Channel 19

Todd Dills

‘Left Lane Gang’ celebrates right in S.C.

| August 31, 2013
The South Carolina "Association of Large Car Operators," or the "Left Lane Gang," pictured at their last, July 6, 2013, gathering.

The South Carolina “Association of Large Car Operators,” or the “Left Lane Gang,” pictured at their last, July 6, 2013, gathering.

Need some ideas for a Labor Day gathering for the ages? Look no farther than the South Carolina Association of Large Car Operators, less a business association than a gathering of scads of fellow drivers who’ve now had two major annual gatherings for fellowship, sharing memories and all-in-all just general good times. 

Jimmy Ardis (left) commonly hosts many of the S.C. operators at his home in Pinewoods, S.C., in less formal gatherings that the now annual barbecue.

Jimmy Ardis (left) with his father. Ardis commonly hosts many of the S.C. operators at his home in Pinewood, S.C., in less formal gatherings than the now annual barbecue.

Thirty drivers (with family) among the group of about 70 based in and around Sumter, S.C., got together July 6 this year at owner-operator Jimmy “Monkey Gouger” Ardis’ Pinewood, S.C., home, in the “Marina Del Rey” (his backyard, and longtime readers will remember Ardis from this 2012 story, telling the tale of how he secured a federal exemption related to his missing left arm in order to begin hs driving career). Ardis calls the “Left Lane Gang” group “just one big family,” simply put. At a certain point in the gathering he looked out over the assembled and remarked to one of the longtime drivers that “there’d never been a cross word between any of us.”

Billy Cockerill (center) with Ardis (left) and J.B. Hodge -- Cockerill is the most senior member of the S.C. operators, with 60 years of driving in his side-view.

Billy Cockerill (center) with Ardis (left) and J.B. Hodge — Cockerill is the most senior member of the S.C. operators, with 60 years of driving in his side-view.

All told, the day brought the benefit of 866 cumulative years of driving to the conversations among members. The crew, including now Cargill-leased Ardis, also could count untold “millions of miles driving and numerous safe driving awards from the different companies represented over the years,” Ardis says. “This was the cream of the crop of drivers” in South Carolina, “the people that we mentioned in conversations who taught us the rules of the road — this was a special day for all of us to remember the good old days gone by.” 

Ardis talks of the old local hangout Frank’s Truckstop, at U.S. 15 and 521 in Sumter — “back in the 1950s and ’60s,” Ardis says, “it was a big deal to stop there and get a steak.” Frank’s, once a Sumter icon, is “now reduced to rubble and just a memory gone on by.”

And most importantly at the event: “A 140-lb. pig, 25 chickens and plenty of fixins.”  

Ardis wanted to thank all members of the group publicly, including the following folks he listed with their years on the road included. I’m happy to help him do it. It’s great to see drivers getting together like this, continuing on the old traditions of camaraderie on the road and back at home. 

The following drivers are present in the big group picture above, including Ardis, with 37 years of experience himself:
Vernon “Coppertop” Hudgins — 25 years
Clarence “Squeezer” Smith — 45 years
J.B. “Toothpick” Hodge — 44 years
Mark “Woodstock” Woods — 26 years
W.E. Horton — 27 years
Sammy Bryant — 10 years
Tommy Hancock — 37 years
Danny Truesdale — 43 years
Ricky Huffman — 41 years
R.B. Rodgers — 47 years
Steve Fowler — 34 years
Reggie Winstay — 40 years
Jerry Carter — 35 years
Bill Cockerill — 60 years
George Jackson — 21 years

Not present in the picture:
Robin Clark — 28 years
Bubba Livingston — 33 years
Pee Wee Mitchell — 43 years
W.M. Sheppard — 21 years
C. Hazelton — 40 years
Bobby Ives — 40 years
Bill Hudson — 30 years
Mike Staley — 35 years
Ricky Irick — 30 years
Eddie Baker — 28 years
Bobby Haynes — 41 years

The next gathering for the S.C. operators? Last weekend of September, 2014. Stay tuned. And have a great Labor Day weekend…

  • “Wink”

    That is something I have always wanted to do with the old drivers I know from my local area in Virginia,the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula.It’s really good to see these guys in South Carolina stay in touch and get together.For a lot of us these chances won’t be here forever and It makes me happy to see them taking advantage of their opportunity.I hope I can learn from this and hopefully start something like this myself in Virginia,even though I live in Louisiana now.Old(even new) truckers all over the U.S.A. should be doing this.Yours truly,Robert “Crazy Cat” Smith

  • Robert “Wink” Smith

    I talked about hoping to do this before its too late and already it is for one of the best real truckers ever to drive a large car,Got word that “Captain Jack” Davy passed away Monday September the 9th.Jackie,I have a big hole in my heart man and I will never forget you and all the good times we had trucking and being friends.You will never be forgotten. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.