CHEYENNE -- When Kathy Julius was a child, she wanted to be a nurse.
Julius chose a different career path. But it has similarities in that both careers help people and require dedication and hard work. Both jobs also are unfamiliar with the concepts of weekends off and 9-to-5 workdays.
Julius owns Doug's Towing. She started in the towing profession in 1986 and bought Doug's Towing in 1992 from her ex-husband.
She entered the career when it was an unheard of profession for women. Working in a man's world is a challenge, but she has no regrets about her career choice.
The business helped her raise a now-grown son and daughter. She also has two grandsons.
Julius employs six drivers to handle the wreckers and flat bed.
The Cheyenne native knows how to drive the wreckers, but mostly works in the office. There, she handles the paperwork and payroll. She dispatches towing calls.
She does her work with long natural nails that are perfectly manicured.
Four additional "employees" accompany her to work: her fluffy small dogs Gigi, Jingles, Cassie and Ted. Their duties are to greet customers and curl up on pillows under her desk. The dogs are good at their jobs.
The tow business is on East College Drive, its office inside a bright yellow building.
A collection of more than 100 miniature wreckers are parked on shelves on one wall. But everything else in the office is practical and no frills, from massive desks to a color TV, pop machine and chairs.
Outside, Julius explains the workings of the full-sized wreckers with the confidence of someone who thoroughly knows her job. A series of levers on the rigs operate equipment like the wheel lift, sling and the boom.
She calls the wreckers by name.
"I name everything," she says, accenting her words with a deep, husky laugh.
There's Firecracker, Stretch, Blackhawk, Tomcat, Tomater (now retired) and Tow Kitty.
The 24/7 profession is demanding. Drivers who work for Julius must go through a training program.
"You either love it or hate it," she says.
She belongs in the first category and said she enjoys her job.
Each employee agrees to be on call six days a week, 24 hours a day. They face difficult conditions, often driving icy and snow-covered roads to reach stranded motorists.
"When I bought this, I didn't know a whole lot about it," she says as she looks around the office. "I believed in it. I believed I could do it."
She says she has been lucky to have dependable crews over the years. She often has driven her own vehicle out to check on her drivers in bad weather to make sure they are OK.
Perry Kinard is the company's manager.
"He's my right-hand man," she says.
Drivers clean up car crashes, tow vehicles that break down, and recover vehicles that run off embankments.
They also do some repo work, but it's not like it is on TV. People here don't like it, but aren't rude to the drivers who tow their cars, Julius says.
"I feel for them. But only a few get a chip on their shoulder," she adds.
The business also volunteers crews to help at the Big Country Speedway every Saturday during racing season. The tow drivers clear away crashes on the track and help with other duties.
"It's an amazing service," says speedway manager Jerry Hargraves. "Without a doubt, if it wasn't for their help people would be in a bad spot."
The business also offers Operation Tipsy Tow services during the holidays. They provide a free tow and a ride home within a 10-mile radius of Cheyenne for people who have had too much to drink.
The company has helped more than 2,000 people since Tipsy Tow began in 1986.
"I just want to make sure that someone's daddy or mother makes it home safely," Julius says.
Tow-truck driving is evolving into more of a profession now, she adds.
"It's becoming a major industry of its own."
There's a lot more competition too.
"It's fun," she says. "You have a lot of time and work involved."
But it's worth it when she receives a letter from someone whose car broke down and who praised the job of her drivers.
About two weeks ago, an out-of-state man rolled his fifth-wheel. He wasn't hurt in the crash, but all his possessions were inside the vehicle. Julius and her employees helped him sort out his belongings after they hauled the vehicle back to the lot.
The business has a family atmosphere, driver Bob Boone says.
He suffered a heart attack at his home a few years ago. Julius stayed with him at the hospital.
"I love that woman to death. She's an excellent boss."