If you met my mother and she told you that at one time she drove a tractor trailer rig you would pause and wait for her to deliver the punch line. When my mother enters a room you can’t help but notice her with her perfectly done hair, make-up and at 73 years old still perfect posture. She has an air of elegance about her even if she is painting a room, or digging in the garden. With the social graces that would make her comfortable sharing a sandwich with a homeless person, or tea with the Queen of England she seems to be anything but a truck driver or former truck driver but she was.
Mom was 17 and dad was 21 when they got married in December of 1955 and they didn’t have anything except the ability to work hard, and they did. My dad was working for a farmer who also had a feed lot and grain hauling business. There was a drought going on in Nebraska and no corn was available in the area for the local feed lots. According to mom, dad would work around the farm; haul cattle or whatever else needed done until late afternoon. Dad would come home and take a nap and around midnight he would drive a truck 250 miles to Truman Minnesota arriving early enough to be the first in line at the grain elevator. The grain elevator would open at eight in the morning and by nine o’clock they would be loaded with grain and return the 250 miles to Dodge Nebraska arriving around three in the afternoon, to do any work needed around the farm. This had been going on for a spell and it wasn’t going to end anytime soon. Dad was getting worn out so he recruited mom to help him out. 3pl
According to dad, mom couldn’t drive a car very well and at the age of 17 she still hadn’t gotten a drivers license. Mom says she just didn’t get around to it, either way she didn’t have a drivers license and she was about to start driving a truck through three states without one. The plan was for mom to drive the empty truck to Minnesota with dad sleeping in the passenger seat, leaving around midnight and arriving in time to be the first in line. Dad would drive the loaded truck back.
The truck they started out with is called a straight truck. It is like a big dump truck in size maybe a little longer. Driving a truck empty is definitely easier than loaded but it is still a lot harder to drive than a car. At this time there was NO POWER STEERING available and it took some strength to turn the steering wheel especially if the truck wasn’t moving. Mom was probably about 90 pounds at the time. The clutch would also be hard to push in with no hydraulic or other mechanical assistance like today’s trucks. The straight truck mom started out on did not have air brakes or power assist hydraulic brakes so stopping depended on you being to push down hard on the brakes.
The first couple of trips dad taught mom how to shift gears, maneuver around things without hitting anything and how to use the mirrors to see what was behind her. According to dad, mom could drive a truck better than a car and she did at 75MPH down a narrow two lane highway. In those days the odds of a Highway Patrolman being out from midnight till early morning where pretty slim and that is probably the only reason they never got stopped.
It was getting harder to keep up with the demand for grain by the feedlots so a bigger truck was added to the fleet. This was a tractor trailer rig with no trailer brakes. Once again dad gave mom lessons on how to drive a truck this time though with a trailer. I know a lot of men today who can’t drive a pickup truck with a camper behind it and not drop the trailer in a ditch or run over the curb when they make a turn. You need to concentrate on what you are doing and plan your moves. Dad says maybe that’s why mom was a better driver in a truck than a car; she had to pay attention to what she was doing.
On one trip mom was to follow dad’s boss who was driving the straight truck to a new location to get grain. Dad’s boss had a reputation for driving fast and even though that semi truck mom was driving would do 75MPH she couldn’t keep up. She was mad because she had to wake dad and ask him for directions to the new location.
On another trip they broke from their normal schedule and headed out during the day to get loaded that afternoon. They took my mom’s brother John with them for the ride. John would have been around 13 years old at the time and he was just looking for something to do on a summer day so why not a road trip. On their way back they came by a drive in theater that was playing a movie that mom and her brother wanted to see. Dad wheeled that semi load of corn into the theater, parked in the very back and the three of them watched the movie while lying on a load of corn. Dad told me that he doesn’t think they even had to pay.
Mom and dad kept up this routine all through the summer and almost to Christmas when dad decided to quit and go to work on his parent’s farm. He said that he was getting worn out and had lost 20 pounds. While I was asking mom about her truck driving days she just said that they were doing what they had to do.
My parents would divorce when I was about 5 years old. Mom went to beauty school and later owned her own business working sometimes till midnight. Today she takes incredible care of my stepfather and runs a house with hired help who need lined out. She took my nephew in and through determination and love got him to finish high school and graduate. In the spring of 2010 I would have a bad accident and break both legs. Even though I assured her I was going to be OK she drove 900 miles checked on my situation herself for about an hour then headed home 900 miles to take care of my stepfather.
My, at the time future wife was in total amazement of her. She told me “I don’t know your mother very well but I know this. She loves you very much and she is just awesome.” I smile when I think of my mother driving that truck, but I can’t think of anything that if she wanted to do that she couldn’t. Mom is one of if not the toughest person I have ever known and she is still about doing what has to be done.