On the road again…and again
The first truck in the Linch fleet was a 1955 GMC, single axle, six cylinder, pulling a 40-foot straight trailer. “I bought it in 1965. It had a little cab and that little six cylinder motor took forever to get anywhere,” says Don Linch, Belle Fourche, South Dakota. Even before making that first purchase, he hired out to drive others’ trucks, he said. “I hauled more hay than anything else back then and hauled a lot of it into the sale barns in Sturgis and Belle Fourche,” says Linch, adding “I also hauled cattle in a 40-foot trailer too. I had one of the fastest trucks around here and it ran 52 mph! Most of them didn’t have enough power to run even that fast then. If we got 100,000 miles in a year that was pretty good. Of course it took a lot more hours to get them too!”
Linch recalls the trucking life as being a pretty tough 50 years ago. Roads were bad in and out of the ranches and farms, and all the hay was in little square bales. “Having to chain up several times a day was terrible. We had to stack the bales on and off both and it was a lot of work. People talk about how good it was back years ago, but it all wasn’t,” recalls Linch.
“The first trip I ever took with the big straight trailer I had a bull nose Kenworth with a 200-horse diesel and me and another guy headed out with about 20 head of cows to Canton, South Dakota. It was exactly 24 hours there and back and we never shut it off. Now we can do that same trip in 12 hours with three times as many cattle!” says Linch.
“In about ’67 or ’68 I got a ’56 Freightliner that I pulled a 40-foot pot with. It had decks,” says Linch. “Those were good years with the people we dealt with and trucked with. Nobody had enough trucks then so everybody had to get together to do a big job. There’d be four different companies on the same job and they all worked together and got along. It was a lot of fun and we were good friends.”
The customers are who Linch credits with making the trucking business worthwhile. “Our local customers have been friends for years and we still haul for them, but most of our hauling is from out of the area as the long hauls are what makes us a living,” states Linch. “We haul strictly cattle, no sheep, buffalo or horses!”
Linch Trucking is a family operation. In the early years when the Linch’s two sons were small, Kay Linch was an integral part of the operation, according to son Travis. “My mom cleaned many a trailer in her day! She kept all the trucks cleaned too. When Dad got home, he’d sleep and she’d go clean out the trailer. She’s a big part of it,” says Travis Linch, “She did all the books for years and still keeps track of the miles.”
“I’m proud of my folks. I’m sure thankful that Dad started it all or I wouldn’t be where I am now,” says Travis. “Dad has always been the pioneer of the big trailers in an industry where you have to haul the weight to make the money. I’m sure pleased to be where I am and I’m really proud of Dad for all he’s done. He started the big trailer thing in the early ‘80s when he got the first triple axle, then in ’87 he got the first four axle and in ’05 he got the first five axle.”
“My brother Glade is always willing to pitch in when he’s needed even though he doesn’t drive, so it’s a real family deal,” says Travis. He doesn’t try to predict whether his own sons, ages 3 and 5 will partake in the trucking enterprise someday, but says, “I’m glad to be a part of a family business like this.”
“Our big trailers aren’t allowed everywhere, but they’re the way we can make it work out here. The trucking business has changed a lot since Dad started. Everyone is pretty independent,” says Travis, explaining “Used to be a guy had one truck and ran it. There are still a few but mostly the companies are bigger.”
From those early days with one truck, Linch Trucking has not stopped progessing. The family now has six trucks with 2 five axle and 4 four axle trailers. The trucks have 550 horses under the hood and the trailers are a brawny 53 feet long. Three gravel trailers are also utilized in the summer time if the cattle trailers aren’t on the road.
Linch Trucking looks to be pioneering the cattle hauling business for more years to come and next time you see a big four or five axle cattle pot with Linch on the front, give a wave, as they’ve been our friends for a long time.
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News