Sometimes you gotta do one thing so you can do another. In this case, Jack Boehm farms so he can truck! I recently had the opportunity to go to one of the first big truck shows this year – the Top Gun Largecar Shootout in Rantoul, IL. Going as just a spectator and not a competitor meant I got to visit with old friends and meet some new ones. Jack Boehm was one of those new friends.
Mickey and his son Tyler Gwillim introduced me to Jack, a young man that is like part of their family. Tyler and Jack’s birthdays are two days apart, with Tyler going first at getting older. They met in high school and became best friends about seven years ago. Both are 22 years old, and both share a love of trucks and trucking. And for “kids” their age, they are both driven to work hard. Jack said they motivate each other.
Both dads know each other, but neither has a lot of time to get together. Jack’s dad Dennis is busy farming, and Mickey is knee-deep in trucking and helping people when there is a natural disaster or some other emergency. Both are proud of their boys who have become amazing young men. Jack credits his dad with giving him his work ethic.
During his senior year of high school, the day he turned 18, Jack and Tyler went and took their CDL written tests on the same day, with both passing, of course. They had to wait two weeks to get their actual license, and then they were ready to hit the road hauling grain. After getting his license, Jack would get up early, haul a load of grain to E. St. Louis, IL, go home, go to school, and then, after school got out, haul another load or two to E. St Louis. Then, get up the next day and do it all over again!
At the show, Jack entered his truck in the Working Combo class. The truck is a viper red 2014 Peterbilt 389 with a 500-hp 60 Series Detroit, a 10-speed and 3.55 rear ends. Pulling a polished and painted to match 2019 Wilson hopper bottom with pewter sides, Jack took 3rd in his class. And with the high caliber of trucks at that show, he has to be proud. His truck was standing tall, for sure.
Working in the family farming business, Jack started out driving a farm tractor when he was 9 years old. He moved up to riding in the truck with his dad when he was about 14. He would wash the trucks, so he got to drive them around the yard when he was younger and also, when he got the chance, he would load them and get to move them around the farm, as well.
When Jack’s grandfather and his sons (Jack’s dad and uncles) first started farming, they raised pigs, and Jack’s dad would haul them to market in a straight truck. After his grandfather retired, his dad and his uncles shifted away from hogs and started planting grain. The more land they farmed, the more trucks were needed to haul their product.
Jack has a sister named Erin and, you guessed it, she married a truck driver. Jack and his sister are close, and she is a schoolteacher. Jack takes his silver lab Bodhi with him on the truck occasionally, but when he doesn’t, Erin will go over to his house and then bring Bodhi to her house to play with her dog, Lisa, until Jack stops by after work to pick him up.
Their farming operation has five trucks that are all day cabs, which includes Jack’s 389, (2) 388 Peterbilts, a 9900 International, and a “spare” truck, which are kept busy hauling the 800,000 bushels of grain they have storage for. An average acre of corn yields about 200-210 bushels, and an acre of beans about 75-80 bushels. They haul their own grain exclusively. All the trucks pull Wilson 41’ hopper bottoms. Jack’s uncle Kurt Boehm just got a new W990 Kenworth last harvest. His cousin Neil Boehm drives along with Bill Wolfolk and Russ Lewis, who drives during the harvest and works as a mechanic on the farm tractors the rest of the year.
They shut down for what usually ends up being a week or two between the end of harvest until December 1 to work on the trucks and take care of all their maintenance. Each load is about 950 bushels, which means about 850 loads need to be hauled to fill their storage and be ready for the next year’s harvest. Basically, they keep the trucks busy from December 1 to about April 1, when it’s time to start planting again.
After the fields are all planted, they haul until it’s time to harvest again, and then fill the bins so they can do it all over again the next year. When the harvest goes over the 800,000-bushel mark, the excess has to be hauled straight to an elevator. Jack has done all the jobs on the farm, but his favorite is trucking. He told me that sometimes in the fall he likes to run a combine to break it up a little, but he doesn’t want anyone else to drive “his” truck.
I was recently in a residential neighborhood with narrow streets, in my truck, because that was the only way to get to my delivery. Jack told me they have to deal with that same thing at some of the old elevators, which were built decades ago to accommodate smaller straight trucks, and now they are hauling into them with semis and trailers.
They plant about 60% corn and 40% beans. You can plant corn in the same field two years in a row, but you can’t do that with beans. Usually, most farmers alternate – if the field is beans this year, it will be corn the next year, and vice-versa. Jack and two of his cousins recently purchased an 80-acre field, and 27 of those acres belong to Jack. They are working towards the day when Jack’s dad and his uncles retire, and then they will take over the operation.
A couple years ago, Jack moved out of home and now rents a place of his own, saying, “Now I drive home to go to work!” If there is a little down time, sometimes Jack will haul milk in a reefer for Mickey, but not that often. When he gets the opportunity, Jack looks forward to driving the aforementioned “spare” truck – a 359 Peterbilt with a 36” bunk, 3406 CAT and a 13-speed. That sounds like one heck of a spare truck!
Working hard to customize his truck and trailer, Jack had pinstriping added, along with some phrases, like “Keep on Trucking” on his front tarp arm and “Locally Imitated” on the back arm, which is kind of an inside joke. All the pinstriping was done by Van Gough from St. Charles, MO – the same guy that stripes and letters all of Mickey’s cool trucks. There are two hoppers in the 41’ trailer Jack pulls, which features a stainless front and back, an electric tarp, and “Boehm” cut out and back-lit on a stainless-steel panel mounted between the mud flaps on the rear of the trailer.
The truck is an Ultra Cab and Jack filled the little bit of space behind the seats with speakers and three subwoofers for his Kenwood stereo system, thanks to the help of Joe Hammann of Carlinville, IL. There is a full gauge package on the dash, a viper red steering wheel from Steering Wheel Creations, Legacy seats, and 7-inch straight pipes. Thanks go to Walter Brothers Customs in New Berlin, IL and Mickey Gwillim for helping make custom door panels, installing air cleaner lights and seven cab lights, and adding some extra lights in the bunk and on the back of the cab. The truck was also fitted with an RLK Services sun visor.
When this busy young man has a little down time, he likes to fish and ride 4-wheelers or his Harley. It’s nice to see kids that want to work in the family business and, one day, take it over. It seems like so many kids these days just sell what their ancestors worked so hard to build. Hard work for this young man is going to pay off. And if Jack Boehm has to do some farming to allow him to go trucking, he is okay with that!