One bull hauler’s mid-1980s test

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Don Christner cow hauler

The 1979 Kenworth W900 — pictured above hooked to a 1976 Barrett cattle trailer — is the truck Don Christner was running as a company driver in 1985 when the story below took place.

Before that, as a 19-year-old in 1984 he took his maiden turn in the KW for Barger Grain Co. out of Wauneta, Neb., as he posted to the Reader Rigs gallery at this link recently.

“I have a good handful of photos of this truck working from that time,” Christner adds. The above photo was “taken at Poky Feeders near Scott City, Kan., probably 1988.”

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know Christner’s been running tank more recently. Enjoy the story of a lesson learned, of sorts, from his early days trucking below:


The Test
It was 10 o’clock, I was right on time at the T-Junction Truck Stop in Imperial, Neb.  I’d been sent there to meet two other cow truck drivers. I didn’t know the name of the ranch where we were headed to load cattle. “Just follow them out,” my boss had said.

Don ChristnerDon Christner

However, the parking lot was empty.

The cashier inside told me that those two guys had been there and she saw them heading out to the north. Back out in the truck, I sized up my situation. I’d been ditched! This was the days before cellphones, and I knew my boss was away from the phone. Should I just go back to the yard, park the truck, and go home? No, I’d be done trucking if I did that. Well, I was young, only 19. I talked too much, didn’t know what I was talking about, and drove too fast. The drivers I was to meet up with were well seasoned and highly experienced.

They’d ditched me and I kind of had it coming. Still, if I couldn’t solve this it would be fatal for me, they knew that too!

The Kenworth seemed to grow much larger as I slowly pulled out. I had nothing to go on except to head north on Nebraska Highway 61 following in the direction the cashier said the other trucks had headed. My heart was up in my throat and my senses were at full attention.

I must not fail!

Slowing at every intersection I looked hard for signs of truck traffic.  After about seven miles I thought I saw the tracks of semis turning wide in the dust. I turned off too, heading east on the gravel. The road curved around and after several miles I saw the tracks of semis turning north again. This time I was sure I was right! Several more miles north cresting a hill I saw cattle pens with a herd of cattle, cowboys with horses, and two familiar cattle trucks that had ditched me back in Imperial.

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They gave each other a surprised glance as I drove up. They never said anything, quiet and hauled up â€” I never said a word either. We went to work each taking a turn backed into the chute loading the cattle.

The cowboys were unaware of the conversation not taking place. Most importantly I had passed the test! At least that day. That was near on to 30 years ago.

There have been many more tests of all different sorts since then, some I didn’t get through quite so gracefully. “There but for the grace of God go I!” –Don Christner, Cheyenne, Wyo.