For those that may not have heard the term, catwalking is what we used to call “riding a wheelie” … though I do not know any of the current colloquialisms for such a feat … basically it means riding on only the back tire(s) up or down the road. I have had a few ten wheelers up on five wheels, although never by choice, and I have seen some amazing feats and displays of skills I could never dream of possessing at the trucker and heavy equipment rodeos, but sometimes, out in the real world, you get to see sites that, despite the scenario, are every bit as impressive as anything you would ever see at a show.
Logging is one of the few ways to make more than just a decent living back home. If you own the means to run the entire operation from going in and clearing the timber, to dragging it down to the mill and on through to the markets, you can actually get up there pretty close to rich … at least by local standards.
As such, a lot of the people whose families have been in the timber industry for many a year, have built up quite a nice selection of equipment and supplies.
Among those are a great many brand new Western Star, Brockworth, International and other Logging Trucks that are all shiny and new and make for a real site cutting through the ruts that comprise most of those old logging roads … even coming down or going up only so far as the base camp for the logging outfit.
Most of the guys I grew up with were, like us, fair to middlin’ poor to begin with, and were not likely to have any rich relatives who would set us up in any real kind of business. We just kind of had to get by and do the best we could with what we had, which is by and large what we did.
One of our friends actually managed to get a good enough deal on an old wrecked logging truck, and had asked my brother to help him to repair it and get it road worthy … which my brother would inevitably do, if for no other reason than simply to have something to do to while away some hours.
Add in the potential for good grub, beer and maybe even some cash, and there was no way he was going to turn down the work … which naturally meant that I would be tagging along as well.
Most of the time we would wait for our friend to purchase a bunch of parts, and we would go over and help him to assemble everything. However, when my brother ran across an old 460 … a great big Ford Engine at the junkyard … that he could get for virtually nothing, the deal was just too good to pass up … and now we went to work rebuilding that engine.
Well … it would actually be much more accurate to say that my brother went to work rebuilding the engine … but I did do right well in my role as gopher … going for this or that … and playing a pretty mean game of “Step-N-Fetchit” for him.
I have absolutely no idea what that engine had come out of, but it was a runner and had been built up, bored out, balanced and … why anyone had gotten rid of it I never would understand, but apparently someone with more money than brains … and yeah, those people often move up to the mountains, thinking we should all be graced by their mere presence … had apparently just seen fit to pay someone to get it out of their yard … and my brother happily obliged.
Now I would never be so brazen as to believe that the old Ford would have placed in any real drag race, but all you had to do was look at the gas pedal and that old truck would run faster than a long-tailed cat getting away from a room full of rocking chairs.
It would be pretty hard on the brakes through those mountain roads we knew, but when it came to hauling logs up and down those old roads, loaded or empty, that old truck would make the trip unimpeded each and every time, no matter what the condition of the roads that had been built.
When it came time for our friend to take it on its first day of work, for some reason he took me along instead of my brother, but that was probably because, while I could never fix an engine if I had to, I was a right better hand when it came to logging and general labor … for the most part … though even there my brother had his strengths.
The old CB radios in those days were a lot less sophisticated than they would become after making their way into the movies, in much the same way as blue jeans had1. Still, we were going to be running a truck on some treacherous roads, and it would be frequently necessary to communicate with the other drivers in the area to make certain that we could avoid any unpleasant encounters on what passed for a road, that may ultimately end up being a truly fatal mistake for one driver or the other … or occasionally for both.
Thus it came to pass that we both sat there in the seat, listening to all those guys in their fancy rigs laughing about that beat-up and raggedy old Ford coming up the mountains … at least for a spell.
The last corner heading up into the log yard was a doozie and I would not doubt for a minute that the dozer operator had been about half lit when he carved it out. It was plain to see where all of those other trucks had needed to literally cut up into the bank off the side of the road merely to get around that corner … and my buddy told me to buckle up … even though I had always made it a point to use my seat belt long before there was ever any law in place requiring such actions.
Whether driving or riding, I have discovered it is always better to remain firmly in place, no matter which way the vehicle would go … and with a hillbilly driving, there just is never any real telling about where it will ultimately go to begin with.
My buddy got on the microphone and proceeded to collecting bets … and as came up around, he hit the bank same as all of the other trucks had needed to, but rather than slow that old Ford down, he decided to take everything up a notch … thankfully at least, he was a good enough driver to pull it off … not very many are.
He had lined up his sights just right it would seem, and as we peaked on the road bank, he punched that old Ford in the arse and lifted the front end straight up off the ground.
We rode all the way in to the log yard on nothing but the back tires, and danged if he did not keep her up there in the air for all the world like some dancing queen, until he dropped her down straight between a brand new Brockworth and a Western Star, with the front tires less than an inch from the log serving as a curb stop.
That old Ford log truck may never have won any beauty contests, but you can bet your bottom dollar, when those rich boys saw that old Ford headed up the road, they would step aside and tip their hats as she passed!
1It may be difficult to imagine in the world today, but there was a time when only the poor people wore blue jeans … and were often publicly shamed and teased for having to wear them, especially in “the big city”. Then one day, the cowboy was popularized in the movies and next thing you know, blue jeans tripled in price and us poor kids had to move “up” to corduroy slacks for a while. Until the Citizens Band or CB radios were popularized by American movie culture, they were relatively inexpensive, not overly fancy and pretty much relegated to the trucking industry.