Across rural America, especially in the wheat belt of western Kansas and eastern Colorado you will still find several old Ford or Chevy single axle grain trucks hauling the harvest into town. They were and still are a workhorse for many farms and ranches. Those simple trucks were easy to run, didn’t require a Commercial Driver’s License and most all of them had a gasoline motor that runs cheaper than their diesel counterparts. Most of these rigs are over 50 years old but still bring in the harvest every year. It takes a little practice to learn how to drive a four-speed transmission with a two-speed rear end but once a person learns, they can cruise right on down the road. My wife and I recently purchased one of these old workhorses to haul water to cattle. We assumed we were going to buy an old farm truck that had been rode hard and well abused, but what we found was a beautiful 1970 F-600 Ford with 64,000 original miles. The drive home with my son brought back memories of my childhood and the time I spent with my dad and grandpa in the cab of our old 71. The following poem is the story of those memories and a tribute to the men and machine.
Daylight peaked over the eastern horizon as dad slammed the hood and told us the oil was all good. My brother and I had already crawled into the cab and across the bench seat, the lap belts pulled up tight and neat. Dad turned the key and that 330 motor started to groan, with a pull on the choke and dad’s whispered grumble, that motor caught and started to rumble.
We’re off to La Junta for a load of cow cake, it was when we reached the first curve Dad realized he needed to pump the brake. As we make the turn and build up speed, Dad changed gears flawlessly and let me pull up on the two speed. Three high then clutch to four low, pull the red button and let off the gas, we’re in four high and the fence posts are clicking right on past.
We get to Hwy 96 just north of Fowler, dad tells the story of the railroad crossing and of the train’s power. This is the bean crossing according to our family, its where Uncle Elmer somehow lived to tell the tale, of how he and a truckload of beans had a meeting with a train that didn’t go so well. We cross the tracks and continue on our way, if we keep up this pace we’ll get to the mill just before midday.
Soon enough we reach the mill and pull under the bin for the cake to fill. One ton then two, as the cake covers the floor, by the time it’s level with the box that’s ton number eight. We pull ahead and cover the box with an old canvas tarp, this truck is old, but Ol’ Blue still looks pretty sharp. We feel like big time truckers in our workhorse of a steed, she hauls a lot of weight, but isn’t built for speed.
The journey home is long and slow, we pull those hills in what feels like granny low. When we get home if its not too late, we’ll dump our load by opening the end gate. For some this trip would seem a bore, but for young boys it was more fun that you could buy at any toy store. I’m older now and let me tell you. I still remember those lessons learned while dad drove that four and two.
That’s all for this time. I hope this story brought back some fond memories for some of you. Pray for rain and remember to keep tabs on your side of the Barbed Wire and God Bless.
Meinzer is a fourth-generation rancher raised on the southeastern plains of Colorado. He and his family live and ranch in Oshkosh, Neb.