(Originally posted on March 8, 2017)
I’ve been waiting almost 47 years to retrace some tracks that I made in what seems like a different lifetime.
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. (Wallace if you have any corrections or additions please feel free to jump in) I guess you could say I was his understudy.
It was the dream job for almost any 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 in Llano County 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 we reloaded with load of fattened 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 28 or 30 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 either auction barn to be loaded, for a trip back to the ranch, where they would be dropped to start the life in the pasture until their turn would come around to head for the feedlots.
One of the cycles took the better part of 3 days. Then the next driver would take over and make his 3 day run. At that time, Round Mountains own George Sharp was the other driver. He made the drive alone, so he would have some off time between waypoints.
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 a competing trucker, Tommy Parker that ran Peterbilt trucks with V-12 Detroit engines. I don’t even care to guess what the horsepower of those rigs were. What I know is we stopped in Ft. Stockton and both fueled up and 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 (5 speed and a 4 speed 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 under construction at that time, so after my young truck driving days I never went back to Sheffield Hill until today. 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.