Mary Frances Hooks, Cattle hauler
CB Handle: Christmas
“I’m originally from Detroit, Michigan. I’ve lived pretty much all over the country. I’ve lived in Texas, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky. All over. My handle is pretty simple. I was born Christmas Eve and was named Mary.”
LHP: How did you get into trucking?
Christmas: “I fell in love with it when I was a little girl. My stepfather, he had a couple Diamond Reo cabovers. Hauled grain and potatoes around Michigan…. I was in awe of the way people treated him — the way he was respected and looked up to. I wanted that. If I didn’t get to go with him because of school or whatnot, I’d throw a fit ’til I slept in the truck out in the driveway [laughs].”
LHP: How did you get into hauling cattle?
Christmas: “‘Cause they told me I couldn’t [laughs]. Seriously, I was told, ‘You’re a woman by yourself. Nobody’s gonna’ load you. You know. Nobody’s gonna hire you. Blah, blah, blah. I’m still doing it 26 years later, and most of them that said that have been out of the business for a long time. To tell you the truth I was scared sh**less [laughs]. I had no clue what I was up against. I just knew I was told I couldn’t do it, and I was gonna prove ’em wrong…. I was gonna do it.
“I still haul for some of the same people … who remember me from 20, 25 years ago. Back then you could buffalo your way in and out of stuff a heck of a lot easier than you can today [laughs]. Back in ’93, ’94, I was still pulling a chicken wagon…. When I walked into Ross Donahue’s office at D and D Cattle out of Speerman, Texas, I was five foot eight and I weighed about 125 pounds. Ross didn’t even want to admit he was Ross when I first walked in the door. It was a deer-in-the-headlight look. But some of his drivers, and people who were leased on, said ‘Put her in a truck, Ross.’ That was the first job I ever had hauling cattle. I had a brown flattop with a four-and-a-quarter Cat and a 15 over. I learned a lot from a lot of people over the years. A lot. There’s people out there in Texas …, most of them gone today, [who] are credited for whom and what I’ve become today. Without them, I never would have made it.
“This man I pull for now, Mike Hatcher, I’ve been with him for seven years. Lola over there, the little black thing, was bought specifically for me. Mike ordered it…. It’s a glider kit. The company put it together by my specs. My choice of everything. It was bought straight for me. It’s a 2014 black flattop . It’s got the 6nz 550 Cat in it. 3:36 rear ends with an 18. It’s 290-inch wheel base. The computer will tell you she’s spec’d out at 126. I haven’t quite had it that fast. It’s a long cool drink of of water, I promise you. She’s all lit up green underneath at night. Her name is Lola because she walks like a woman and talks like a man. From the turbo to the mitre, she’s straight. There’s no resonator, no nothin’ — seven-inch straights. She talks just like a man. She’s got that bark, I promise. [Laughs]
“I pull a 53-foot Merritt Gold Line, 102 tandem axle, with only an 18-inch step under it. I have trouble getting in and out of places, but one of the buyers said, ‘Yeah, you may have trouble [getting in and out of places], but just think of how good you’ll look going down the road.’ [Laughs]
“I’ve been with a few companies over the years. I’ve been out of the industry several times, too. I’ve quit and said I’m not going back. I quit one time for about four and a half years, and … right back in the cow truck. My ego won’t let me get away from cattle. I can’t picture myself pulling any other wagon down the road. It’s who I am, bottom line. You seen the sign on the back of my wagon didn’t you?”