Line One
Journeys
This may sound crazy, but…
My driving career started at 8 years of age

By Wayne Baker
OOIDA Life Member, Worthing, SD

 

Eight is a bit early for most to get behind the wheel, but it didn’t stop me.

I grew up down south on a poor dirt farm. My folks never had any money, but somehow they managed to buy this old 1934 Plymouth car. I thought this old car was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. I had watched my dad drive this car and I knew that with careful planning, I could do this. 

It’s a good thing I liked driving, because when I got out of the Air Force in 1957, there wasn’t much work for a B-29 tail gunner. I got my first driving job that year in Omaha, NE, working for a company called Watson Brothers. The truck I started out on was an H-67 Mack cabover. They called it the “Cherry Picker.” It had a triplex transmission (two sticks). I couldn’t shift one stick very well, let alone two.

The first trip out was to Chicago. There were no interstates back then and no Dan Ryan Expressway so it was quite a chore to say the least.

Well, I made it back to Omaha and they sent me out to San Francisco and over to Modesto to load back to Omaha. There was no I-8 and no engine brakes, so it was pretty much like C.W. McCall’s “Wolf Creek Pass.”

When I started out, hauling a load from Tampa to Cleveland would pay $85.

I bought my first truck in 1960. And I’ve owned 11 trucks and trailers over the years. I paid $2,000 for that old 190 International gas job. (The last new Peterbilt I bought in the fall of 1987 cost $82,500. It sure is a crazy business, isn’t it?) Back to the 190 International – I had no money, so the guy sold it to me for no money down. Payment was 10 percent of what I made with the truck. I leased to Mayflower hauling furniture and pulling a 28-foot trailer. I paid the truck off in two months.

Do you remember back in 1973 when we had the big shutdown and our OOIDA was born? Nixon was president, and Milton Shapp was governor of Pennsylvania. During the shutdown over the Arab oil embargo, it got a little rough for a while. Some of you may recall the National Guard pulling trucks out of the way at the entrance of the Ohio Turnpike where drivers had locked up and left them blocking the entrance.

They wrecked a lot of transmissions by pulling those trucks out of the way when they were locked up and left in gear. Some guys were shot and at least one killed.

At this point in time, the speed limit became 55 mph. Fuel went from 38 cents a gallon to 75 cents a gallon, and we knew it would never come down again.

One quick story I’ll share with you. It was a few years back and a friend of mine (and owner-operator) had to take off a few days for a funeral.

He had me run his truck for about one week. Anyway, I was empty and came upon the scale at Hebron, NE. The scale man let me sit on the scale with the red light on for a few seconds. I wondered what was going on as I was OK on my logbook. Weight-wise, I was empty.

After a short time, the fellow came out, climbed on the side of the truck, pointed at the dash and said, “Give me your radar detector.”

I did not even realize that there was one in the truck. They’re illegal in Nebraska, as well as other states.

Without even thinking I said, “No! If you want one, go buy your own.”

Well, this was not a good thing. Anyway, later the officer and I had a laugh about it and we became friends.

I guess I have very little to complain about. Actually, I have never had any real problems out on the road in 52 years. LL