Hauling freight with Warren and swimming with Wonder Woman

When we left the ranching industry to pursue a career in Aviation we had some lean years until I was experienced enough to be of value as a pilot. In February of 1984 I made my first across the Nation run in a semi truck. I would drive the lower 48 later on trying to pay bills between flying jobs but that winter was the first Idaho to New Hampshire run. In my driving an 18 wheeler there would be only 2 or 3 States that I wouldn’t cover through the years.

I was driving with a long time friend of our families, Warren Neibaur.

Warren was my dad’s age and a veteran of WW2. He had been a door gunner in a B 24 flying out of England bombing Germany; he had seen some real shit during the War; he was great to drive with.

We would run about 16 to 18 hours a day and grab a Motel room and shower and sleep for a few hours then hit it again. As much as anyone can ever sleep in a ‘sleeper’ in an 18 wheeler we would take turns driving and snoozing.

He was running an International cab over that was identical to what I drove in the Marines. It had a 13 speed tranny with a Super 92 Detroit under the hood. Actually the cab was part of the hood and it was tricky to shift gears because you sat directly over the motor with the transmission slightly behind. To reach one of the higher gears you had to roll the shifting lever counter clockwise and push it all the way to the right and forward. It took some practice to be smooth at it.

Warren never owned a truck that wouldn’t run 80 mph, the International with the super 92 was no exception. Later on he added a White/Volvo with a caterpillar motor and that was a sweet running truck. Had a sleeper that you could actually get some sleep in which was nice when you are running day and night; the Cat motor was the 3406, smooth running with lots of power.

We headed east sometime in February and it was a hell of a winter, we had snow and slick roads in every state we crossed. Lot’s of slide offs and some big pile ups but we were able to avoid them.

At a fuel stop in Gary Indiana I was sitting in the truck waiting for Warren. I was in the drivers seat and some skinny white white guy banged on the door. I rolled the window down and he asked me if I was the guy that had just told him to F-off. I busted out laughing as it struck me just hysterical and he looked at me for a second and walked away.

How incredibly stupid can you be? I’ve known people that were shot or stabbed and killed for less. I’ve always been slow to anger and have rarely thrown the first punch so getting mad in return wasn’t my style but what if that dumb ass had knocked on the wrong truck door? Like I said I’ve known people killed for less.

We stopped in Ohio and dropped off some equipment and loaded up some more that needed delivered en-route.

I had been in the service and most of the way to Vietnam but stopped in Okinawa and had spent a little over 2 years in Southern California so I wasn’t entirely naive to the ways of the world but our trip was a good refresher course in how the World operates outside of the Western States and specifically outside the ranching and farming industries. Life style and humanity changes drastically after you cross the Mississippi east bound.

We turned around in Manchester, New Hampshire and winter was in full swing. The koala Inn that we lodged in for the night was great; after a good meal I headed to the pool.

As I stepped into the pool area there was a swimmer doing laps; was it Wonder Woman? After all it was 1984. She noticed my hesitation and said ‘come on in, the waters great and I’m done’.

We chatted for a few minutes and then she left. She was a legal secretary for a Law firm in Boston.

I swam long enough to relax and wind down thinking about Joy and our 4 kids buried in a snow drift back home and the journey we were on in a career change. The ranching industry was a huge part of my life but I wasn’t willing to continue working for people that had no loyalty to their help.

The next morning early we hit the road and was home in a few days, We covered just a little over 7000 miles that trip; Warren paid me 10 cents a mile and my expenses. Doesn’t sound like much but it was a lot of money at the time and helped us get through the winter. Later that spring I ended up working for Lee Swain at Davenport Washington for my second year as a seasonal pilot.

That cross country with Warren helped pave the way to success for me in many ways, don’t assume what isn’t and don’t take people for granted, be polite and professional at all times.

Since that winter of 1984 I have flown in 2 dozen states as a Crop Duster and a SEAT pilot, Single Engine Air Tanker, and driven an 18 Wheeler from New York to California and Florida to Washington.

I made other runs across the Nation with Warren and drove his truck full time one winter when he had back surgery. Being professional and polite without letting others push you around has served me well, and being a gentlemen and well behaved has as well.

Over half of the crews that I worked with in the Fire Fighting World were women. Most of them rated in the upper half of their crews, they were professional.

So did I actually swim with Wonder Woman? Of course not, I just figured that you wouldn’t read my story if it was,

‘Hauling Freight with Warren’.

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