For this month, I thought I would deviate from writing about my usual insurance-related topics, and instead talk about some famous bull haulers from my region of Central California. Every year in the month of September, the city of Oakdale, CA (known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World”) and the Oakdale Cowboy Museum pays tribute to its western heritage by recognizing a local pioneer, business or ranch that has made the area, around Oakdale, one of the leading producers of beef and dairy cattle in the entire nation. This year, the museum, at its 15th Annual Dinner & Auction Fundraising Event, will honor the modern-day cattle drive and four of its early pioneers.
It’s been quite some time since the cowboy has traded in his well-used horse and saddle for the comfort of a modern air-conditioned cab and a powerful big rig for the movement of cattle from point A to B. The modern-day “cowboy” no longer has to sleep on the ground, eat beans from the back of a chuck wagon, or wait until the end of the trail to take a bath. Today’s “cowboys” drive comfortable trucks, sleep in well-appointed bunks, and can enjoy a hot meal almost anytime they want – but that doesn’t make them any less tough or independent than the cowboys of yesteryear.
California is the nations leading agricultural state, generating over $36 billion a year. Livestock accounts for 27% of the gross, or $10.6 billion. The constant movement of cattle and other livestock is paramount to the economics of the industry. For beef, the animals are moved from the valley to the hills and back, following the feed source or the market. The dairy industry has its own protocol. Animals are bought and sold, and eventually taken to market after their milk producing years have stopped.
The movement of cattle requires not only knowledge of the trucking industry, but physical knowledge of the animal. The majority of those that haul and move cattle have a farm or ranch background, giving them added insight to the animals’ well-being. In today’s environment of regulations and public scrutiny, hauling cattle has become a science – and an industry all its own. Four cattle-hauling pioneers have been chosen to be honored this year by the Oakdale Cowboy Museum: Ed Rocha, Pierre Hegoas, Fritz Hummer and Allan Freitas Sr. Each of these four men and the companies they represent have a long history, and their impact on the community (and the state) still continues to this day.
Back in 1924, John Rocha started trucking under the name John N. Rocha Transportation. In 1952, Ed Rocha, a senior in high school, went into business with his dad under the name Rocha Livestock Transportation. In 1963, Ed went out on his own and started Ed Rocha Livestock Transportation, which continues today as Rocha Valley Enterprises. Ed is known for his fleet of historic cattle haulers, dating back to the 1940’s. In fact, Ed and one of his old cattle trucks, a perfectly-restored 1954 Kenworth Model 825 Bullnose cattle truck and trailer, was featured on the September 2005 cover of 10-4 Magazine!
Pierre Hegoas got his start in the trucking business in the 1950’s, hauling feed for a dairy in Southern California. When the dairy moved its operations from Southern California to Oakdale in 1958, Pierre and his family followed the work. In 1965 he bought his first truck – a 1959 GMC bobtail that could only haul 10 head of cattle at a time. Pierre Hegoas and Sons Livestock Transportation is still operating today, in the capable hands of Pierre’s sons, Mitchell and Dennis.
In 1958, after serving in the United States Army, Fritz Hummer returned to his home in Iowa. Tired of taking orders from others, Fritz wanted to be his own boss. At the age of 24, he took $500 from his savings and bought his first truck – a used International with “quite a few miles on it.” In 1964, while on vacation in California, Fritz and his wife Dorothy made the decision to relocate to Burlingame, California. They went back to Iowa, sold everything, and returned to California. In 1965, Fritz purchased a brand new International cabover for $16,000 – the Bill of Sale still hangs in his office. After 54 years in the business and now dealing with some health issues, Fritz put his son Douglas in charge so that Hummer Trucking could continue running “business as usual” on into the next generation.
Allan Freitas Sr. was born in Stockton, CA in 1922. The son of a local rancher, he started hauling cattle in the 1950’s with his brothers, Bill and Frank. Over the years, Allan drove for many outfits, including Beckley Trucking and M&M Livestock. In 1958, Allan went to work for John Rocha. In 1960, Allan formed C&F Livestock, and then rocked the entire area when he purchased six brand new Freightliners (that was a big deal back then). Allen continued his involvement in the cattle transportation industry for decades, and also started building “AF” aluminum gooseneck trailers in the 1970’s. Allan Freitas Sr. passed away on June 2, 2008.
Each of these men left an indelible mark on the cattle-hauling industry and helped shape Oakdale’s western legacy. 10-4 Magazine is honored to help the museum and the community to recognize and honor these trucking pioneers. It is organizations like the Oakdale Cowboy Museum that keep these old memories alive – memories that make up who we are and where we came from. For more information about the museum’s 15th Annual Dinner & Auction Fundraising Event, being held on September 15th in Oakdale, call (209) 847-7049 or visit www.oakdalecowboymuseum.org.