire Chief to learn what it really took to be a firefighter. Included in the art of the book are several vintage photos from each department that date back to the 1900s, Mathis said.
While visiting the different departments, Mathis gained a new appreciation for the hard work that firefighters do and expressed that throughout his book. He also hopes that children learn that they can make a difference, he said.
“(I hope) that they can make a difference, that they can take some of the old technology and blend it with the new technology and be a good citizen,” Mathis said.
It took Mathis almost a year before he finished the book. In a few weeks, he plans to travel to see his grandchildren, Bailey and Logan, and present them with the book. He has kept it a secret and said he was excited to see how they react.
In addition to a book, Mathis created plush toys of Guffey the firetruck and Dar the dog. He also custom designed a cadet badge and backpack to go along with the story.
Mathis said he isn’t finished. He has plans to create a book in every state, focusing on a different issue he would like to teach children about. His next stop is his home state of Hawaii where he is considering an adventure that includes whales and a relative of Guffey’s.
Mathis’ books are self-published and can be found on Amazon or at Barnes and Noble. He hopes to soon have them in more stores across the country.