I had graduated from high school shortly before, so this would have been an afternoon in the summer of 1970.
I had landed the best gig I thought anyone possibly could. I was getting to drive a cattle truck for the Wenmohs Ranch. Joe Wenmohs only had one cattle truck at the time, a Ford Cabover that was turned up to where it would run with almost anything out on the highways.
That tractor was hooked up to a 52’ triple deck Wilson aluminum trailer. That truck primarily ran from the Wenmohs Ranch out by Blue Lake, Llano County, to Pecos Texas hauling cattle to the feedlots. Then it would pickup a load of fat cattle to take to downtown Houston, to the slaughter house.
After unloading in Houston, it we would generally go to Sealy, Texas to pickup a load of calves to return them to Llano County, to the ranch. Sometimes we would go to other auction barns in East Texas, instead of Sealy.
It required that truck to be on the road continually. Joe Wenmohs had two drivers, George Sharp and Wallace Herbert, that would alternate trips. It was a well timed organization or seemed like it to me.
The next thing is about how I because a part of that team. Wallace had taken me under his wing to help me become a good cattle truck driver. Even though it was possible that two drivers could keep it moving, I guess Joe was looking to the future, when something happened to one of the others. As it turned out, in the not so distant future he expanded his fleet to a couple of Peterbilt Cabovers to replace the his Ford. Perhaps he knew what was ahead and was recruiting me for that expansion.
It didn’t matter, because the insurance company had stepped in an ask that I not drive any longer. I had a long list of traffic tickets and being either 17 or 18 years old, didn’t leave room for much argument. So my cattle trucking career lasted only a few months.
Now the real point of this story was to tell you about an incident that happened on a stretch of Texas 71 highway not far out of Llano. I was driving and Wallace was in the sleeper, to the best of my memory. As I got to the little community of Valley Spring there was a long curve. I took that curve at a faster speed than was prudent. I remember feeling that trailer start to lean, as the cattle shifted to one side. I look back in my mirrors, and it appeared the tires came completely off the pavement, and on the opposite side smoke was boiling up where the weight of the trailer was riding down on the tires.
I was able to hang on and maneuver that rig on around that curve and when it was back in a straight stretch of highway, it all settled back down with a pretty good jolt.
I learned a lot about driving driving a cattle truck in a lesson that lasted less than 30 seconds, but I still remember it well over fifty years later.
I truly can’t tell you what Wallace said or if he even realized what had happened. I can assure you that I always kept all 18 tires firmly on the asphalt from that time on.
I’ve driven that highway many times since then and I always remember that corner, just as I did in that motorhome today.
Something tells me if I had been going 5 mph faster or that corner would have been about a degree or two sharper, we would have had a completely different outcome. That little team of guardian angels were right there with me that day.