Change is constant, life is consistent.

Traveling US 287 through Texas day before yesterday was more a trip down memory lane than I had imagined.

In 1973 I travelled the US highways with my first husband, otherwise known as “my children’s father”. Cattle hauling was what he did.

Living in Amarillo, Texas at that time I was barely 19 years old and a skinny thing. I’d go along to the stockyards to watch the cattle auctions and listen as the trucking company boss talked to ranchers about shipping their cattle.

Chandler P. Rush was the name of Gene’s (my children’s father) boss. Mr. Rush was a very kind man that treated me like a daughter and I appreciated him for that.

Loading the cattle into the trailers was a noisy, dusty, dried cow poop swirling affair. Cowboys shrill whistles and barks of “Hey there” were immediately followed by pounding hoof beats of horses, bawling from cattle, a loud wooden thunk when hooves came in sharp contact with the wooden rail fences.

Dust and dried poop whirled and swirled in the air, getting sucked into throats and up noses with every inhale of a breath. Eyes would water from the particulates that flew leaving muddy tracks down my face and black dusty globs in the corners of my eyes. Blowing my nose to, literally, get all the crap out often made me squeamish at first. I did acquire the unladylike habit of hacking up phlegm speckled black with poop dust. However, I did draw the line at spitting on the ground. I always carried a wad of Kleenex to clear my throat and mouth.

The men loading the cattle in the trailers had electric prods. Long fiberglass sticks with two copper nubs on the business end of the stick. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I got in the way of a prod and been zapped on an arm or hand. Followed by a yelp from me and a very hurried “Sorry ma’am” from the person on the other end of the prod.

Counting cattle going through the chute into Gene’s trailer was my job. He would tell me how many would be going in from each cut the cowboys made and I had to double check the count as the cattle ran into each other, tried to jump over one in front, or find a way to turn around in the narrow chute to get the heck out of there. All the fleeing steer did was create a bottleneck and halt the progress.

All kinds of bawling, yelping, horse snorting, whistling, muttered curses, outright shouts of swear words, arms flailing, men jumping atop the fences to slap the head or rear of a steer and the forever chocking poop dust kicked about.

Inside the trailer were two men that kept count as well. They would shout out how many entered or to get out of the way as one steer turning to run back out the trailer door turned into three.

Cattle hooves stomping on the metal deck of the trailer as they were loaded added to the deafening noise. The trailer creaked and groaned as it rocked back and forth during loading lending another sound to the raucous air.

Crusted with dust all over my face, grit in my hair, dried poop down my blouse and settling into my bra, shoes filled with dirt and bunched up socks added to my discomfort.

Loading time was over and it was time to drive over the scale to get weighed. The truck drivers were paid by the mile and by the pound. The starting weight was stamped on a small ticket the driver kept in a shirt pocket.

Once weighing was done then it was time to get on the road to deliver the cattle as quickly as possible. Weight loss of the cattle begins with the first one to urinate then defficate.

In those days cattle were crammed into the trailers leaving little room for them to move around. The floors would get slippery with all the poop and pee and at least one steer would fall. When that happened it was not uncommon for the rest of the cattle to stumble and tramp over the fallen steer. Sometimes ending in death which resulted in a dock of several hundred dollars from the driver’s pay.

Guess who got to climb the outside of the trailer to peer through the holes at fuel stops to check on the cattle? You guessed right. Me. I have been pooped on, peed on, stepped on, and licked more times than I can count.

Back then showers for women in truck stops was unheard of. I got to bathe in the sinks of women’s bathrooms. Shaving my legs was a trial. Hoisting a foot up into a sink to get the job done then do a one footed dance on the wet slippery floor while hanging onto anything for balance was a trick. I pulled at least one sink free of the wall at one truck stop and feared retribution each time we had to go back to that truck stop.

Trying to keep clean was a major chore for me. Not to mention the stunned stares and glares I suffered as other female motorists came in to use the facilities and I stood at the sink all but naked.

I did this for almost two years and had enough of it.

Today there are showers for women that are private and well stocked. When Joe and I began driving we would request a couples shower which was larger and accommodated the two of us.

Fuel prices in the 1970’s was about $.38 a gallon. Today it is well over $3.00.

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I still climb around on the equipment and get sweaty, dusty, and greasy. The luxury of a hotel room each night beats the heck out of the inconveniences of my past. Driving is no longer done until I drop from fatigue and I have my best friend with me.

Driving a truck is what I do for a living. Getting to see the sights of this great country is a bonus.

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Whatever you do for a living, do it well and to the best of your ability. When you look back on where you have been you can be proud of who you are as a person.

Leslie

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About Message In A Fold

I am an over the road truck driver in Drive-Away Transport part of the year, and the sole bookkeeper of this operation the other part of the year. I do a lot of whining until I can get in my craft room and play with paper and glue. View all posts by Message In A Fold

11 responses to “Change is constant, life is consistent.

  • gardenpinks

    Reading about your cattle hauling days brought back memories of when we turned our hands to anything that brought in a few pounds and one of those jobs was helpin to straw down barns for the calves. Feet would be stomped on, cow pats (poop) were to avoided wherever possible or not as the case may be and the amount of times coats were slobbered over were too numerous to count. A cow’s tongue is surprisingly rough too! I love their big wet noses though 🙂 Chasing pigs around though was another matter! The local farm where we helped out…although Rod did most of the work there ….kept cattle, sheep and pigs and I helped a few times at lamb or piglet weighing times. Now if a lamb escapes and you need to hase it around and catch it there are plenty of handholds but there are no handholds on a pig and boy can they run and do body swerves and they have pointy little trotters that hurt when they stand on a foot or lash out and they squeal fit to bust too.

    I also remember a winter’s day when Trudi was about 3 or 4, we had an old VW Beetle we used to go across the fields and collect wood. This particular day Trudi went with her dad in the VW to fetch some wood that Rod had previously sawn up. The wood was at the top of quite a steep bank and Rod stopped the car across the bank, out got Trudi and her booted feet slipped in a huge cow pat and down the bank she went through this cow pat. Her dad brought her home stinking, I refused her entry to the house and stripped her off on the doorstep 🙂 She had on boots, thick tights, knickers, vest, long sleeved t shirt, sweater and thick winter coat – that cow poop was on everything including her body! What a mess and it all had to be washed by hand – no washing machine for me back then although there was plenty of hot water for a bath for Trudi. As you can imagine I was not best pleased especially as cow poop could stain fabrics too. Oh the joys of country living 🙂 I do recall the air around was very blue with my swear words.

    Thanks for the memories Leslie – yours and mine LOL

    Love and hugs
    Lynn xx

    • Message In A Fold

      My goodness what a rich well of memories came to mind. I so can relate to the piglet squeals and the way they can slither away so quickly staying out of reach.

      Poor Trudi. The indignity of hurtling down a steep incline aided by nasty cow pats and being covered head to toe in that awful stuff. I bet Rod nearly lost his heart watching Trudi plummet then knowing she was unharmed and only smelly had a good deal of comforting to do on the ride home.

      You certainly had your work heaped that day. Hand washing large garments is difficult to do. I can attest to that. Did you do the “Happy Dance” the very first day your home had a washing machine installed?!

      Thanks for lending your memories to this post. I enjoyed them.

      Love you – Leslie

  • Maureen Mathis

    Picturing you ripping that sink off the wall was funny at first, but I can only imagine the fear you must have felt of what was sure to follow, as you knew that at least one person would be royally ticked. You have shared and bit and alluded to alot as I’ve followed your blog and videos for several years, and I know that your mistakes have not always been met with grace and forgiveness, I am so sorry that you have journeyed through painful times and wish that I could have been your friend back then to lean on and encourage you. But your sharing of these stories now reveal the peace that you have in your heart now, and that is comforting.

    Somehow, I bet Crapazoid is NOT the phrase that flew from your mouth when the sink broke away from the wall! See, EVEN your cursing has become creative! You’ve come a long way, baby, and I’m proud to call you my friend!

    Oh, and that picture of you driving is SO totally wrong – you’re not holding your I Phone camera up to take pictures!

    Love you!

    Maureen

    • Message In A Fold

      Maureen, your words have touched me and I so appreciate the loving embrace you extend through them. Having you as my friend now is the bonus I’ve been gifted with. Thank you for being my friend all these years.

      Plus, thank you for the gut busting laughter I had when I read your last bit. Not the correct picture of me driving because I’m not taking pictures!

      Love you my Friend – Leslie

  • Maureen Mathis

    s/b “shared a bit”, not “and”! Typed too fast and didn’t proof my work!

  • Pati Mishler

    I am so glad you have such good friends keeping up with you in ( in this and that ), good friends are hard to find, good ones stay around through thick and thin. Your memory of the sink you were standing at each time, brought to mind in the trailer court that our mother and stepfather lived in. Course in the small trailer they lived in at the time they had no bathroom, they had to go into the trailer courts public restroom to shower and whatnot. I remember staying with them one day, i was visiting, had to use the restroom, i have to do WHAT, i have to go WHERE? Off i went to the public R.R. That was quite a chore to do everything, out in the open, hopeing that no one would come in a see me, Taking care of myself, OMGOSH!! GOOD GRIEF!! Was so glad when our mother and stepfather upped to a bigger trailer, visiting was a bit easier then. 😀

    So glad those days are OVER!! And life is quite a bit easier now, thank GOD things change, lol.

    From where WE came from, you are doing GREAT!! Love you sis, tell Joe i said the same, take care, will be following your great escapades, lol. P

    • Message In A Fold

      OMG! I so remember that toilet inside the shower. How did it go? You had to step on a pedal to let water in the bowl first, then tend to business, then do something else with the pedal to empty the bowl. And to take a shower you had to straddle the toilet while showering.

      What a crazy set up that was!

      Sis, I too am glad all of that is behind us and we have families of love and hugs instead of anger and violence. Praise God.

      And yes, I have been blessed with some fantastic friends that I appreciate so very much. You included.

      Love you Sis

  • Pati Mishler

    I was here getting ready for work and remembered that i hadnt checked to see if you read my comments from yesturday. I so enjoy reading what the others say and your comments back to them, so wondering if you had any memories of those ( good ole day’s, way back then) lol, whew!! ( as we pretend to wipe away the sweat off our foreheads ). I had to real quick check back on the computer to see what you had to say, and then giggle at your comments, yes, as they say. Those were the days, lol. And thanks, 😀 for including me, lol as a friend as well as sister. P

    • Message In A Fold

      I’m just so thankful we somehow mended the rift and you and I are back to being sisters and friends.

      “We’ve come a long way, Baby” and looking briefly in the rear view mirror is good to keep us grounded in the here and now with the blessings we have.

      Thank you Sis for choosing to be back in my life once again 🙂

      Love you.

  • Pati Mishler

    Time changes all things, i see how great you are at taking pictures, yes, Maureen, i agree with you, my sis picture is wrong,lol, she isnt taking pictures as she drives. 😀 And your welcome. It is so cool to see you taking your card making on the road, it is your job, the truck driving, but, your passion, card making, so combining both, (That show’s REAL talent ) you go girl. We will be keeping more in touch as best we can.

    LOL, i see, you have in a way, come on to my side of the world, teehee, you are NOW working with ( flowers, teehee, and of course GLITTER!!, knew i could do it, happy dance, happy dance, ) tee hee. (as i continue to giggle) Love you too sis.

    • Message In A Fold

      You “Happy Dance” all you want. Just don’t sprain an ankle 😀

      You crack me up!

      Thank you Sis for the compliment on my photos. If you only knew how many get deleted because of being out of focus, jittery, and the fool thing I wanted to get a shot of disappeared too fast and I got a mirror instead 🙂

      Sis, it is good to be back in touch with you again. I will continue to do so as time allows.

      Love you Sis.

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