Maxie Satterfield of the Terrell, Texas, TravelCenters of America location has been working a truck stop counter most of the years since 1948.
I first met Maxie eight years ago, when I started driving for the outfit I’m with now. That was my thing, then: load up at Fort Worth and stop in at Terrell just to give ol’ Maxie a hard time. Some of the exchanges with the pack I was running with could turn flat epic, with the septuagenarian Arizona transplant not skipping a beat. I can’t remember a time when she didn’t say “Get out of the way!” before setting down your coffee or water.
Or: “Sit down, stop that!”
Somehow it all felt like home. If you had a friend who got loaded before you, he might just wait up for you at Terrell. With the advent of ELDs, I hadn’t seen Maxie in three or four years. It seemed that stopping for a meal in the middle of the day was no longer feasible with the clock-in-the-box ticking away. We got lucky, though, after the Great American Trucking Show last month with a Sunday evening load out of the metroplex. We made it to Terrell just in time to score a parking space, and stumbled on in the next morning for breakfast.
“I like aggravating truck drivers.”
“I started helping my mother when I was ten. She had the Rosetta’s Rocking Arm [truck stop] in Tuscon. We had some good ones, then. One of the drivers came in and said, ‘You know, I think I’ll just go ahead and steal her.’ Mother said. ‘Sure, go ahead. Take her.’ I was a little hellcat then. He threw me over his shoulder and started to leave with me. I started hitting, kicking and biting him. He set me right down.
“Mother said, ‘See, I told ya.’ Mom had four different truck stops.
“It bothered me, the way they would aggravate me. Mother said. ‘You’ve got to learn to give it right back to them.’
“They still come in and ask me to marry them. I just say, ‘I’ve had four husbands. Three died of mushroom poisoning. One died from a club to the head. He wouldn’t eat the mushrooms.’ I like aggravating truck drivers.
“My daughter tried to give me one of those things that tell you how far you walk. I didn’t want any part of that.
“When I was thirteen, [singer-songwriter] Slim Whitman was playing at a bar right next to Mother’s truck stop. I snuck in to see his show. He came by [the truck stop] to eat after his show, and gave me an autographed picture of himself. Someone stole it. I never saw it again.
“I had my own truck stop [near Tuscon] for a while. I got up every morning at four and made six pies. I ran it myself until nine in the morning, then my sister’d come in. Her husband wouldn’t let her come in early. I closed at nine; went home at 10, after the cleaning was done. When they put up that interstate, the trucks couldn’t get to me. They had to turn around and come back. We had a few locals, but that was it.
“I married a dumb truck driver and drove a truck myself, from ’83 to ’90. I met him at a bar. I used to love to dance — now I just sit on my heinie and watch TV. We moved [to Texas] to work for Dallas Carriers, pulling a dry box. We busted up in Tool (Texas). I was working little places here and there in Tool, then my son-in-law said I should come in here and talk to Allen. Allen asked if I’d ever worked in a truck stop. I said, ‘Since I was ten.’ He said, ‘When can you start?’ I said anytime. He said, ‘Be here at 6 a.m. tomorrow.’
“It was a Rip Griffin’s then. I knew Rip and his son, both. They were very nice. I’ve been here for 21 years now.”
Read more from “Long Haul Paul” Marhoefer’s Faces of the Road series of interviews/oral histories via this link.