Trucking is more than just a job for James Gasper – it’s a family tradition. As a third generation trucker, James has deep roots in not only the business of trucking, but also in the history of his family and their properties. Living on the same property his great-grandparents bought in 1934, James is the fourth generation there, and it is the only place he has ever lived. With a few houses and a shop on the property, not only does James live on the ranch (along with his wife and kids, and his parents, too), but he also operates his current company, Gasper & Sons Trucking, which now has four trucks, including the beautiful blue Peterbilt seen on our cover this month, on the premises.
Growing up in the remote community of Bella Vista, CA, about ten miles northeast of Redding, near Mount Shasta, Gasper, as many know him as, can trace his family and their properties back five generations – to his great great-grandparents – who bought a large piece of property in the late 1800s in Modoc County, that came to be known as Gasper Meadow. Today, the family still owns about 40 acres there. In 1934, Gasper’s great-grandparents bought the ranch in Bella Vista that Gasper still lives on today – in fact, his parents live on it, too. And this ranch has an interesting history all its own.
The little house on the ranch, which was built in the 1800s, was originally a stagecoach stop. The driveway, in front of this little house, was the main road for decades, until the county rerouted it a bit. Now, their “driveway” is known (and listed) as Gaspers Road. Back when his great-grandparents first bought the ranch, it was a farm and a dairy, complete with orchards, hay fields and animals. Gasper’s grandfather, Richard, grew up on the ranch, in that same little house, and after working in the woods as a teenager, he became the first generation in the family to start driving a log truck in 1954.
As the next generation came up, Gasper’s dad Larry, who also grew up on the ranch, began trucking in 1981 when he was 20 years old. Starting out as a sub-hauler for other family members who had a trucking company, Larry eventually went out on his own and became an owner operator. Two years later, in 1983, James was born. Larry’s first truck was an International day cab, which later got ran off the road and rolled over into a local creek.
When Gasper was growing up, he loved to go out with his dad in the truck, but when Gasper was around 12 years old, his dad hurt his back in an accident and had to walk away from trucking for a while. With his dad sidelined and out of trucking, Gasper began to wander down another road, as well. While still in high school, he began working as a welder and such for a heating and air conditioning company, and almost went off to school to study that trade, but instead, he was offered a job with the National Park Service. At just 19 years old, Gasper found himself as the foreman of a maintenance crew, running heavy equipment. But, after a year of that, the politics of having a government job was wearing Gasper thin, so he decided to rethink his career path.
Around this same time, Gasper’s dad had just bought another truck and was getting back into the business, so Gasper got his CDL and started driving this truck for his dad – it was a 1988 short hood Peterbilt 379 with an end dump. Gasper cut his teeth and learned how to shift running up and down Dunsmuir Grade on I-5 near Mount Shasta. Not long after that, his dad bought another truck – a black 1993 Peterbilt 379 – and Gasper started driving that one. After two years of hauling dirt, Gasper realized that this was not the type of trucking he wanted to do, so he convinced his dad to sell him the 1993 Pete and a 45-foot flatbed trailer, and then began sub-hauling for Robbie Cattanach, who had a huge fleet back then, hauling lumber and building materials throughout California.
While running for Robbie, Gasper did a few things to his truck, like lowering it, adding pipes and a visor, and a lot of polishing, but the old B-model Cat under the hood was tired, and Gasper needed a rig with a newer engine. Buying a 1997 Peterbilt 379 painted a metallic brown color from Robbie, the rig had a freshly-rebuilt Cummins N-14 and ran strong. Gasper also bought a 45-foot Ravens spread-axle flatbed, and then ran this combination for a few years, until Robbie went out of business in 2008.
Over the next few years, Gasper flip-flopped several times between flat-bedding, hay trucking and cattle hauling. During this period, his truck, which started out as a 3-axle with a 262-inch wheelbase, was cut down to a 2-axle, then put back to a 3-axle with a 303-inch wheelbase, then cut back to a 2-axle again, and then made back into a 3-axle with a 300-inch wheelbase. Around 2010, he leased-on with RAM Trucking and then spent about a year there. While still at RAM, his truck had an electrical fire, while it was parked at the ranch, and burned to the ground.
Needing a truck fast, he jumped in an old cabover he had laying around and began running that. The truck was a 1980 Peterbilt 352 with a B-model Cat and a 13-speed. With Low AirLeaf suspension and a bagged front end, this was a cool little cabover, and Gasper really enjoyed driving it – for a while. Eventually, realizing that he needed a more powerful (and comfortable) truck, he purchased a used 2001 Peterbilt 379, painted Blockbuster Blue, with a 6NZ Cat 550, an 18-speed transmission, and a 63-inch standup sleeper, and continued hauling cattle with a 48-foot Wilson bull wagon. When this work began to dry up, he went back to hauling hay, and then also started running some loads for our friend James Davis of JDT out of Medford, Oregon.
Not long after that, Gasper stopped hauling hay and started running most of his loads for JDT. He stretched his 2001 Pete from 265 inches to 310 inches, so he could haul long pieces of rebar, for a big job JDT was involved with. Since then, he has added three more trucks, including the custom 2016 Peterbilt 389 seen on our cover and centerfold this month (and these pages here), a 2000 Pete 379 with a 63-inch standup sleeper, and a 1995 Pete 379 with a 36-inch sleeper, which Gasper’s dad is currently running for him (he came out of retirement to do some part-time trucking for his son).
This month’s cover truck was inspired by the 2001 Peterbilt 379 Gasper owns – well, the color, at least. The 2016 Peterbilt 389 was ordered in February of 2015 from the local Peterbilt dealer in the same Blockbuster Blue paint, along with a 48-inch flattop sleeper, a 309-inch wheelbase, a 550 Cummins, and an 18-speed transmission. Knowing he was going to add his own personal touches to the truck, Gasper ordered it as stripped-down and stock as possible – it had no visor or cab lights, a painted steel bumper, no rear fenders or mud flaps, etc. The truck was scheduled to be built in May of that same year, so Gasper and his cousin drove out to Denton, TX to pick it up. Had they arrived just 30 minutes sooner, he would have been able to drive it off the assembly line himself, but they just missed it. They loaded the rig onto Gasper’s flatbed, and hauled it home – and it was a pretty cool-looking load, with Gasper’s 2001 blue Pete hauling this matching 2016 Pete on its back.
Once they got the rig home, Gasper installed a set of stainless Hogebuilt quarter-fenders, a 12 Ga. visor, an 18-inch bumper and logger-style mud flaps. He also lowered the front end, because you gotta do that! From there, he put the truck to work. After about six months, while loading big bales of hay, one of the heavy bales fell off the squeeze and smashed into the back of Gasper’s sleeper, destroying it, and banging up the cab. Gasper took the truck to Bill Abernethy and his crew at Commercial Collision in Medford, OR where they removed the sleeper, fixed the cab, and painted the fuel and air tanks. Gasper left the sleeper there to be straightened-out and re-skinned, and took the truck home.
Since the rig was going to be down for several weeks, Gasper decided to do something to the truck that he always wanted to do – drop the body. This was no easy task. The process took several weeks, and virtually everything had to be “tweaked” a bit to make it work. But, the big job was fabricating the totally-custom cab, sleeper and hood mounts, which Gasper did himself. All in all, the body was only dropped 2.5 inches – a change so subtle, many don’t even notice it. To get the front end even lower, he built his own air-ride kit, which also forced him to install a smaller, 16-inch tapered bumper.
Once the rebuilt sleeper was put back on, Gasper added five LED cab lights with glass lenses, six-inch straight pipes with 90-degree elbows, 2-inch cab and sleeper extensions, a swan hood ornament, and a full-length polished aluminum deck plate. He also customized his battery boxes, replaced the quarter-fenders with Hogebuilt half-fenders, added a stainless panel in front of the rear suspension, and mounted air cleaner light panels, with just one light on each side. Wanting to clean up the back of the sleeper, Gasper removed the air-ride and hard-mounted the cab and sleeper to the chassis. Since all his lights have glass lenses, he wanted to complete the “glass is class” theme, so he replaced all the new-style gel-coated Peterbilt badges with old-style glass versions off a Peterbilt 359.
Moving inside the cab, Gasper has already done a lot – but he has much more planned. Featuring black ostrich seats and door panels with a diamond-stitched pattern, a billet steering wheel, an old-style shifter knob and an old-school fan mounted overhead, the interior is still a work in progress. Some of it has been painted black, but not all of it – yet. Down on the floor, Gasper had custom brass pedals made to look like the old square Peterbilt badge, along with a brass clutch pedal with his great-grandparent’s original ranch brand on it. Also, the back of the visor was painted blue, and saddle conchos with stars were modified into unique air brake knobs.
Dragging behind this beautiful blue truck is a 2016 Wilson 48’ x 102” combo spread-axle flatbed with a matching painted frame and polished rails. The entire back end of the trailer is polished, along with the landing gear supports, and, like the truck, the trailer features all LED lights with glass lenses. The trailer also sports custom boxes, a painted rear filler panel with Gasper’s logo on it, and a shiny swing plate.
Sitting atop the flatbed during the photo shoot, which we did in a turnout just above the Shasta Lake dam, was a perfect load of 4x4s supplied by Trinity River Lumber in Weaverville, CA (just west of Redding). Gasper, with help from his wife and three boys, spent several hours “straightening-up” the load the night before the shoot by tapping on the 4x4s until they were all lined-up tight and square, using a piece of steel I-beam welded to the bucket of his excavator. We certainly appreciated Gasper’s extra effort, because that load looked perfect!
Married to his wife Debbie for 13 years, the couple has three young boys – Brody (10), Colby (7) and Layne (5). The boys like to hang out in the yard and help dad work on the trucks. Taking care of four trucks has proven to be an arduous task that takes up much of Gasper’s precious home time, when he’s not out on the road. When Gasper first started his company, it was called James Gasper Trucking, but a few years ago he changed it to Gasper & Sons Trucking, to include his boys, who could be the fourth generation of truckers in the Gasper family. In addition to chasing the three boys around all day, Debbie is very involved in their company and takes care of all the paperwork and such.
As one might imagine, if a ranch has been in the family for almost 85 years and three generations of truckers have lived there, a lot of “stuff” has accumulated. Walking around their yard is like being at a “pick-a-part” for trucks and construction equipment. In addition to the mounds of old truck parts, there are also some cool old trucks laying around, like Gasper’s 1980 Peterbilt cabover (which he hopes to clean up and take to a few shows in the near future), a 1963 Needlenose Peterbilt (a project that never got finished), a 1941 Dodge Power Wagon that was used to run the water well pump on their property in Modoc County for over 40 years (and it still runs), a custom 1959 Ford F100 pickup Gasper drove back in high school, and a 1974 Chevy pickup his grandfather bought new (which Gasper still uses to run around town in), just to name a few. Seriously, if you are looking for a hard-to-find part, you might want to call Gasper and see if he has it. You just might get lucky and find what you are looking for!
Presently, Gasper and his family do not live in the old ranch house on their property, but they are currently doing an add-on and remodeling it so they can move into it. They will be the fourth generation of Gaspers to live in that little ranch house! While doing the remodel, which they are doing themselves, they found newspapers from the 1890s inside the walls. Giving us a tour of the entire property in his side-by-side ATV, Gasper showed us all kinds of cool things – his son’s fancy pig, which he was raising for the fair; the tunnel that goes under the highway which the county installed when they rerouted the road so cattle could get from one side of their property to the other without crossing the street; old bullet-ridden Forest Service signs pointing the way to Gasper Meadow; and so much more.
When asked about the future, Gasper said that he would like to grow the company a bit so he can maybe not have to drive full-time and be home more. Running the company, taking care of the trucks and driving his rig full-time, is a lot to handle. Certainly, he does not do it all alone, and he wanted to thank a few people for their help. Gasper wants to thank his parents for their help and support, everyone at Commercial Collision, including Bill and Lisa Abernethy and their son David, for the great work they do on his trucks, Oldland Distributing, for keeping Gasper’s dad and his reefer busy, James and Heather Davis at JDT for being great friends and keeping the rest of Gasper’s trucks loaded and moving, Trinity River Lumber, for the beautiful load of 4x4s for the photo shoot, David Reyes of Kustom Shine, for getting the truck ready for the shoot, and his wife and boys, for giving him a life worth living.
Although he mostly runs California, Oregon and Washington, Gasper is registered for 48 states, and often ventures out into other areas, when necessary. Obviously, trucking is a big part of his life, but James Gasper’s real passion and goal is to be a good husband and father, and to raise his boys to become hard-working, respectful, conservative, Christian men – whether they decide to drive truck, or not. Most families have their traditions, but I think you would be hard-pressed to find a family more entrenched in trucking than the Gaspers – for them, trucking is more than just a profession or a way to make money – it is truly a family tradition!