Shaky Start for an Old Friend

Mar 28, 2019 | Author: Jane Hufford CrockerStrom | Editor: Nancy Hildebrandt

The following is a story relayed to me by my father, Leslie Hufford. “Shakes and Rattles” was Myrtle’s and my first log truck. We had been married about five years and we realized we needed a truck of our own to haul logs on. There was a fella by the name of Banta, related to the other Bantas in Crawfordsville that had this Chevy truck for sale out of Pleasant Valley. Myrt and I worked out a deal with him and we bought the truck and trailer for $1,000. We were pretty pleased with ourselves because we could get even more done and we had the truck available when we needed it. It wasn’t too bad when we got it. I logged for awhile before I had to work on it.

We had to put an auxiliary transmission and a different rear end in it because these items were not big enough. We could take it loose at the springs and change the rear end. We were using it when we first got together with the DHP Company until we could find another truck for the company. We still have the title in the safe and the rear end is up there in the shop someplace.

This story of a trip with Shakes and Rattles happened before DHP was formed and the truck was lying idle one winter. It was December or January and I decided I could make money with old Shakes and Rattles if I would do outside work with it. Old Harve Davis at the Sweet Home Feed Store contracted with me to haul hay from over in Eastern Oregon. Davis would pay me $200 for a 2+/- per ton load. I figured $100 of that could go into expenses and I’d come out $100 to the good! So, I gathered up Daddy (John Hufford) for help and company and we set off in our truck for Prineville to get our load of hay.

All went well on our way over and we made it in good form. We found a farmer with some hay in the field to sell and we loaded our truck. However, by the time we got the truck loaded, the ground in the field had thawed and the truck could not get through the mud back to the road. Well, there was nothing to do but leave the loaded truck out in the field and come back in the morning when the ground was frozen again, and drive it out on the solid ground. We got a motel room and waited for the next morning when sure enough, the ground was frozen again and we drove out of the field. Looking back, this should have been a harbinger of things to come. But, we didn’t know.

As we were pulling up the long grade out of Prineville going west, the truck began to make a noise like breaking bolts. I lost power and the truck just stopped. We were on the long turn coming up the grade and with a great deal of maneuvering I got the darned trailer over into just the right lane of traffic. We blocked the wheels so it couldn’t roll and the thing was parked and sitting still with pressure off the U-joints. I grabbed my tool box to start tearing it down. It had torn the rivets off the ring gear. So, I had to take the axle off sideways, taking off the back plate from the house and then take off the rear end. We toted the wrecked parts back into Prineville to have them repaired.

Now, it wasn’t just any old repair shop that could repair the thing because the shop had to have the capacity to cold-press the rivets and take the warped face off or we’d have another destroyed ring gear. Of course, there was no shop in Prineville that could do this. We would have to have it sent to Bend or Portland. This meant Daddy and I had to find a motel, again. We spent seven days in that motel and the machine shop waiting for the repaired parts. During this entire time, no one had touched the truck – unlike now, when anything that could be stripped off would be!

We got back to the truck with our repaired and new parts and we put it all back together adding new oil. We babied it on over, easing the clutch to prevent trouble there. Finally, we got to cruising right along at a good clip. It had snowed a bit, but the plows had the road cleared and although there were some icy spots, we just steered clear of them. We were doing fine over the first summit coming from Sisters and were nearly to the top of the second summit, about Tombstone Prairie, when the trailer decided it would go over the way of the slope of the road bank on the left land sledding along on the ice. It just began to ease on over there and the darned thing would have gone over, hay, trailer and all, had it not been for the snow bank the plows had piled up.

Well, there we were crosswise on the road with no power to pull ourselves out. I had no choice but to get someone to tow us out. I decided to go back to the highway’s maintenance at the “Y” of Santiam and Detroit Highways. I had begun to walk back, leaving Daddy at the truck, when as luck would have it, here came on the younger Emmert boys in a car and he took me to the highway station. I told the folks at the station my predicament and that I needed someone to bring a truck and haul me out. The “in charge” man at the station said, “I’m sorry but we don’t do that type of thing.” I looked at him and said, “Well, you damned well will or no one else will use that road, because I have it blocked both ways!” That made a difference and they took me back in their truck and towed us backward, got around us and towed us up to the top of the pass so we could ski down the other side!

That, however, wasn’t the end of our problems. There was a lot of weight on that truck and I had to use my brakes to keep the speed down. Pretty soon, I felt the load begin to shove me and I knew I was losing my brakes! Water had frozen on the brakes and even though I used them as little as possible, there was a lot of maneuvering down that pass. There are a LOT of turn on that darned Santiam Highway 20 on the western side and a person cannot afford to go too fast! I guess you know, I babied that truck down and I was mighty glad to see that old Mt. House because it meant I was over the worst and steepest part of that road.

I figured I had it “made in the shade” and we were moving right along, down past Cascadia Park. We were on the home stretch! I had been using my mirrors on both sides of the truck all the way to check that trailer. My God! I looked into the left mirror o the turn before Bennett’s on the South Santiam, THERE WAS A TIRE MISSING!! “Dad”, I hollered, (Daddy was deaf as a post and you normally had to raise your voice in order for him to hear. But, over the roar of the engine of the truck, you had to sound like a ship’s horn in the fog.) “We’ve lost the damned wheel on the left of the trailer!” “What the hell did you say?” he hollered back. “We’ve lost a wheel!” I roared. “I’ve got to get this damned thing off the road before we lose another one.

I was afraid we would lose that whole darned load of hay, trailer and all if we lost another wheel. And, if we had lost one, we could lose another. So, we got the thing pulled over to the side of the road and sitting still again. We clambered out of the truck and began walking back, looking for that tire. We found it, miraculously, alongside the road on the river side. Thank God, it hadn’t gone in the river so we were able to roll it back up the highway to the truck and we began to put it back on. I guess you know, we tightened all those other lug nuts as we stole ones off the other tires to hold the vagrant tire on until we could get to Sweet Home. Apparently, the heating of the wheels as we had come down off the pass had allowed the lug nuts to loosen and work themselves off with the vibration of the road.

We finally got that damned truck to the feed store with that, by now, precious load of hay and I broke my verbal contract with Harve. “Harve, I don’t think I want to haul any more hay for you. It has cost me a helluva lot more to bring this one load to you than any profit I could make.” He laughed and that was the end of my becoming an Eastern Oregon hay supplier.

Jane Hufford CrockerStrom grew up on logging property near Sweet Home between the middle and south forks of the Santiam River. Jane has penned a series of stories about isolated tree-farm life. She calls them “dad’s breakfast stories” — told to her by Leslie Alfred Hufford, 1913-1998. Jane still lives on Hufford Ridge, 640 acres shaped by Leslie Hufford and his four daughters. She is a retired elementary school teacher and for one year presided over a one-room school house in Baker County. Besides tree farm duties and the OSWA board, Jane is also active with the Union Cemetery District and a women’s scholarships group. At the time she wrote this post, she was Director of the Linn County Small Woodland Association.