Story telling in Maine, the art form for weaving a tale has not lost its appeal.
I am lucky to have had parents who exposed all four boys in the farm family to many endeavors. Some like to hear about the yesteryear story of trailer trucking potatoes from Maine to the city market. I try to write about what I know. This past Friday I listed a house for sale in Maine owned by an owner operator who used to be one of the Prem Pak truck drivers.
Sonny Howe told me about taking Ole Elmer, a gas job single screw conventional trailer truck tractor minus the sleeper, a White Mustang model across the Canadian border.
He was donkeying over to across the US border in Houlton Maine to Hartland New Brunswick Canada. To pick up a load of potatoes that would be hooked on in Houlton to a larger twin screen more powerful diesel trailer truck tractor. But getting the loaded trailer through the longest covered bridge in the World in Hartland ran into a little difficulty. The loaded trailer could not make it up the hill on the west side of the Hartland New Brunswick bridge that spans the St John River. Old Elmer was named for Elmer Snell who was the mechanic back at the Prem Pack truck terminal shops.
Old Elmer was bought and only supposed to be used to move boxes around the yard and not go out on missions on the hilly terrain of Northern Maine.
Dopey, a diesel not gas engine truck with the dwarf painted on it was supposed to do the to and fro of getting a trailer box set, loaded and returned to base. To unhook and let a larger, newer more powerful White, Peterbilt or International Transtar slide up, hook up and shoot down the highway to market.
Luckily, in small rural areas of northern Maine and into the Atlantic provinces, if you have a problem the village rallies together to find a solution out of a tight spot.
A local Canadian potato farmer who had an old Ford tractor with the transmission welded in third gear old was hooked to the front of the bumper that said “Ole Elmer” . The truck bumper like the side doors were hand lettered by Houlton Maine sign painter Allison Britton… no vinyl peel off decals in those days in early 1960’s in the transportation circles. The old Ford probably 8N was all the extra muscle needed. To pull and guide Ole Elmer up over the steep grade you have to conquer leaving Hartland New Brunswick, Canada.
Sonny drove a white White truck which we called “#3”, a cab over with sleeper, 250 Cummins diesel motor plant. He told me listing his house for sale that the truck was brand new, had a shorter wheel base and was armed with “velvet ride”. So after his story, and because my Dad is gone, I Googled velvet ride to see what I could find. It was a patented suspension and not just a sticker promising something empty to whoever purchased the over the road trailer truck tractor.
Velvet ride was supposed to protect the cargo, to reduce fatigue on the driver.
Who back in the days of using your ruler and a blue pen filling out a driver’s log book when it was not all computerized and not so transparent. Not so up to date or quite so precision accurate. Not all the Interstate systems were in place either for those involved in the second largest industry in our country… transportation.
I remember my Aunt Ruth who ran a horse riding camp and was a high school music teacher had a partner named Freeman Taylor.
He drove a Mack B series truck was rolled off the assembly line from 1953 to 1966. Freeman was like a big kid himself and had a memorable loud laugh that was infectious. Freeman would tell stories about hauling freight the only way, the back way down US RT 2A called the Bangor Road. The one where in Haynesville all the truckers are lost and buried in the lonely stretch of woods. Where if you count them off, there would be a tombstone every mile with the graves populated by all those missing long haul drivers.
Santa Claus Hill is one famous steep grade of black top below Haynesville. Malcolm Hill in Topsfield Maine is not bowl of cherries either for the early over the road long haul truck driver to navigate.
And without the power of today, and traveling overweight, the only way a trucking company could make any real money was to watch
the engine RPM’s and to down shift with perfect timing. To get the load of Maine spuds to the produce market expecting them early the next morning. I think Freeman’s tractor trailer truck was a B-61. No sleeper. When you were tired you pulled over, just leaned your head down on the wheel propped up by your arms. For a little cat nap. Or you stretch out over into the passenger sheet to bag some ZZzzzz’s.
Bad weather but at least no drivers around you texting and causing accidents.
No super Interstate highway everywhere you had to make your stops for pick up or delivery of the freight. No electric fifth wheel pin and you hand cranked your landing gear up and down. You carried your own lunch, changed your own flat tile. Eventually you had your CB radios to work your way around the state police weight stations that set up in various places to keep the drive guessing. You also had your west coast mirrors, your chain drive wallet and your eight track stereo tape player. There might have been a few girlie magazines under the bunk mattress. It depended on the drive.
With an assortment of Charley Pride, Charlie Rich, Buck Owens, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Jon Anderson, Patsy Cline, Red Sovine lined up in the music library.
Arranged just so on the doghouse that was insulated and sat on top of the diesel motor under the cab over that turned the twin screws of the eighteen wheeler. Some of the singers especially really related and sang about truck driving. Hank Snow, Dick Curless, CW McCall, Roger Miller, Dave Dudley are just a few that come to mind from days in high school as a record spinner DJ at the local radio station.
Country Jamboree on Saturday night had a lot of hard core country fans and the station even opened up studio B for live music during one segment of the C&W programming.
On the radio station owned by Howdie Doody (Buffalo Bob).
There’s your story for today from rural Maine and just in time to wrap it up with over 1300 words. The mission in blogging about what’s it like, what was it like in Maine trucking down the highway as the newest installment in the Me in Maine blog post this evening before time for shut eye.
Thank you Internet fans for being such faithful followers. It is most appreciated and the logs show which posts are the most popular. We will keep hunt and pecking, cranking out more as they ideas present themselves to hammer out as time allows. I love living in Maine and hope it shows.
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