Wednesday, December 31, 2008

OTR Truckin'

I began what was to be a lifetime affair with trucks when I was 19 years old. Oh, I went off and did this and did that for a while but, it seemed that I was destined to work in, on, or around trucks for the largest part of my life. It has been rewarding, damming and frustrating.

I worked as a stable boy at a place called Bar S Stables at Griffith Park in Burbank, Ca. I’m guessing the only reason I went to work there is, I met a girl and she hung out there. Occasionally an over the road trucker would bring horses from Oklahoma for sale or to renew the rentals that were the stables main business. After becoming fast friends with the driver, a Missourian named Delbert Gist, (RIP Deb!!!) my interest was piqued and my career began.

It was very hard to break into the industry in the late 60s, the age required to go over the road was and is 21 years old. I took my first job as a trucker when I was 19 with a company in San Dimas, Ca called Fox Hollow Horse Transportation hauling Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses up and down the coast of California, going to such places as Del Mar, Santa Anita, Bay Meadows, Golden Gate Fields and many more. After turning 21 I eventually began transporting horses throughout the entire North American Continent. I believe I have been to every racetrack of note in this country for sure, several in Canada and even two in Mexico. You have not lived until you have driven an eighteen wheeler through Juarez on a Saturday afternoon.

The lure of the road became too much and I wanted more freedom than I had with this company so I decided to find a company willing to hire a younker. It was hard I’ll tell ya, You have to keep in mind that when I started driving, the Interstate system was only about 50% complete, mostly around metro areas. Owners back then were sorta scared to let green drivers just take off with a truck & load.

I finally found a 2nd seat position with a company called Big Sky Trucking of Montana. Back during the Viet Nam conflict there were transport companies that were based in agriculture, a non regulated commodity. They were able to haul 70% regulated if they hauled 30% of farm commodities. A loose way of saying we were “hot ‘n heavy” haulers. I learned how to get around the US the way most would never realize. The many times, in fact almost always we would go from coast to coast without touching a state weigh station. It was more physically demanding back then because of the long hours and the routes we had to take. Hauling mostly for the Navy and Army I occasionally hauled the odd Sidewinder or loads of 500 pounders for the Air Force. If people only knew what they were sharing the American highways with back then.

When the war died down I began driving for various produce haulers. With my experience I was a great catch as a driver because of my ability to move illegal loads around. Not jail time illegal, just big dollar citation type illegal. Had my own truck for a while hauling produce for Frenchy’s Markets in Montreal, Ca. With my own truck came lots of payments so I cut wherever I could and hauled as heavy as I could. I ran with my pickup license plate for almost two years. I got caught in Illinois, it cost me $1200 for a year there. That was okay tough, it just meant I was legal. Had they taken me to the scales it would have cost me another $800 for overweight. You didn’t have to be smart to be a state cop in those days.

Since my scanner is broke I used some pics off the net. Similar but not the same as I drove.


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