I had been waiting almost 47 years to retrace some tracks that I made in what seems like a different lifetime. My wife and I made a trip out to Big Bend about 3 years ago, so it was a prefect time see what the big deal with Sheffield Hill was. (also called Lancaster Hill)
Driving A Cattle Truck
Soon after graduating from high school, I was still 17 years old, I got hired on as a relief driver, driving a cattle truck for the Wenmohs Ranch. I was a team driver with Wallace Herbert. I guess you could say I was his understudy. He was so gracious as to let me tag along, to learn what Bull Hauling was all about.
It was the dream job for a kid that loved the sound and feel of a powerful Cummins Diesel Engine. The truck was a Ford Cabover with a 335 HP engine turned up to what was somewhere over 400 HP with a 13 speed transmission. It pulled a triple deck 45′ long Wilson Aluminum Trailer.
The normal run would be to leave the ranch out by Blue Lake Estates in Llano County in the late afternoon and go up through San Angelo to Midland/Odessa before arriving at the Davidson Feedlot in Pecos. The load of pasture conditioned cattle were dropped off and then we reloaded with fat cattle to be taken to Blue Ribbon Packing Company in downtown Houston. That was just down the street from the University of Houston. We would usually arrive there in the middle of the night, some 30 to 32 hours after leaving the ranch.
When we got unloaded we would head to either Beaumont or Sealy where a load of freshly weaned calves had been purchased by an order buyer and were there ready at an auction barn to be loaded, for a trip back to the ranch. They would be dropped there to start the life in the pasture until their turn would come around to head for the feedlots.
Each of the complete turns took the better part of 3 days. Then the next driver would take over and make his three day run. Round Mountain’s own George Sharp was the other driver. He drove alone, so perhaps he took a little longer to make a round, allowing for some rest. I couldn’t imagine that George Sharp was going to push that truck as hard as Wallace and me.
Once he had made his round, our next trip would commence. I can’t tell you for sure, but I think the arraignment only lasted 2 or 3 months for me. That’s when the insurance carrier got wind that a 17 year old was driving that truck and threatened to cancel the policy on the truck.
Joe Wenmohs, the owner vowed to do whatever it took, including switching insurance companies but it seemed like more trouble than it was worth, so I told him I was ready to move on to bigger things anyway.
I know this is getting a little long winded so I’ll get on to the real purpose of this story.
There was another cattle hauler, Tommy Parker that ran Peterbilt trucks with V-12 Detroit engines. I don’t even have a guess as to what the horsepower of those rigs were. What I know is one trip we stopped in Ft. Stockton and both fueled up before we both were headed to Houston. Even though I left out in front of the Parker truck and held my own as we approached the little town of Sheffield, Wallace said as a common courtesy that I may want to slow up and let Butch pass. Butch Stokes, from down at San Marcos was the other driver.
It all came clear to me as we approached Sheffield Hill, (To me it was Sheffield Mountain) Butch in the Peterbilt barely appeared to slow down while climbing the grade. We guessed that he probably didn’t have to downshift more than 3 or 4 times. He had a 20 speeds (A 5 speed and a 4 speed auxiliary transmission).
I had to go down to 4th gear, out of 13 to get over the top.
It was my first time to meet up with Sheffield Hill or one of the Tommy Parker Trucks. Both left a lasting impression on me.
I-10 was just being built at that time, so after my young truck driving days I never went back to Sheffield Hill until this day. The interstate always caused me to bypass that stretch of highway.
Leaving out of the Big Bend Country this morning, something made me want to re-live some of my past, even though we weren’t in a big ole 18 wheeler.
The video may be a bit tedious to watch, it’s just over 2 minutes long. Of course in that loaded truck it may have been a 10 minute or longer uphill battle.
We stopped at the top today where there’s a pull off. It was a beautiful sight looking back down that canyon out on the old US 290.
That old cab-over Ford has a 8 Track Tape Player in it. I’m sure there was an ample supply of various country western tapes in it, but I never remember us ever listening to but 2 tapes, over and over. Carl Smith and Wynn Stewart played from the time we left Llano County until we arrived back there. I have both of those singers on my iPhone and sometimes when I’m driving alone, I’ll crank them up and it transports me back to my Bull Hauling Days.
Carl Smith – Hey Joe
Wynn Stewart – It’s Such A Pretty World Today