Thursday, January 1, 2009

Truck Driving

I mentioned in a couple of my “postings” that during World War II, I drove a Jeep and Weapons Carrier in New Guinea and Manila, because I had a truck driving experience just out of High School.

I’ll never tell you how I got connected with Bud Perry and his trucking firm at such a young age, but as a Senior, and then graduate of High School, Bud invited me to try out as a driver.

In those days, Bud had two trucks - both Chevrolets, I believe. The one he drove was the newest, and heaviest and the most difficult to drive. The second one was older, smaller and more to my abilities.

In my experience with Bud, I only remember 3 different things we hauled: Coal, grain and limestone fertilizer.

We got chunk coal in those days, from Southern Ohio. Down below Chillicothe, I believe. The first time down there, Bud and I both rode together in the second truck - with me driving. IT WAS A TRAINING EXPERIENCE!

The empty truck going down was no problem. Hardly any more difficult than driving my dad’s 1937 V-8. But………on the way back - dangerous! There were hills up and down, don’t you know. To make the next hill, you had to drive wide open down this one, then start up the next one, “shifting down” as you climbed.

Bud was sitting next to me, gritting his teeth, I am sure. He guided me down the hill, then up the next - sweating profusely. (It was summer).

“Down shifting” wasn’t too difficult - after you got on to it. You pushed the clutch, sped up the motor, shifted down to “third”, then popped the clutch - smoothly, hopefully. Then, you had to “down shift” again, to second gear - push the clutch, rev the motor, shift down. The first couple were NOT so smooth. And, on one of them, we hit a pot hole, and got a large bump. Bud said, “Oh boy!”, and smacked his right hand on his left palm.

We made it up the hill all right, and the next one was a little easier. I was now “experienced” (after ONE hill?).

We made it home ok - though I think Bud “aged” a little (would you believe “a lot”?)

Back in Mechanicsburg, we drove over on West Race Street to Bill Westfall’s house - then to the back and the coal bin. Did I say we hauled “chunk coal”? BIG chunks, some of them.

Backing up to the bin, we got out our shovels and “pitched” the coal into the bin. I was a little guy (I still am), and though Bud used a size 12 scoop, I could only handle a 10. I think maybe I slept right through the next night.

The next time, we took two trucks - Bud in one, and I in the other. Same experience, but I was by myself - several truck lengths behind Bud. We made it OK, and dropped off the coal at two different places.

Then, the next thing (not necessarily in this order) was wheat or oats hauling. Combines were just arriving in our area, and Bud’s father-in-law, Harold Venrick, operated one of them, on contract for several farmers. For them, it beat using a binder to cut, sheaf, “shock” the wheat, then invite all the neighbor farmers in for a “thrashing“, we called it. It was now all done in one operation, and one day.

We just pulled the trucks up to the combine when his bin got full, and the operator moved the “spout”(I can’t remember what they called them), and loaded our trucks.

That was easy - as was the dumping of the grain at the “elevator”. We just drove the loaded truck up to the elevator, John Wiant came out with an accurate “peck measure” to find the moisture content of the grain, then we drove into the elevator with the front wheels on to a “lift”. We got out of the truck, and the front wheels were lifted up, so the grain could “slide out”, into the elevator’s “innards”.

Easy. Right.

UNLESS, we had to put the grain in the farmer’s barn. No lift, just Bud and I with our shovels. It wasn’t just sliding the grain out the back onto the ground. Oh no! It was LIFTING the shovel-ful of grain UP AND OVER the sideboards of the truck, into a “granary”. (Bud and I used to argue over whether it was a “grainery”, or “granary”.)

Of course, I used the number 10 shovel - Bud the 12. I had to rest more frequently than Bud - after all, he was “experienced” and “strong”. I was just an 18 year old kid.

We got it shoveled in, though, and I REALLY slept that night.

The third thing I rememer hauling for Bud was Limestone Fertilizer.

Getting it in the truck was not a problem. The elevator just dumped it in. Getting it out, however, was another matter. It was fine, chalky stuff, and the wind just loved to “swish it around”.

It had to be “spread out” over a farmer’s field - evenly distributed, not in “clumps”.

How to do that?

With a “spreader”, of course. Easy, right?


How do you suppose the fertilizer got into the spreader? I SHOVELED it in, that’s how! From the back of the truck, with my number 10 scoop shovel.

Who drove the truck? BUD.

We pulled the “spreader” behind the truck, while I shoveled in the fertilizer - raising enough dust to cloud the sun! I had to wear a mask. It still got in my mouth. Another guy, I don’t remember who, said, “Mike, you need a good chaw of tobacco to keep down the dust in your mouth”. Right! I was willing to try almost anything to help. I tried it. AWFUL tasting stuff - but it did cut down the dust in my mouth. Never tried it again - the “chaw” that is.

I started each day with Bud rather early. My house was down on Sandusky street, and Bud’s home and garage were up on Pleasant Street - maybe 3 blocks away. I walked.

On the way, I passed Jean’s house (we had just begun dating). When I got in front of her house, I gave my “whipporwill” whistle for her. She heard it every time. Kind of a “poor man’s flirting”.

I’m glad I didn’t choose “truck driving” for a living. I couldn’t handle one of those “18 wheelers”.

The CB talk might have been interesting, though.

1 comment:

paige maddex said...

I get to see you more often, now - which is such a gift. I would, however, never get to hear the detail of your experiences that you share in your blogs. I love hearing about your life, job experiences and perspective. Thank you!