The cowboy way

1955: Born April 13 in Mora, Minn.
1970: Got chauffeur’s license and started hauling livestock.
1974: Graduated from Mora High School. First son, Christopher, born.
1974-1977: Served in the U.S. Army.
1976: Married Mary Wesp.
1977: Second son, Jeremy, born.
1985: Moved back to Mora and began work as a prison guard.
1988: Drove for Pegasus Horse Transportation.
1990-1991: Worked for Minnesota Sheriff’s Youth Programs as a counselor.
1991-1994: Drove for Trinity Industries in New London, Minn.
1994: Bought a 1994 Freight-liner FLD and became an owner-operator.
1999: Bought a 1999 Sterling.
2002: Bought a 2001 Western Star.
2003: Leased to Stan Koch & Sons.

A passion for trucks and horses and a strong work ethic have fueled Terry Ringler’s 51 years, providing for his family and the life he cherishes. “All we really know is trucking and horses,” he says. “I cut my teeth on a saddle horn and the steering wheel of a truck.” Truck driving came naturally to Ringler, who grew up operating heavy equipment on his family’s farm in Mora, Minn., where he still lives. His father, Elmer “Tuffy” Ringler Sr., hauled livestock and taught Terry and his brother how to drive rigs.

“Those old boys took their driving very seriously,” Ringler says of his father’s generation. Ringler himself considers pulling a load of livestock the best way to learn to drive. “They’re not like a shrink-wrapped pallet of freight,” he says. “It teaches you respect for the truck.”

Ringler learned that lesson early, earning his chauffeur’s license before graduating from high school. He hauled livestock to South St. Paul a few times per week. On his trips back, Ringler parked his truck at the high school and showered in the locker room before class.

A self-proclaimed workaholic, Ringler says he is successful because he hauls at every opportunity, which helps him weather the inevitable slow periods that financially ruin so many owner-operators. He earns $70,000 to $80,000 per year before taxes as an owner-operator leased to Stan Koch & Sons. With his 2001 Western Star, he hauls generators through much of the country for Koch’s fleet dedicated to Cummins Power Generation.

When not trucking, Ringler cares for 18 horses at his 80-acre farm in Mora. He lives there with his wife, Mary, and their sons, Christopher and Jeremy, and their families.

An owner-operator for 13 years, Ringler has driven more than 1 million miles without a chargeable accident. He’s passing that trucking know-how to Jeremy, who also leases to Koch.

“He’s the one who really taught me how to drive and how to handle bigger equipment,” Jeremy Ringler says. When he and Christopher begged to drive as children, the boys’ father would let them drive the old pickup around the farm – but only with the horse trailer attached to it, and only in reverse. “He wanted me to take my drivers’ test when I was 16 with the truck and trailer,” Jeremy says.

Jeremy says being able to talk to a trucking veteran has helped him deal with the extended periods of time he spent away from his own family. Jeremy also is learning from his father how to maximize profit and fuel economy by getting an auxiliary power unit and driving without a heavy foot.

His father has passed on another value: being meticulous about equipment. “Take care of your equipment, and it will make money for you,” Jeremy says, quoting his father. The son says his father’s favorite saying is, “You make hay while the sun is shining.”

The elder Ringler says experience has taught him how much certain trips will cost and how to pick the right loads when he gets the chance. “I automatically know that it’s going to cost me $2,500 round trip from Minnesota to California, but I can do a round trip from Minnesota to Laredo for (a cost of) $700 and do it twice.”

Rick Lueck, Ringler’s dispatcher for more than three years, says he wishes other drivers had Ringler’s attitude. “He’ll stay out and work when there’s work to be done,” Lueck says. “He doesn’t turn down loads. He’ll go just about anywhere for us. He’ll deliver on time. We don’t have any problems with the guy.”

“I’m not an employee of Stan Koch & Sons,” Ringler says. “I’m a partner with them. I work with a great bunch of guys.”

Ringler adds that he would never have had a successful career without the support of his friends and family, especially his wife. “She has been able to support me and run the farm and still have her own career,” Ringler says.

Ringler and his family train problem horses, produce rodeos such as the Mora Stampede, and perform in Wild West shows. Ringler also announces rodeos and judges horse shows. He belongs to the Minnesota Rodeo Association and the United Rodeo Association. He and his wife work with the Minnesota 4-H Horse Project, giving clinics to schoolchildren and chaperoning tours to training facilities.

“I’ve worked in different fields, and I’ve been able to experience so many different things,” Ringler says. “But I don’t think anything compares to friends and family. I feel like I’m the richest person in the country.”

WHILE DRIVING for Pegasus Horse Transportation, Terry Ringler delivered horses to Charlie Daniels, Bo Derek, Wayne Newton and Kenny Rogers. Once, during a delivery to an actress on the TV series “Knots Landing,” he was invited onto the set.

RINGLER WAS ONCE a part-time professional rodeo bareback rider. After injuring his back, he began calf roping and steer wrestling; he now does team roping. The Ringler family founded the Mora Stampede Rodeo in their hometown seven years ago.

DO YOU KNOW an exemplary owner-operator with 15 years of trucking experience and an excellent safety record? Write to Steven Mackay, Overdrive, P.O. Box 3187, Tuscaloosa, AL 35403, or e-mail [email protected].

Honorees are considered for Trucker of the Year.