Sometimes a truck is more than just a big hunk of metal that (hopefully) makes you money. This month’s cover feature is a truck currently owned by a grandfather (Terry Wright) and his seven-year-old grandson (Brock). Purchased from a family who recently lost their patriarch Edward Bernard to cancer, the family was so impressed with young Brock’s enthusiasm toward the Peterbilt, they sold it to Terry (63) with the stipulation that one day his grandson’s name be added to the truck’s title. Terry is excited to one day pass this rig down to his grandson, who is already ate up with trucks. But, in the meantime, they will remember and honor the truck’s former owner through the nickname they gave it – “Mr. Ed” – while hauling cattle and hay throughout California.
Born and raised in the small agricultural town of Exeter in California’s fertile Central Valley in 1956, Terry grew up on a farm where his parents grew peaches, grapes and cotton. Terry loved watching the trucks that came to the farm and dreamed of one day owning and operating one of his own. When he was in sixth grade, Terry’s family moved west 20 miles to Tulare, where his father started a dairy construction business. A few years later, Terry’s dad (George) bought a used 1968 Kenworth cabover for the construction business to move their equipment around. Powered by a 318 Detroit hooked to a 10-speed, Terry learned how to drive in this truck, which was white with a blue stripe.
After graduating from high school in 1974, Terry got his CDL and went to work in the family construction business, driving the KW cabover whenever he could. In 1981, Terry left the family business and bought his own truck – a 1976 International transfer “slam bang” unit. Painted blue and white, Terry ran this rig full-time for a few years, but the work was very spotty. Around 1984 he got back into the dairy construction business with his older brother Bill and continued to run the transfer on a part-time basis. After about a year, he sold the transfer and went back to construction full time. But, as it always does, trucking pulled Terry back.
In 1988 Terry got the opportunity to drive for an outfit called Silver Arrow Express, which was a division of Kings County Truck Lines, based in his hometown of Tulare, CA. Pulling tankers and reefers across the country running OTR, Terry only lasted about a year. With little ones at home, Terry did not like being away from his family and, luckily, Silver Arrow began to downsize, giving him the chance to switch over to the outfit’s parent company, Kings County Truck Lines (KCTL), running milk tankers between Central and Southern California.
After Silver Arrow and KCTL, Terry went to work for a short time with Gil Den Dulk pulling walking floor trailers. Driving a 1977 Kenworth conventional, hauling almonds and whatever else they could load into their trailers, Terry did this for about six months before going back to Silver Arrow Express in 1990. Staying there until 1999, when he again switched over to Silver Arrow’s parent company, Kings County Truck Lines, Terry stayed there until 2004, hauling milk from local dairies in Central California to various creameries and production plants. But then everything changed – for the better!
In November of 2004, Terry met Rick Van Beek and got the opportunity to learn how to haul cattle. Shortly thereafter, Terry bought his own truck – nothing fancy – a plain white 1999 Volvo VNL42 off a lot in Fontana, CA with an ISM Cummins and a 10-speed – and began his new career in livestock relocation and hay hauling. Pulling Rick’s older double trailers, who operates as Big Valley Cattle out of Tulare, CA, Terry is still doing the same thing almost 16 years later, and still working with Rick.
We met Rick at the photo shoot with Terry and he reminded me how we randomly met back in 2005 and I did a little story about he and his truck in the magazine. At first I didn’t remember, but eventually, I did. Back in 2005, shortly after I moved my family out of Southern California to the quiet foothills of Central California, I saw a sharp Peterbilt loading cows at my neighbor’s place, so I grabbed my camera and got some shots. After meeting Rick and doing a short interview, I wrote a small “Readers and Their Rigs” feature in our September 2005 issue. I hadn’t seen him since then, but it was fun to get reacquainted after all these years and find out how excited and proud he was to be in the magazine back then.
Hauling cattle all around California, mostly from pasture to pasture but sometimes to feed lots, sales yards and slaughter houses, as well, the Volvo had about 500,000 miles on it when he bought it and then 1.2 million when he finally sold it to a ranch in Nevada last year after buying this Peterbilt. Yes, you read that right, he ran that old Volvo in the hills and on dirt ranch roads for 15 years! He got ripped pretty good by his trucking friends on a regular basis, but Terry actually liked the truck, saying it rode pretty good and held up well considering the job it was doing – and he liked the fact that it was paid for.
In early 2019, Terry got a letter from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) that his truck was no longer eligible to be registered in the state, so he began looking for a replacement. But never in his wildest dreams did he think he would find and be able to buy a cool Peterbilt like this one. His friend Richard Hettinga told him about the truck, which was for sale in Paso Robles, CA. Being a two hour drive to where the truck was, Terry and his wife Rhonda, along with his son Brandon and his family, which includes his wife Amy and their two kids, daughter Raygan (10) and son Brock (7), all went together on a Saturday to check out the Peterbilt.
When they arrived in Paso Robles and opened the shop doors, there were two trucks in there – one was a 2013 Peterbilt 386 and the other was the 2015 Peterbilt 389. Both were painted the same colors, but Brock immediately fell in love with the 389. He has always loved Peterbilts and went out with his Papa (Terry) a lot over the years in the Volvo. Some days, Terry said, Brock would say, “Papa, can we just call this a Peterbilt today?” If you ask Brock, he will tell you he has been going out with his Papa for most of his life and has about six or seven years of experience hauling cows. In fact, he can (and has) both driven the truck and climbed up on top of the trailers and unloaded cows by himself on several occasions (much to the chagrin of his mom and grandmother).
After getting to know each other, the family selling the truck explained the circumstances and strongly reiterated how they really wanted this truck to go to a special home. Its original owner, as previously mentioned before, was named Edward Bernard, and he owned and operated Oak Creek Ranch Hay & Feed in Paso Robles for many years. After a rather sudden cancer diagnosis, he passed away in January of 2019. This Peterbilt 389 was the last truck he bought and his first brand new one ever.
When Terry saw the Peterbilt, which only had 213,000 miles on the odometer, it was as if Ed had custom ordered it exactly for him – it was everything he ever wanted, even the colors (root beer brown and cream). The price was a little out of Terry’s price range, so the Wrights headed to dinner to talk and think about it. While there, the Bernard family called and struck a deal! Heading back, Terry bought the truck at a discounted price within his range and took it home with the stipulation that one day Brock’s name would be added to the title. Terry always dreamed of driving a truck like this, but never thought he would actually own one like it. As he put it, “It’s a dream come true!”
For the most part, the truck looked like you see it here, with exception to a few things Terry did after buying it. Fitted with a 36-inch sleeper and powered by a 575-hp ISX Cummins hooked to a 13-speed, the long hood Peterbilt also had a painted custom drop visor, deleted cab lights, painted tanks with polished ends, painted breathers, an air-ride front axle with dump valves, 7-inch pipes with old-school heat shields, stainless quarter fenders and painted cab and sleeper drop panels with LED lights underneath. It also came with a painted and pinstriped flush deck plate, a custom airline connection box with the words “Hay Money” and pinstriping painted on it and three grille bars up front. Inside, the cab has all the gauges and goodies, along with an SCI steering wheel.
After getting the truck, Terry and his son Brandon, who owns an up-and-coming aluminum accessories company called Roll On Customs, also based in Tulare, fitted the Peterbilt with their signature 3-inch long solid aluminum lug nut covers, their new frame-mounted billet light brackets and breather light panels (front and rear). Under the hood, Brandon, who is also an authorized PDI dealer, installed a PDI intake manifold and gave it a performance tune, and now the 575-hp ISX is pumping out 680 horses. Back in the sleeper, Brock loaned his Peterbilt pillow and blanket to his Papa for the photo shoot, which we’re sure are now back on his bed in his bedroom at home, which just happens to be painted the same colors as Papa’s Peterbilt. After changing the name on the boxes to Terry Wright Trucking, the rig was ready to go.
Married to the love of his life Rhonda for the past 44 years, who has been a dedicated funeral director in Visalia, CA for the past 30 years, the couple has two boys – Brandon (42) and Brad (39). As mentioned before, Brandon is married to Amy and they have two children – Raygan (10) and Brock (7). Brad is married to Gina and they have three boys – Cole (10), Cash (6) and Clint (4). Brad works for a local power company and has for years, but he enjoys helping his dad and brother out with the truck, when possible. As required by his employer, Brad has a CDL, so he can drive the truck if needed, as well.
Brandon always liked trucks growing up, but he liked farming and tractors even more. His “day job” is trimming cow hoofs for all the local dairies. To this day, being a “cow podiatrist” is still his main job, but he is working hard to build his truck accessories business, too. Brandon always wondered why nobody made an aluminum lug nut cover and, having an entrepreneurial spirit, four years ago he decided to just do it himself. It took him two years to develop the product, which is a solid aluminum (billet) lug nut cover that comes in several shapes and sizes and can now be custom engraved, as well. He plans to manufacture other billet aluminum accessories in the future, as the company grows. For more details, visit www.rolloncustoms.com and check out these cool lug nuts.
These lug nuts are not marketed as “safety devices” but they kind of are. Case in point: Terry was recently side-swiped in a parking lot by a 4-wheeler who thought he had enough room to squeeze by the parked Peterbilt. He did not. Terry was sitting in the truck when it happened and heard a loud noise and felt the truck move. Getting out to survey the damage, he was shocked to see that the lug nuts kept the pickup truck from getting to his fender and bumper. Besides a few scratches on the lug nuts, which were polished out, the truck was perfectly fine. The side of the pickup truck, on the other hand, was not – he couldn’t even open his door! Let me tell you, these lug nuts are heavy duty pieces of aluminum, and they look great, too.
Just a few months ago, Terry had a scary encounter with a bull. While loading some “springers” (pregnant cows) from a heifer ranch, one got loose and through the fence, into a field with a bull. Trying to coerce the springer out, the men kept their distance from the bull, who seemed to be okay with everything. But, as Terry was walking out, the bull charged him and hit him from behind, throwing him about five feet in the air and then to the ground, where he proceeded to try and trample him. Thankfully, Terry was wearing black and the field was muddy, so the bull lost sight of him. As Terry laid still in the mud, with a bleeding wound on his head, the bull eventually lost interest and just wandered off. Terry ended up with a large gash on his head that required about 20 stitches and some torn cartilage around his ribs, but nothing broken and no permanent damage. He got lucky.
The two locations where we shot our photos were both interesting and unique. The first was an old abandoned cotton gin sitting right next to Highway 99 between Tulare and Visalia in Central California. Rumor has it that the place was once part of the famous Tagus Ranch, but it is now owned by a local farmer. The second location was the Gill Cattle Ranch in Exeter, CA. Situated in the middle of a beautiful valley, the Gill family has owned and operated this ranch since 1875. Thanks to Fred Gill for allowing us to drive out into one of his pastures for some pictures.
When asked about the future, Terry said he still feels good, so he will keep working until he can’t anymore. All of his grandchildren enjoy the Peterbilt, but none as much as Brock, and Terry looks forward to the day he can pass the rig down to him. Terry wanted to thank Rick Van Beek for all the great years. They have worked together for almost 16 years now and never even had an argument! He also wanted to thank the Bernard family for having faith and trust in him and helping his dream to come true. Lastly, Terry wanted to thank his entire family for their support and for “putting up with me” over the years and allowing him to do what he loves.
But Terry doesn’t just love his truck and trucking – he loves his wife, his grandkids and his entire family, but more than anything, he loves his God. He described buying the truck as “a God thing” – everything just fell together at the right time and in the right way. Terry said it best when he said, “Who would have thought that Terry Wright could ever own a truck like this? Not Terry Wright!” But he does. And, in remembrance of its original owner and his family, Terry and Brock carry the man’s memorial program from his funeral service tucked neatly in the headliner above the driver’s seat and affectionately call this truck “Mr. Ed” in his honor. Rest in peace, Mr. Edward Bernard, and know that your prized Peterbilt is being well taken care of and appreciated.