By Larry Pruitt
One thing that is as sure as death and taxes; if you talk to any truck driver for any length of time, you will eventually hear some story about the truckin’ life or some load they have hauled. Before we go any farther here, let’s just say upfront that some stories are probably pretty much true, but we have all heard stories that have you saying to yourself, “Ain’t no freakin’ way.” I have been known on certain occasions to not only say it to myself, but also say it out loud – and I should know better, but to no one’s surprise, that doesn’t stop me.
Several years ago, one of the vendors at the Walcott Jamboree would give you a new pair of work boots if you told them a story from the Road. I thought I had a pretty good story to tell, so I told it and got my favorite kind of boots – FREE! I no more walked away from the booth when I heard the next Driver start his story with, “One night we were going through Donner Pass…”. Well, I knew I couldn’t even make a totally fictitious story up and make it better that one.
So here we go, I can’t let this opportunity pass without at least telling one story from the Road. People who know me personally, know that I usually drive locally now and did some regional hauling in the past. I’m also bad about remembering what year things have occurred, but sometimes I can figure it out. So I’m thinking this particular storytellin’ load was in the early ’90s. My family hauled dry cement in about a 150-mile radius of our office in the St. Louis area, and a few nights a week I would run a load in the evening in addition to my other duties. This particular Friday night, I was dispatched to take a load from St. Louis to West Plains, MO, which is about 200 miles southwest of St. Louis near the Arkansas border.
I left our terminal at about three in the afternoon and the sun was shining so brightly you needed shades. On the way out of St. Louis it started to cloud up, and by the time I got to Rolla, MO, about halfway to my destination, it started to rain – and then it rained harder and harder. I can remember listening to the local radio station, long before satellite radio, when they came on the air and said, “There is TORNADIC ACTIVITY entering north Texas County in the next 5 minutes”. I sat there thinking to myself, ‘I wonder where that was’. Within 10 seconds, I saw a sign telling me that I was now entering Texas County from the north. It stormed and rain for the next 35 or 40 miles. I’m not sure if I was near to a tornado, but whatever it was I know it was not fun.
So, I finally made it to my destination and it was still raining hard. I’m thinking to myself that I just want to unload and go home. I get out to hook up my hoses and I am soaked all the way through, just then lightning strikes the building literally 50 feet away from me! I’m like, ‘Screw this! I don’t care if it takes all night, but this load is not worth dying over’, so I got back in the truck and waited. Finally, the rain let up quite a bit. I’m already wet, so I started unloading. Then it stopped raining completely and then the wind started. It took me about 30 minutes to finish unloading, and when I was done my clothes were completely dry! Can you believe that? So by now I’m thinking things are finally going my way… but nooo, it started to sleet! Once it quit sleeting, it started snowing! For the next 150 miles, it snowed like crazy. When I finally got parked back home there was about seven or eight inches of fluffy white stuff on the ground, and it was about 4 hours later than it should have been. Whew! Thank goodness we didn’t have electronic logs back then… I’m just sayin’.
Larry Pruitt is an owner-operator with over 20 years of experience and has been involved in trucking for close to 40 years. He is a firefighter in North St. Louis County Missouri and resides with his wife, Jeanette, in Saint Clair, MO.