Everyone’s love of trucks starts somewhere, whether it is having been born into the industry or an acquired love having the right influencers and/or exposure at the right time. Scott Mitchum (55) was exposed at an early age to big trucks, but his first love, which he will readily admit, was trains. Growing up in Blackville, SC at the intersection of US Hwy 78 and the Southern Railway, this location provided him porch-side views of both trains and trucks every day.
While Scott had train fever, his older brother Dicky had a knack for being able to name the make and model of every truck that rolled by. Blackville, SC is known for having the first overnight stop for the railroad, which connected Hamburg, SC to Charleston, SC. Back in the day, Blackville was a hot spot for Watermelon and Cantaloupe hauling, which most produce haulers from years gone by will recall. Trains, trucks, horses and motorcycles are all a common sight in this area of South Carolina, so it was only fitting for Scott Mitchum to later call his homestead Ironhorse Farm.
Although he loved trains, Scott wasn’t so blinded by that locomotive love that he couldn’t see a good-lookin’ truck when he crossed paths with it, which was just the case with a truck that was parked a few blocks from the train depot. It was a 1974 Kenworth W900A and the prettiest truck Scott had ever laid his eyes on. It was owned by Joe “Carolina Bootlegger” Still of Joseph R. Still Trucking. The truck was brown and gold in color, and Joe and his brother Ed “Snoopy” Still always had the truck, usually running up the east coast from Pompano Beach, FL up to Hunts Point, NY, hauling various produce items.
As a boy, Scott’s first ride in a big truck was in that very same W900A he was so fond of. His family had just made their way out from eating dinner when he saw the truck pulling out of Bernie Chappell’s Peach Shed (a peach packing house which is no longer in operation) near Kline, SC. Joe pulled over and asked Scott if he’d like a ride home. It was only a 20-mile ride, but Scott can remember it like it was just yesterday. At one point, after Joe had shifted into 13th gear, Scott asked if that was the last one, to which Joe responded, “It is. It’s also the go-home gear!”
Joe and his brother Ed were friends with Scott’s father, Heyward “Mitch” Mitchum. Back in the late 50s or early 60s, when they first met, Mitch was a state trooper. Now, as most of you know, you either have good experiences or bad experiences with state troopers – well, they had a great experience with each other and remained friends through the years. In the 60s, Mitch transitioned out of the role of state trooper to work for the Department of Education and began training school bus drivers.
One day, Scott was riding his bike through town and stopped to admire his favorite truck (Joe’s W900A). While there, Joe offered Scott a job, and at just 11 years old, he became Joe’s interior “detailer” of sorts, earning $5.00 each time he cleaned the inside of the KW’s cab. Now, way back then, cleaning the interior of a truck with lemon Pledge and emptying out the ashtrays for $5.00 in 1976 was good money. As Scott got older, his tasks increased to changing oil, greasing the truck, and adding fuel. By age 14, Ed “Snoopy” Still, Joe’s brother, had Scott driving around the shop, and at 16 years old, Scott acquired his Class III license (now a CDL).
The funny story about Scott getting his license is that he had been practicing in the W900A, but the day he went for his test, the truck wasn’t available, and neither was Joe. Joe had a friend named Billy Love, who drove a 1973 White Freightliner cabover with no power steering, and he came to Scott’s rescue. At just 16 years old, that was a little shocking – to take a test with a truck he had very little experience with – not to mention the battery was dead and it had to be jump-started. But it worked out!
Although they remained cautious of where Scott would go with this trucking thing, his parents saw Scott’s growing love for trucks and allowed him to keep doing it. In those early years he learned plenty, earned decent money during school breaks, experienced seeing other places, and appreciated trucking – but he also learned to appreciate being at home, too. As high school came to an end, Scott needed to figure out what he was going to do for a career. Joe and Ed were his “fun uncles” who he grew to not only admire, but love. They loved having him around and treated Scott like their own son, which is why they discouraged him from getting into trucking, because they wanted something better for him and didn’t want to see him struggle.
Having the same mindset as Joe and Ed, both of Scott’s parents, Mitch and Louise, wanted Scott and his brother to go to college and get a degree. Scott ended up going to college, and his early experiences in trucking helped him connect with the other students and make friends at school. These kids didn’t think a boy from South Carolina would not only know where they were from but, in many cases, he had been to their hometowns or near where they lived. While still in school, during long breaks and summers, Scott could be found back at Still Trucking either accompanying Joe or Ed or running loads locally to earn extra money.
Graduating from The Citadel with a Bachelor of Science degree in business, Scott worked for a company for a while until layoffs began. Around that same time, one of Scott’s biggest role models, his father, died in 1992. But God had already been watching out for Scott by way of two men who had become an important part of his life – Joe and Ed. They stepped right in and have been there for Scott all the way ever since. With the layoffs, came an opportunity to go back to his original love, where he landed a job working for the railroad in 1995, and today is a Locomotive Engineer.
Through the years, Scott always reminisced about the previously noted 1974 A-model and wished he would have purchased that truck. But, when Joe retired, the KW was sold. However, Scott never got over the desire of owning an A-model Kenworth. With the timing finally being right, Scott and his wife Francina started their search for a W900A to join their family. This wouldn’t be a truck he would drive for work, but one he would work on for pleasure and be able to take to shows occasionally. Scott doesn’t have the “regular” hobbies of hunting, fishing or golfing, so he found good reason to find a decent truck to tinker with for fun.
Searching for years, literally, for the right truck, Scott and Francina came across a truck that caught their eye in September 2009. The truck was located in Minnesota, and they spoke with the owner several times on the telephone, learning about the truck, including the factory rebuilt Cummins 400 Big Cam III with only 110,000 miles on it. Scott and Francina finally decided it was time to see the truck in person and drove 1,200 miles to look it over. The owner was a little nervous because Scott approached the truck ready to completely inspect it and test drive it. Joe and Ed were very specific in telling Scott to check over the entire truck and make sure there was no water in the transmission and rears. Upon completion of the inspection, Scott and Francina drove back home to sleep on it for a couple of days.
Praying about this decision, Scott and his wife wanted to make sure it was a purchase they should make. But when Scott talked it all over with Joe, the decision became a lot easier. Joe said, “What’s there to think about son? Go get the truck. You go buy that truck, bring it home, and if you don’t want it, I’ll do what your daddy would have done and buy the truck from you, including your expenses.” Joe had price-checked the truck through Cherokee Kenworth in Columbia, SC and said the truck is worth every penny, and then some. Scott flew up to Minnesota, and after paying $5,000 less than the asking price, he drove that Kenworth home, stopping at Joe’s place to celebrate and show it off a bit, first.
The truck, affectionately named Marie, is a 1980 Kenworth W900A with a 400-hp Big Cam III under the hood, a 13-speed Fuller Roadranger trans, 3:70 rears and a 230” wheelbase. The truck was built at the Seattle Plant with a build order date of August 1979 for the Kenworth dealer in Wichita and was delivered in January 1980. Credit for these dates goes to Kevin Mantz, who was a salesman at Kenworth of Wichita. Originally, it had a 36” sleeper, but was stretched at some point and the 36” sleeper was replaced with a 60” bunk.
After purchasing the truck, Scott went to work, doing some basic repairs and cleanup that needed to be done, including the front springs, u-joints, driveline seals, lights, mud flaps and some paint touch-ups. Knowing Dan Birt, owner of Palmetto Truck & Trailer, was beneficial as they guided Scott through those repairs. Knowledgeable Wayne Davis, who has since retired as a mechanic from Cherokee Kenworth and had worked on Joe’s trucks for years, also repaired the air conditioning and tuned-up the Cummins on Scott’s truck. Of course, Joe and Ed would stop by or were a phone call away to offer any needed guidance or advice.
As 2017 rolled in, the decision was made to have the truck painted, and it was an easy choice on who would be trusted to do it, with a business being located in the same town Scott and Francina reside in. Buck McLeod of McLeod’s Paint and Body Shop in Blackville, SC had painted his father-in-law’s Kenworth wreckers back in the 70s, so he knew what to do and would paint the truck correctly. The paint scheme remained original, with the exception of using a shade darker silver in the stripe. With the paint complete, along with new tires and fenders, the truck made its debut at the American Truck Historical Society’s 2018 National Convention and Antique Truck Show in Lexington, KY to the delight of many in attendance at the event.
Often asked why he works for the railroad but bought a truck, Scott’s response is always the same – that he has always had a passion for both trains and trucks. Plus, it’s far easier to work for the railroad and buy a truck than to drive a truck and buy a railroad! Some may say Scott’s future, unbeknownst to him, was already planned out, it just took him growing with many of life’s experiences to get to where he is today. Some may call him crazy for having a semi-truck as a hobby, but like one of his good friends says, “Well, you are not alone.” There is a vast majority of both young and old individuals out there who don’t drive trucks for a living but have a deep appreciation for them and the past. There is a great camaraderie within this group of hobby truck friends, as well.
It is rare that I get the opportunity to shoot a truck at an owner’s residence, and I was definitely fortunate enough that Scott and Francina have a little slice of heaven in the country which allowed me ample locations to shoot their cool truck. I can appreciate the times I am able to shoot a truck with beautiful weather and plenty of time to get it done, and always enjoy listening to the stories that the truck owners are willing to share with me. There is so much history out there which many of today’s generation of drivers know nothing about.
“Marie” was named by way of Francina’s middle name. It was important to Scott that Francina approved of this hobby and would be along for the “ride” with him. Francina was actually more on board than Scott was with the initial look at the truck, and she was the one who encouraged him towards deciding to buy it. Francina has been quoted many times saying there is never a dull moment with Scott. The entire family shares a love for “Marie” and every visit involves going out to the shop to see her, which often includes Scott’s mother, sons, nephews and three granddaughters.
I saw this truck for the first time in March of 2019 at the Shine in the Pines Truck Show in Dublin, GA. I remember seeing the truck pull up and being in awe of how nice it looked, with an understanding that I needed to be able to shoot the truck at some point. One of Scott’s favorite events to attend is the South Carolina World’s Largest Convoy for Special Olympics, which is where I was able to see the truck again last year, in October, in Columbia, SC.
I would like to send special thanks to Scott and Francina for opening up their home to me and giving me the time to speak with them about their lives, as well as their truck. It is a breath of fresh air to see a couple that are a complete fit for each other, full of love, teamwork, and support, which is exactly what I was able to witness between these two. And, with their love of horses, motorcycles, trains and, of course, their beautiful W900A truck, Ironhorse Farm is the perfect representation of who these folks are and where their hearts truly reside. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.