Day Writing by Heather Hamilton-Maude: Ranch Rigs
Everyone is on the road right now, which makes it a good time to go over the primary types of ranch people, pickups and horse trailers found on the highway during these busy spring months.
First is the 36’x8’, triple axel, four compartment aluminum trailer pulled by a nice, dually pickup with the insert to hold extra cups of coffee. The back seat is full of sorting sticks, cotton gloves and other swag bearing his ranch name. This is the registered guy delivering bulls to all his customers. He does 24-48-hour stints hauling 20-25 bulls at a whack to half a dozen customers spread over hundreds of miles.
Second is the 30’ double axel trailer seen twice a day for a month straight every spring and fall. It’s not as nice as the seedstock rig, but is typically in good working order. This guy has been doing this for decades, the exact same way. He knows he is saving money not hiring a semi to haul his cattle, despite what his fuel and tire bills say. Plus, he doesn’t have time to fix his load out chute. Excellent person to discuss the past with, a little iffy on conversations of modern technology used in agriculture.
Third is the 24’, double compartment trailer that looks like it was dropped off the side of the Grand Canyon. It may be missing a tire, but is still rolling with the axel ratchet strapped up. These people drive a Dodge, and it’s always best to give them extra room because their rig likely has that wandering Dodge habit. Honestly, they aren’t trying to run you off the road. If nothing else breaks down unexpectedly, they have plans to buy a nicer trailer in the fall. The two extra cows that didn’t fit on the semi are in one trailer compartment, three saddle horses in the other. Be aware, they have no lights, and are speeding to get through the last town before dark.
Fourth is also a 24’, double compartment trailer that looks like it just rolled off the lot, with the exception of a little road dust. This guy drives a Chevy. His trailer is the same age as the third guy’s, but he is a meticulous about maintenance, just like his father. This is the second trailer he’s ever owned, and it is comfortably loaded with two horses and two calves that were a little young to put on the truck. It boasts a brand new spare tire and the best rubber floor mats you can get.
Fifth is the most common option you will see. It is a blend of the third and fourth rigs. Everything works, except maybe one brake light. It’s a dusty setup, thanks to the miles of gravel road it traverses between home and summer pasture or the neighbors. The trailer is made of steel to withstand gravel roads. The pickup is an extended cab or four door in order to efficiently haul a decent crew of friends, kids, grandkids, and/or canines to the end location, along with lunch for everyone.
Sixth is the 1957, 20’x6’, half top bumper pull. The man behind the wheel is 15-20 years older than the trailer. It looks unsafe because it would be if it were fully loaded. However, all he hauls these days is his horse and the occasional bovine that needs a ride from the back side of the place to the corral. It really is a favor to you that he is going 50 mph, and you can crowd him all you want while waiting to pass, but he isn’t going to speed up.
Seventh is the, “How many horses do they have squeezed in there?” outfit. Only to repeat the question when seeing the number of shadows in the pickup cab. This crew is headed to a branding. Depending on whose branding, they are most likely either a top-notch bunch of talented individuals, or they are drunk, which negates most of their talent if they had any to begin with.
Eighth is the empty trailer, with the flashers going, driving a puny 10 mph down the center of the road with someone hanging out the window waving a flag or scarf. This person is warning you that there are livestock ahead, and to slow down! Their kids are likely trailing along behind the livestock on the best horses on the place, making for a priceless package. Have some patience; a few minutes off your commute won’t hurt you.
Regardless of the type of ranch rig you come across during the next several weeks, keep in mind the people behind the wheel are hard at their job of providing you and everyone else three square meals a day. They smell when they walk behind you in the convenience store, but if you ask they will say that’s the smell of money. They’re jacking up rigs with blown out tires, loaded, on the side of the road. They’re running late, or early, and managing schedules on the fly based on the latest weather report. There is an entire business being largely operated out of that rig you just met on the highway this time of year, except for the guy driving rig six. He turned it over to his kids and will tell you he’s just the hired help these days.