As Ray Stevens would say, “It’s me again, Marguerite.” I’m back to tell you more truck driving stories. All my stories are true, but the small details are only as exact as I can remember. At one time, I mentioned my recall.
I hear people talk about truck drivers as though one size fits all. That is far from being right. There are log-haulers, shack haulers, car trailers, bull haulers, reefers, b-trains, tankers and huge oversize loads, to name just a few. The only thing that they share is the truck. All different commodities require special care. Just because a person can steer a truck and keep it out of the ditch, doesn’t mean that he is a truck driver. He or she may just be a roster filler. Each different commodity requires different handling and care taken.
But you don’t hear about the driver that took extra care and went beyond his duty. You make the headlines if you mess up, and those are the ones that the public thinks are in all trucks.
I try to learn all about the care required in each job. Some do not require much braining or experience, but specialty hauling takes much more seat time to be good. Some jobs are also hard on the nerves and require concentration. They are not for all people. At the end of the day (retirement), there is no public recognition, maybe a plaque - but not a gold watch. The satisfaction and pride of a job well done must come from within. If you feel satisfied with your driving record and enjoyed doing it – you are a winner. If not, you have been in the wrong job.
I’ll tell you about my early years of learning how to handle sheep. I was in my mid 20’s and was driving for W. B. Trailer out of Saskatoon, hauling cattle for Burns Packers and pasture hauling for farmers. One day Bill McQueen (one of the owners) said I was to go to Hughton, Saskatchewan – south of Rosetown. He said the Meyers feedlot had a load of sheep to go to Jenner, AB., south of Hannah to a pasture in the middle of nowhere. There was no G.P.S., so Bill drew a map on a piece of paper to a pasture out of town so I wouldn’t get lost. Bill said if I was at Hughton pasture by 6 am, the ranch hand lived in the pasture in a small shack, and he sometimes makes breakfast for the drivers. I was ready to go early and eager to haul sheep. Until that day, my only experience with sheep was limited to wearing a Siwash Cowichan Sweater in the wintertime.
I was there at 6am, and there was a light on in the shack, so I went to see where we loaded. The ranch hand said, “Come in, leave your shoes on, and I’ll make breakfast.” I was glad he told me to keep my shoes on. I’m sure he swept the floor every day that had a z in it. He was a friendly guy and seemed to enjoy the company. As he cracked an egg at the stove, he threw the shells over the top and behind the stove. I could see that it was not the first time he had done that. The coffee was strong enough to clear a plugged drain. After breakfast, I was ready to carry each sheep onto the trailer.
I went to the corral, backed into the loading chute and set up the 5 separate pens inside the trailer. I was then ready to load. The ranch hand was sitting on the top rail of the fence watching me and enjoying a smoke while I was trying to herd the sheep up and into the trailer. The sheep thought it was a tour. They would go up the chute into the first pen, then circle around and come back out. I was trying to count them and push them into place. I don’t know if everyone knows where lanolin oil comes from. I found out, their wool is greasy, and so was I.
About then, the fellow on the fence called and asked if I would like some help. I sure did. He said, “I’ll be back, I’ll go and get the goat, the shovel and the dog.” I had to sit down and figure this out. Soon he was back. He said here’s the shovel, you go inside and stand by the gate. Count the sheep as they go into the pen. He would put the goat in with the sheep. Goats are snoopy, and the sheep would follow. The dog was behind the herd, pushing them up and into the trailer and keeping the sheep from coming back out. When I got the right count for that pen, I was to hit the ramp with the shovel, real hard. The noise and the vibration of the ramp scared the sheep, and they all stopped. I closed the gate, he took the goat out of the pen, and the dog chased the remaining sheep out of the trailer. I reset the ramp onto another pen, and we repeated the operation until the whole trailer was full.
The trip to Jenner was uneventful. I found the pasture, and there were two guys there to meet me. I unloaded the sheep through the bottom of the trailer and out the side door. They were glad to get out.
When those sheep touched the ground, they were running, and I think that there may be some still running. That was the first and last load of sheep for me to haul. I guess I’m not a sheep hauler – not enough experience!