(Noreen Hyslop/The Daily Statesman)
Moreland grew up in Cuba, Mo., in Crawford County and recalls his early days of walking just a block or so to elementary school and on the way, realizing his dream.
"We lived just six houses from the school, and four houses down from us lived a patrolman," the stocky nearly-retired trooper recounts. "His patrol unit sat outside. Every morning on the walk to school, I'd stop and peer through his patrol windows and think, 'Boy, I'd sure like to be a trooper someday.'"
His dream became a reality when, at the age of 24 following four years of college, he entered the Missouri State Highway Patrol Academy in Jefferson City. That was 32 years ago. In a few days, Moreland will hang up his sergeant's uniform and don his familiar jeans and chambray shirt to spend more time on his 40-acre farm north of Dexter.
Moreland has been a commissioned police officer since the age of 21.
"I went to work as a dispatcher at the Crawford County Sheriff's Department right out of high school," he says, "and worked there through the summers while attending college, eventually becoming a sheriff's deputy."
Although in the 1970s the highway patrol didn't require a college education, Moreland attended the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg and earned a degree in criminal justice administration with a minor in communications. The two would come to serve him well throughout his 32-year career.
A series of tests are administered to potential patrol academy attendees, and in the late '70s the competition was considerably more stiff than today.
"We had about 4,500 applicants at that time, and I didn't make the list my first time out. I did the next year though. I got word in December 1978 that I was accepted and started at the academy in January 1979."
June 1979 was a significant month for Dale Moreland. He graduated from the Missouri State Highway Patrol Academy as a trooper on June 8. The next day he married his sweetheart, Carol Waller, now his wife of 32 years. Less than a week later on June 14, 1979, the newlyweds moved from Cuba, Mo., to Dexter, and on June 25 he officially began his first day on the job as a trooper.
"It was a pretty eventful month," he recalls.
Moreland was initially issued badge No. 673, but he had been inspired at an early age by a trooper named Frank O'Dell, the father of his best friend, who wore badge No. 301 throughout his career in the highway patrol in Crawford County.
"The patrol typically retires a badge number for about a year after someone steps down. I waited a year and then asked if I could have badge No. 301, and I got it. I've worn it every day since."
Moreland spent 10 years in Stoddard County in his initial role with the patrol, attaining the rank of corporal on March 1, 1989. He then moved to Doniphan, working in Butler and Ripley counties. On Jan. 1, 1995, he was named zone sergeant of the Troop E area and made the move back to Stoddard County, purchasing his farm on the north end of rural Dexter.
He remained in the position of zone sergeant until February 2006 when he became public information and education officer for Troop E.
"It was a significant change for me, but it was a good one," Moreland says of the move. "I'd been in a supervisory role for 17 years and then came back to a role where I was only responsible for myself. It was a challenge, but it's been a great experience. I've had the opportunity in this new role to work with some really good people who really want you to be on hand, and it's been a good ride."
Moreland says he's been blessed in many ways throughout his career. Only once was he threatened by gunfire, and that was by a shooter known to be mentally unstable when he worked as a deputy in Crawford County many years ago.
"I've had to draw my gun a few times," he says, "but by the grace of God, I've never had to use it. The Lord's really blessed me on that one."
The Highway Patrol's computer system, with which Moreland has become all too familiar, is called the Missouri Uniformed Law Enforcement System, commonly referred to as M.U.L.E.S. It seems when Dale Moreland steps down from his role in the patrol, he'll be trading one set of M.U.L.E.S. for another.
All his life, Moreland has had a special fondness for mules. He has ridden them, and he has trained them, both for himself and others. He's nailed shoes on their feet, and he has "broke" several to pull a wagon. After retirement, he plans to spend considerable time with, among others, Jan and Jill, Kate and Beck, Tom and Jerry and his riding mule, Sister Sara.
Moreland says he can be found after he retires riding high in the driver's seat of a wagon as he continues to enjoy that passion.
"I've already taken on a team for a friend to break," he smiles.
He is also well known in the area as an auctioneer, and that hobby will continue as well.
Moreland's wife, Carol, heads up the county's 911 facility and has no immediate plans to retire. The couple has two grown sons, Kenneth and Justin, and a two-year-old granddaughter who will likely be seeing a lot more of her grandfather in the days ahead.
A retirement coffee is planned at Troop E Headquarters in Poplar Bluff at 1 p.m. March 25 to honor the career of Dale H. Moreland.