DeBoer & Sons Trucking of Tipton, CA have built themselves a solid reputation in the cattle-hauling business by providing decades of superior service. The customer has always been king at DeBoer & Sons, and nothing has changed since founder Pete DeBoer passed the company to his two sons, George and Fred, earlier this year. Now semi-retired, Pete enjoys tinkering around the shop, running local loads, chasing parts, and playing with his 1952 Peterbilt cabover cattle truck and trailer – a surprise gift from George and Fred for his 70th birthday last year.
Born in Holland during WWII, Pete and his wife Ida immigrated to the United States in 1969 with their first three children – Tracy, Wilma and George. Later, their two other sons, Pete Jr. and Fred, were born here in the States. Sponsored by his brother, Fred, who had a dairy in Chino, CA, Pete started milking cows. Not long after that, Pete’s brother bought a 1970 Freightliner cabover with a set of doubles and Pete started hauling hay. A few years later, Pete bought some grain trucks and did that for four years. Pete eventually started his own dairy, building it up to 300 cows in ten years, but when the owner sold the land Pete was leasing in 1988, he sold all the cows and moved the family to Tipton – a small farming community in central California.
Once in Tipton, Pete started trucking again, running walking floors and grain trailers. Around 1990, he bought his first cattle truck – a 1979 Peterbilt cabover – and started hauling livestock. In 1997, after working on a calf ranch for a while, Pete’s oldest son George joined the company, which had been called DeBoer & Sons Trucking since 1986, and took over the office duties. Not long after that, Pete’s son Fred came on board to run the shop and take care of the trucks.
Back in the day, Pete never cared about the color of his trucks, but eventually they all ended up blue. Trying to keep those dark blue trucks dust-free was hard, so the color was changed to silver with blue fenders and accents, which was a lot easier to keep clean. Today, all 14 of the DeBoer trucks are silver and blue. To comply with California’s ridiculous emissions standards, 75% of the fleet has already been replaced with newer, CARB-compliant units, which are mostly nicely-spec’d Peterbilt 386s with 70-inch bunks. There are still a few 379s in the fleet, but they won’t be around much longer. The DeBoer rigs can be seen throughout the west, hauling cattle from place to place, following the greener pastures. In January of this year (2013), Pete stepped down as an owner and became an employee of the company. George and Fred, who are now partners in the business, have proven to be a good team – George handles all of the “inside” work, while Fred handles all of the “outside” responsibilities.
Last year, in honor of Pete’s 70th birthday, George and Fred surprised their dad with a cool gift – the 1952 Peterbilt “Bubblenose” cabover cattle truck and trailer seen here (and on the cover and centerfold this month). The truck was originally purchased new, along with another one just like it, by the Salinas Dressed Beef Company in Salinas, CA. After six months, they sold both of the trucks (with jobs) to Ed Rocha, who was still in high school. Some of you may remember Ed, because his 1954 “Bullnose” KW cattle truck and trailer was featured on our cover back in September of 2005.
Ed Rocha used the 1952 Peterbilt into the mid-1960s and then sold it. After that, he lost track of it for a while. In the 1980s, Ed found his old “Bubblenose” in Los Angeles and bought it back, but it was in pretty bad shape. Acquiring a second truck just like the original, Ed performed a full restoration of the old rig using parts from both trucks. Last year, with his warehouse in Oakdale, CA bursting at the seams with cool antiques, Ed sold the truck to the DeBoer family, knowing that it was going to a good home.
When Pete got the ’52 Peterbilt, it had been restored to original condition – which meant it had no shiny pieces or frills whatsoever – it was bone-stock, with its original 270 Cummins still under the cab. Wanting to make it their own, and a little flashier, the DeBoer’s made some changes, which also made the truck more comfortable and practical to drive. Some of the changes included switching out the old tube-type tires and original wheels with new ones, changing the mirrors, adding more cab lights and horns, and chrome-plating some pieces. The rubber step guards were replaced with diamond-plate pieces, the original 4-inch exhaust was changed to a new 5-inch system, a new battery box was added, and all new glass was installed. The final touch was having the truck and trailer painted the DeBoer colors – silver and blue – by E.M. Tharpe (Golden State Peterbilt) in Porterville, CA (they paint all of the DeBoer trucks). The interior was left alone, so it is stock inside, complete with a “tattle-tale” tachograph recorder on the dash.
Pete and his brother Fred were the only ones in their family to immigrate to America – he still has six siblings back in Holland and his wife Ida has nine. Pete’s brother lives nearby and is retired, so Pete sees him often. Pete and Ida have been married for 53 years. Before George joined the company, Ida did all of the paperwork in the office. Today, she enjoys working a few days a week at a Goodwill thrift store, and then donating her pay to a local Christian school. Pete still goes in to work every morning at 5:00 a.m., although he does not have any official duties. He likes to come in and talk to the drivers before they head out for their loads, and then fills the rest of his day running local deliveries, chasing parts or tinkering in the shop. Occasionally, he still runs down to the Imperial Valley to cover a load, if needed. As long as Pete has his license, he intends to keep driving.
Along with their five grown kids, Pete and Ida have 16 grandkids and six great-grandkids. George’s family includes his wife, Michaelene, and his three kids – Ronnie, Blake and Kinley. The two boys, Ronnie and Blake, already help out at the company, while Fred and his wife, Breann, have two kids, Reed and Peyton, who are still too young to work. And the family would not be complete without mentioning Pete’s faithful Border Collie, Sadie. This cute dog follows Pete everywhere, and loves going for rides in the truck.
When Pete is not working, attending a truck show or on vacation, he loves to watch dirt track sprint car races. One of his neighbors raced, so Pete got interested in it. Before long, he was going to races all over the country, rooting for his favorite driver, Donny Schatz. Another hobby Pete enjoys is breeding Friesian horses. These beautiful black horses are from the Netherlands, so it only makes sense that Pete would like them! In addition to these hobbies and activities, Pete also has a few “projects” in the works – namely another 1952 Bubblenose and a 1956 Peterbilt conventional. Both of these trucks are sitting out in the weeds, behind their shop in Tipton, waiting to one day get their moment in the spotlight.
When it came time to take pictures of the ’52 cattle truck, the obvious location was a ranch. So, on a sweltering hot day, we found ourselves at a cattle ranch in Porterville near Teapot Dome. We would like to thank Mark Pacheco and Ron Barbrick for allowing us to tromp around their ranch all morning. Pete wanted to send out a special “thank you” to his brother Fred for helping him get to the United States and then giving him a job, as well as his wife, Ida, for all her faithful years of love and support. We also wanted to thank Tommy Sierras for helping us out with the picture of the fleet. Tommy has been a driver for DeBoer for three years and recently took up photography as a hobby (you can see his truck pics on Facebook under 70 MPH Photography). Not to be forgotten, George wanted to thank all of the drivers for their help and dedication, and all of the customers for their faithful patronage.
Pete is confident that the company is in good hands – George and Fred are determined to grow it even larger. Pete loves driving the ’52 and gets plenty of compliments while out on the road, but he is not a big-shot – he does not want to be put on a pedestal. The business has become successful by running good equipment, having pride in their company, and working hard to provide the best service to their customers. In the end, every business comes down to service, and if you are not treating your customers like royalty, then you are almost certainly doomed to fail. Thankfully, that is not the case at DeBoer & Sons Trucking, where the customer is king!