Keith Irwin


One day, while trucking, I stopped at the CB shop in Albuquerque to get my antenna tuned. That shop is closed now, but it was right next to the truck stop on Route 66 at the top of the hill that overlooks the city from the west.

There was a wrap-around counter partially cluttered with stacks of scrap electronic boards. Behind the counter were shelves full of dead and dying radios, black wires strung everywhere, and several display cases with newer radios and antenna. There was a desk behind the counter and the radio repairman was poking around inside a CB with a confederate flag faceplate. Above him, the radio's owner leaned against the counter. I came in and they each acknowledged me with a nod.

I could tell right away that the trucker getting his radio fixed was a bull-hauler. You can always spot a bull-hauler right away and I'll tell you how. If you're in a room full of truckers, the bull-hauler is the one with his mouth open, talking about bull-hauling. They all espouse the same creed too: that bull-haulers are the best truckers, and all the other truckers are second-rate. They say they drive the fastest, the longest, make the most money. I can only confirm that they are the loudest and their rigs are the stinkiest.

So I knew this guy was a bull-hauler because he could barely choke off his boasting to greet me. I doubt that he'd ever closed his mouth from the day the doctor slapped him. Before I had even leaned my weight onto my elbows at the other end of the counter, he was already flapping his chops like a motorboat. The repairman just poked the radio and occasionally said "uh-huh," or "yeah, you right about that."

"Now, us bull-haulers, we get exemptions to the hours of service (HoS) laws, because we have living loads," he was saying. "So on some runs, we can go 16, 17, maybe even 18 hours!" He was grinning from ear to ear. "Boy, hoo-eee! When we get them cattle loads out of Texas, we get 'em up to Minnesota in just two days!" The repairman uttered an affirmation. I didn't think that was so impressive, depending on what part of those states we were talking about. I said nothing.

"And drivin' truck is completely different when you're hauling bulls." I wondered if the repairman had already heard him say this before I'd walked in. I'd certainly heard it before. "You can never forget that you have a live animal in the back there, moving around. It's all different." I never figured how it could be any harder than pulling sloshy liquids across gusty Wyoming. The bull-haulers always have a shtick about how compassionate they are for their animals. I wanted to ask him if he had to get out and massage the bulls every hundred miles.

His blabbering turned toward another common trope: making fun of the younger generation. "Now, kids these days can't even read a map! They just follow their GPS around, even when it leads them off a cliff! That's why you see them out there hitting bridges! They don't read the dang signs. GPS says go into the bridge and they do!" The repairman agreed.

"And they don't want to work anymore," he went on. "They're too lazy! They don't want to drive; they just want to hang around at the truck stop, or laze around in the CB shop." Is this guy talking about me?

"I know you ain't talking about me," I spoke up. "Because I drove six thousand miles last week."
"That's impossible," he said immediately.
"No, I have an exemption to the HoS laws too."
"That's still physically impossible."
"You want to see my paycheck?"

Of course, no self-respecting boss would pay for more than I actually did. So if the paycheck said 6,000 miles on it, I must have done at least that.

He backed off though. "Well... uh... you should be a bull-hauler!"
"Nah," I said. "I drive haz-mat." (Hazardous materials)

The room was quiet for a blissful few seconds. Then, as if the exchange had never happened, he got back to doing what he did best. "Now us bull-haulers...", "Now when ya got a load of bulls behind ya... ", and so on.

I wished I'd have shown him my paycheck so he could see how much money I was making. But lets face it, that probably wouldn't have shut him up either.

^ 2019/05

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