Tires and Trouble

Glen Millard : Glen “The Duck” was born in Saskatchewan. He has driven trucks for 50 years, mostly long hauling. He’s now retired, that is until another adventure comes along.
Posted By Glen Millard : Glen “The Duck” was born in Saskatchewan. He has driven trucks for 50 years, mostly long hauling. He’s now retired, that is until another adventure comes along. On 2024-05-18 20:11:03

This is a story about truck tires and my journey, about how I learned to take care of wheels and tires. First, I must tell you there are times when tire repair is an emergency on the road and other times when tire care is maintenance.
Back in the early days of my career, there were no inspections. The only tires were bias ply and split rims, which, in my opinion, were just one step up from solid rubber tires.
I was getting my experience on the highway with a broker and leased on with A&H Freight. It was a shoestring operation all around. I drove for 2 ½ months and only got paid $20.00 –  that's right - $20. He kept stalling me off, and I was gullible enough to believe him. During winter, I had a flat on a drive wheel in Davidson, SK, so I called the boss, who told me to go to the tire shop. He said they had a tire of his that they could repair to put on the steering, and the steering tire could go back to the drivers. I got to the tire shop, and the guy said the tire my boss was talking about had been run flat, and the cords inside the tire were broken. The tire shop got on the phone to my boss, who told him to "Give it a haircut cut," which meant cutting out the broken cords and putting in a tube splint so the cut-off cords would not puncture the good tube. With this all done, he mounted the wheel and tire on the steer axle, ditch side. I left the shop and took it real slow to Saskatoon (about 60 or 70 miles). I made it to Saskatoon and had the tire replaced.
Much later in my career, I had a load of cars going to Whitehorse. I was hauling on Highway 37 between Kitwanga and Watson Lake, and it was gravel and rough. I stopped 25 miles south of Deas Lake to check the load and tires, and I found that one of the new tires on the axle was flat. I limped into Dease Lake and asked at the only service station if I could get a tire repaired. He said, "Turn left into the bush right here, follow the trail about 4 miles, and you should find Chico. He fixes tires. I was nervous, but my options were poor, so I headed off. I finally came to a clearing with a log house painted green. I stopped on the trail and walked to the "shop," where I found a guy working on repairing a backhoe tire. I asked if he was Chico, and he said, "Depends on who you are." I guess there was a reason why he was out in the bush. I told him my dilemma, and he said it would be a while because he had to fix the backhoe tire first. I told him that I was running on B.I.C. – Best I Can. I told him I would wait and I could take the wheel off if he wanted. He said no, I'll do it. I asked if he sold tires, and he said he just fixed them. I was sure I could feel my wallet heat up, but I didn't say anything.
I visited with Chico as he worked. He looked Mexican, so I asked him if he was, but he was born here. He said, "Hell no, I've only been here for 29 years. I'm a Mennonite from Winkler, Manitoba. We got along well, and time passed quickly. He said, "I'll remove the wheel where it's at," and removed the tire. He found a three-sided piece of grader blade stuck through the face of the tire, so I asked him what he would do since he didn't sell tires. He said he could fix it, and although I couldn't go 100 mph if I took it easy, it should get me to Whitehorse.
He took the tire off the rim and said it was bad, which I thought was an understatement as I was convinced it was completely shot. He first put a patch on the inside and lots of glue. Then he got out a drill and drilled holes on each side of the hole. He dug into a drawer and pulled out 4 feet of lace leather. He sewed it tight and let it dry. Then he put a section patch over all of this. The section was about 6" by 10" and lots of glue. He said we had to wait an hour or two until it dried.
After drying, he mounted the tire on the wheel and blew it up. He stopped at 65-70 pounds. He said we had better leave it at that, or it would tear apart. He mounted the wheel on the trailer and put the tools away. He said, "Take it easy and keep an eye on it, and you will make it." I asked him how much I owed him, and he said it was $40.00. I asked him if that was his regular rate. He said, "Hell no". The other day, a guy came here in a hurry and was telling me how to do it. He had the personality of a boiled owl. When he asked how much, I told him $400.00. He went wild, and he said he would tell all his friends and that he would never come back. I told him that I hoped he would keep his word.
Chico told me that he doesn't have a set price. You were patient and friendly and offered to help me, and we got along well. I hope you come back again.
(Tires and Trouble to be continued next issue)

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