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Truckin' through history

By Bill Hudgins, Columnist

My friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe recently had a lot of explaining to do to his sister Uneeda when her son came home with a long and detailed note from his grade school teacher.

The note said Johnny had been telling some pretty wild tales in class, and the teachers were concerned about where he got his notions. It seems Johnny quoted Uncle Rufus as his source for most of his information.

When confronted, Rufus said he had just tried to help Johnny with his lessons. Johnny's attention tends to wander, so Rufus – knowing how much the little guy loves trucks – revised some historic events to give big rigs a prominent role.

I guess it had been a while since Rufus was actually in a classroom, or maybe he just forgot that teachers often call on kids to explain what they studied. Either way, Johnny had paid close attention to Uncle Rufus.

For instance, Rufus had given trucks a big role in building the pyramids in Egypt:

"The pharaoh wanted to build these really big monuments, so first he had to bring in bulldozers and earthmovers. My Uncle Rufus says it even took some tridem tractors pulling nine-axle gooseneck stretch trailers to move the biggest ones.

"And once they had cut all the stone building blocks, he hired a lot of flatbedders to bring them to the work site. But Pharaoh was hard-hearted. He made the drivers unload the blocks themselves and didn't pay them for waiting.

"But they kept working for him, because if they didn't he'd send his soldiers to chase them into the river. Uncle Rufus said that's what they call being in De Nile."

According to the teacher's note, Rufus had populated other unlikely events with big rigs:

  • Hannibal crossing the Alps: "Hannibal was a general who crossed the Alps to attack Rome. He took a whole bunch of elephants with him in special trailers. His drivers were either in first gear or Georgia overdrive most of the way. He made it in record time because they didn't have chain laws then. But he had to use those elephants to pull a lot of trucks out of the ditch."
  • Columbus discovering America: "When Columbus landed in the West Indies, the Caribbean Air Resources Board had put most of the owner-operators out of work, so Columbus couldn't unload his cargo. 'I thought this was America, but it must be California,' he told them."
  • The American Revolution: "England put a whole lot of new taxes on the Colonies, and that put a lot of truckers out of work. They were mad and joined the militia. They were called the Minutemen because whenever their dispatchers had wanted to know how soon they were going to deliver, they'd always reply 'Just another minute or two.' "
  • The U.S. Civil War: "General McClellan was the leader of the Yankee army, and they named a truck after him – called it their Little Mack. But after it ran into a stone wall a couple of times, they had to replace it."

Although the teacher frowned on most of Rufus' tales, she admitted he had surprised her by being accurate on at least one account. The first time trucks were known to be put to military use was in 1916 when Gen. Black Jack Pershing was chasing Pancho Villa in Mexico. Pershing used hundreds of trucks and a number of cars to transport his soldiers and keep them supplied. Johnny got an "A" for that report.

Overall, while Johnny's teacher and his mother were not overly pleased with Rufus' whimsical waltz through world history, there was one bright spot. Johnny had become much better behaved since Rufus had been, um, tutoring him. When asked why his behavior had improved so much, Johnny smiled and simply said, "Uncle Rufus told me that it's important to always run compliant."

Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.

Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. LL

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