1964, I was hauling steel coast to coast,
in a B-61 MACK truck. ( Day cab, no sleeper. ) When it came to sleep time, and
being 6 foot 4, there really wasn't much choice in that 4 foot cab. I would have
to pull over somewhere, lay down on the seat, roll down the passenger window and
stick my feet out, and rest them on the mirror arms. Then pray that it doesn't
start to rain or snow.
What could, and did happen one trip, it was in the middle of June, and I was
returning from the East Coast (CANADA). I delivered a load of steel to the mill
in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. In Canada, at that time, log books did not exist. I
ran till I couldn't run anymore, then pulled over on the shoulder of the road,
assumed the position, window open, and feet out. I flaked out like a dead log.
About 5 hrs. later I woke up cold as hell. Went to sit up, and couldn't move.
During the night, it snowed about 6 inches, and with the window open I had about
3 inches all over me. I think every muscle in my body was cold and seized up,
I tried to get up for about 5 min., when I got my feet back in and tripped the
door latch, and kicked the door open. (that was only half the battle.) I then
wiggled my shoulders, and started to slide myself out the passenger door, the
seat was still covered with water, and melting snow. I ended up sliding right
out and dropped into a shallow ditch. It took about another 10 min. before I
could get up. Eventually I got going again, but I could not move my neck muscles
for 2 more days.
This is just a sample of the conditions we had to work with, and to give you an
idea of the type of vehicle that was our HONEYMOON CHARIOT.
In the beginning of our married life, (new and exciting time) we had just got a
couple rooms over a hardware store. We furnished it with a few spare pieces of
furniture. We even picked up a few wooden orange crates, covered them with
fabric and was in the business of being married. Needless to say, we had a lot
less money than furniture. For a car, we did not have one. I used to keep the
B-61 tractor at home, that was our Sunday go to meeting car. Ha-ha.
I had a block of gear steel to go to Calgary, Alberta. It was one piece and
weighed in at 41,000 lbs. Big rush. It was 2,300 miles one way.
The tractor and trailer, both, did not have any sliding tandems to be able to
adjust the axel weight with. Ontario at the time was gross weight only, while
Manitoba was on the axle weight system.
The overhead crane in our plant just set the single block of steel in the center
of the trailer, and left to do other work. I got my paperwork and took off. I
was legal all the way through Ontario, till I came to the first scale at West
Hawk Lake, Manitoba. Not giving it a thought, I pulled onto the scale and
weighed out. I was then promptly invited inside, for an interview. I was told
that I could not go any farther till I got my load distributed legally. Nothing
serious, just move one twenty ton piece of steel forward about a foot. That
should allow me to carry on.
I was a day and a half, away from my warehouse and crane, and about two days
away from my customer and his crane. What now? Trying to talk civil to some of
these scale guys, at times can be a frustrating experience. They have the chrome
badge, and in this case they are god. After beating my head against a stone
wall, for about a half hour, the scale man suggested I call his friend, who just
happened to own the biggest tow truck in about a hundred miles. What can I do? I
had to call him.
What a joke. He put his cables around the block of steel, and was going to lift
it so I could back the trailer up about a foot. Well all he did for about an
hour was to lift his front end of his truck up off the ground. He got so mad at
the end that he had the front up about five feet off the ground. He hit the
clutch and dropped like a rock, banging his head on the ceiling and breaking one
of his front springs. He jumped out of the cab and threw a proper sh** fit right
After things cooled down a bit I told him, NO MOVE, NO PAY. I have never seen a
face get that red, and that close to exploding, before or since, in my life.
I told them that if they let me go, I will go into Winnipeg to Dominion Bridge
Company, and get them to move the block and check it out on their scale, before
going on to Headingly, Manitoba scale, farther west. They had a giant overhead
crane that could lift at least fifty tons. The biggest in the province.
They agreed finally then I got my butt out of there real quick, before they
could change their minds.
In a few days I was there, and on my return trip, they wanted me to stop off in
Saskatchewan, at IPSCO steel and pick up a load of 35 foot plate. I did so, and
started back. Usually when you get back, you have to deliver your own load. I
hit the yard, and was anxious to get home. They hadn't come up with the local
delivery location yet, and I was beginning to get a little impatient. After a
couple hours they came out with the delivery sheet and said go deliver. I
thought that I was going to deliver in town and lose half a day. I read the
delivery destination, and it was Ocean Steel, St. John NB. on the east coast,
over a thousand miles in the opposite direction.
I called old IZZY the owner, and explained, that I was gone 10 days, and was
planning to take my new wife somewhere. He said that he wanted me to do the
delivery, and no one else. I hummed and hawed, and didn't have enough money to
quit, and move on. Fortunately he offered to sweeten the pot.
He said he would give me a couple hundred dollars cash, if I stayed. He said,
that I was to take my new wife with me, and have a honeymoon trip as well. Done
deal. Phoned home and told her to pack a bag, because we were heading down east
within 2 hrs. It shocked the hell out of her.
She had never really traveled much, before meeting up with me. Her life was
about to take a dramatic change.
I got home, repacked my bag, loaded my wife and luggage into the little Mack and
was off. Well being all beat out, and tired, We only got down the road about a
hundred miles. I pulled off on to the shoulder of the road to try and get a
couple hours sleep. Can you imagine how comfortable it is for 2 people in a 4
foot cab, trying to sleep? I was way over do, and went out like a rock. There we
were, with 2 pair of feet sticking out of the window. A couple hours went by and
I was just waking up a bit, when 3 trucks running together pulled in behind me.
The drivers were walking along the side of the trailer, when they stopped, and
one told the others that they had better get the hell out of there, because BILL
has a chick in the truck with him. ( most of the drivers running the same
corridor, usually wake up someone that they know, sleeping, so they can get into
Montreal before rush hour.) Knowing about my sweet short temper, they decided to
pass on the wake up call this trip.
“At that time, the expressways were pretty scarce, and the trip was 95% 2 lane,
At that time, the expressways were pretty scarce, and the trip was 95% 2 lane,
old roads. We made our way into Quebec, got through, and past Montreal. It was
getting pretty late and Muriel was totally exhausted. I found an empty field,
and parked for the rest of the night. The 2 of us slept sitting up, twisting
around, developing many aches and pains. Was too cold to sleep on the ground.
That 4 foot cab, with 2 people, was a hell on earth.
Next morning we found a restaurant, cleaned up as well as we could, and had a
big breakfast. It seemed to ease the pain somewhat. On the move again, we were
traveling along, without a care. I came across an old hotel (Fountain Blue) it
was in French, and I don't know the spelling. Anyway we thought that a snack and
a shower would be nice, right about now. I pulled off the road, and parked. It
was out in the country, and we were the only ones there. About 10:00am. We went
inside and sat down. The owner came over and asked what we would like. We
started off with a special sandwich and a beer. Well we were starting to relax,
and was feeling pretty good. We forgot all about the time, and didn't realize
how fast it was moving. The juke box, by this time was running steady. We could
notice that it got crowded for a time then thinned out again. Didn't think too
much about it. Everything was moving along pretty smoothly, and by this time we
were taking advantage of the music, and were dancing right along.
We were so engrossed in ourselves, that we did not realize that time was
marching on. The juke box was shut off and a small live band had slipped in and
was playing great dance music. Slowly the place started to fill up and we
started to notice that everyone was all dressed up in suits and ties, with the
ladies wearing party dresses. We on the other hand, were wearing old dirty jeans
and work shirts. We were like Fred Astair and Ginger Rogers, with people moving
aside and giving us the floor. When all this sunk in we discovered that the day
had passed and it was about 2:00am. Time to get out.
We climbed into the truck and went about a mile down the road to an abandoned
gas station. We both flaked out propped up in the seats. During the night
sometime, Muriel had to go to a ladies room. We were both in a stupor. She
climbed out and I automatically dropped down on the seat and by unconscious
habit, my hand tripped the lock, locking my new wife out.
When I am over tired, or otherwise, nothing can wake me up. The sun came up and
woke me. It was then that I realized that Muriel was missing. It scared the hell
out of me. I jumped out, and proceeded to search for her. Thoughts of kidnapping
went through my mind as well as other nasty things. On the other side of the
truck, I found her sleeping, propped up against the fence, with a couple pigs
snorting at her. Boy did I give it to her then. She retaliated by telling me
that she banged on the door till she wore herself out, sat down on the ground
and went to sleep.
Well the next day or two was pretty quiet, conversational wise.
We got into St John and there was a little motel just across the bridge from the
Steel company. It had a half dozen small cabins. I got a cabin, so Muriel could
go ahead, and get cleaned up, while I went to get the load off. When I got there
they said I was early, and they could not get me in till morning, so I dropped
the trailer in their compound, and bobtailed back to the cabin.
By this time it was about 10:00am, so I cleaned up and told Muriel that I would
go and get something for lunch. I had been in St John many, many times, and knew
just where to go. I headed straight for the ships harbour. There was a lobster
co. there, and they unloaded live lobsters. They had a big pot that was always
fired up for cooking them if you wanted. I picked out three, at about a pound
and a half each, had them cooked up and put in a plain brown paper bag. Headed
back to the room, happy as hell.
I pulled in and parked for the day. I went in and told my wife that I had a
special present for her. Gave her the bag, and she stuck her hand in and got a
hold of the claw and pulled it out. One look and she threw the bag down and let
out a blood curdling scream. She had no idea what it was. It could have been the
Lock Ness Monster, for all she knew. I was just too stupid to realize the
She calmed down finally, and we decided to eat the lobster (her first). To be
able to eat them properly, you need the appropriate tools. I was used to using a
hunting knife. Didn't have one, so headed up to the office to borrow a butcher
knife. I never gave it a thought, but with Muriel screaming, and me still
looking like a fugitive from hell, calmly walked up to the office and banged on
the door. The door opened a couple inches and the guy said what do you want? I
need a butcher knife, got one I can borrow? It'll just be for a couple minutes.
Man if looks could kill, I would have been dead on the spot. I guess they
thought that I was beating up my wife, and was looking for something to finish
the job with.
After getting everything straightened out, they still wouldn't let me in, or
give me a knife. I had to prove it by taking the lobster up to them while I
waited outside, for them to cut it up for me. Lots of excitement for one day. In
the end, she found out that she did not like lobster anyway. So I ate them all
The next morning I told her I would take her to see the reversing falls, I took
off extra early, got the load off and came back, picked her up and headed over
the falls bridge. The fog was so thick, you could hardly see the Bulldog on the
nose of the tractor. As we crossed the bridge, I said that the falls were
directly below us. Visibility being about 5 feet, she has yet to see the
reversing falls. The way things were going, there was the distinct possibility
that this marriage just might be short lived.
Well we started out, on our way back, at a real snails pace. That East Coast fog
can be a real hazard sometimes. We crawled along for about 2 1/2 hrs, till we
got to some real high ground inland, and finally ran out of it. It was clear
sailing for the next day or so.
As we were heading northwest towards Quebec again, I started getting some weird
noises coming from the engine. A real metallic sound, like a banging piston or
something. I pulled over and went over everything, the gauges were normal and
the noise cleared up. Took off again and it came back under load. Just across
the St. John River, at the top of the hill, at Fredericton, was a Mack dealer. I
pulled in and had a mechanic come outside and check it out. While he was under
the hood working, one at a time the younger mechanics kept drifting out to offer
the old man a hand. He would run them off. My wife, not being used to traveling
asked me why the older guy would not let them help out. I said, that's another
one on his way across the lot, keep an eye on him, and I'll bet he climbs up on
the bumper and starts looking through the hood to get a look at the young, good
looking chick in the truck. He did exactly that, and she couldn't believe it.
The old guy knew why they were coming out, and he ran them off. As it turned
out, it was a dried out fan belt, giving me the scare. He changed it, and we
were on our way again.
A day and a half later we pulled into Toronto, and the honeymoon was over. After
giving it an awful lot of thought, she said that I was on probation, and didn't
know if she could handle the truckers lifestyle.
Here it is, 40 years later, we are still together and I am still on probation.
About the author: Diesel Gypsy is a retired trucker
with 50 years and millions of miles over the road.
Visit his website:
The Diesel Gypsy
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Dear Kelly A column written by the editor of A Truckers Wife.