Rural Legend: The Old Bullwagons- Tall Trucker Tale

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I just love a good truck driver story, don’t you? Not the kind that goes on about how many loads you hauled, or how stupid your dispatcher is – we hear those every day. I like the kind of story that takes you back to a certain time, paints a picture in your mind, or makes you fall out of your chair laughing- The kind of story you hear at a truck stop coffee counter early in the morning, when ten truckers who don’t know each other get to telling stories between flirts with the waitress. Then, after about 20 minutes, the quiet old trucker in the corner, who has been sitting and quietly listening, finally speaks. Yeah, that kind of story. You know what I’m talking about. Like the one I heard one morning about the old Bull-wagons.

Back in the old days, all of the livestock haulers used to be exempt from stopping at weigh stations. They weren’t really above the law, it was just one of those so-called unwritten rules. From Texas to California, through Arizona and New Mexico, the State Troopers simply never messed with the bull wagons. You see, the police understood that these animals could die if they don’t get off the trailer in a certain amount of time. And it’s really true – as any livestock hauler will tell you – a certain percentage of the animals don’t make it. After a certain amount of time, they need water, food and then rest.

Some animals can’t rest while being transported because they have to stand up all the time. And they have to stand up all the way, because if one lies down, the others will step on him and fall on him and he might be killed. All livestock haulers know this, and that’s why they don’t have time to stop for anything. Lives are in danger if these drivers are delayed.

It was not uncommon back then to see a convoy of bull wagons going over 100 mph. They would even blast by an open weigh station with no fear of getting a ticket. There were a lot of outlaw truckers back then, too. These guys ran with no log books, did not obey speed limits, and rarely got tickets.

Many drivers back then didn’t even have a driver’s license. Some call it the good old days, before CDL’s and drug tests. On any given morning, at any given truck stop, you can always hear a story like the one following – which I heard one morning from an old trucker who didn’t give his name.

I think it was the winter of 1962. I was blasting across Arizona at about 105 mph. I always went 105, because when my truck hit 110, it would shake. But it handled 105 pretty well, so that’s what I always did. I saw a sign that said, “Weigh Station Open – all Trucks Must Weigh.” I knew all the trucks would be slowing down in the right lane, so I stayed in the left lane with the cruise control on (which was a wood stick wedged between the seat and the accelerator).

As soon as I passed the weigh station, I heard someone on the CB say, “Hey bull wagon, Smokey Bear’s comin’ after you.” Could it be true? I was never pulled over before. I almost didn’t believe it. I just always thought we were above the law. But, just in case Smokey was listening, I said, “I’ve got some cows that need water this hour and I have over a hundred miles to go.”

About twenty miles past the weigh station, he finally caught me. I pulled over on the shoulder of an off-ramp and he stopped in front of my truck. A very young rookie got out and he was pissed off! “Who do you think you are blowing by my weigh station like that? Are you blind or just stupid?” He took my driver’s license and told me to follow him back to the station. He said he was going to do a full DOT inspection, and find anything else he can think of to write me up for. I tried to explain that these animals were about to die, but he didn’t believe a word of it.

When we arrived at the weigh station, he waved me into the inspection area. I was surprised to see him with a creeper in his hand. I smiled at the thought of him sliding under my trailer full of cows. I knew my truck was in good shape and that he wouldn’t find anything wrong and I told him so.

All of the sudden, he got a whiff of all the cows in the trailer and he said, “Maybe I won’t go under it.” Just then he turned and saw his sergeant looking at him and then said, “Oh, what the hell.” He gave me an evil grin and then slid under the trailer. The whole time, I tried to tell him, in a round-about way, that cops don’t mess with us for a lot of good reasons. And he was now beginning to see that.

He came out rather quickly, but it was still too late. He had crap on his face and all over his shirt! And when he tried to wipe it with a rag, it just smeared across a bigger area – and that just made it stink worse. He took one look at himself and with a red face said, “I’ve got to go – get out of here!” I left without getting a ticket.

Yes, as you can imagine, that story had the whole restaurant rolling in the isles. So, I thought, why not pass it along. Take it with a grain of salt (or maybe a handful). You know how truck drivers are when the get to telling stories. It may be true, or it may be a pile of what that Smokey Bear had on his shirt! Either way, it’s still a good one. For more fun, keep browsing Big City Driver.


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