Some truck shows start out with a well thought out plan, while others just start as an idea based on an event that is already occurring. This is the case with the annual Wilkins Classic Busted Knuckle Truck Show in Tonkawa, OK, which recently held their 10th annual event on September 18-19, 2020. And after ten years of fantastic shows, they are already getting excited about their next “party on the prairie” in 2021 and counting down the days!
As some may or may not know, the Busted Knuckle Truck Show started as a fluke when a local car show asked if Wilkins Oklahoma Truck Supply would be a stop for the show’s poker run. What is a poker run? Most commonly I have seen poker runs as events participated by motorcycle enthusiasts, but it just doesn’t stop there, as other organizations,including car shows, have incorporated poker runs into their events, as well. The object is for participants to go to each designated stop, draw a card, and try to end up with the best hand once the poker run is completed, for a chance to win a prize of some sort.
Wilkins Oklahoma Truck Supply was established in 1985 by Cliff Wilkins and his son Brett as a way to continue their love of building trucks and as a means of offering parts and accessories to their customers and friends. This family operation continues to thrive with product availability, warm atmosphere and, of course, the familiar faces visitors love to see. Fast forward to 2010, their 25th year of being in business, they were approached by organizers of a local car show to be a stop for their poker run held in June. Well, the Wilkins family decided to mark the stop with a truck show to celebrate their 25th anniversary. 30 days of planning and 40 trucks later, they completed their first truck show as a small one-day event.
As locals and those that travel through the area already know, the month of June is hot in Oklahoma. With that in mind, the Wilkins family decided that the 2011 event would NOT be in June, but in September, solidifying their annual “no show” truck show as always being the third weekend in September. Since then, the show has got bigger and better each and every year.
I arrived in town on Thursday (September 17) in anticipation of the show starting the following day. Trucks were already parked or in the process of parking, including familiar faces such as Shane Durkin of Durkin Diesel in New Mexico with his Peterbilt 359 “Pedro” and his famous Peterboat, along with Dennis Durand of Jade Transport out of Winnipeg, MB. Kerry and Sundy Sevin from Labadieville, LA also came up with their gorgeous purple 379 combo, along with several others, who made the trek to this show. I briefly met up with Kyla Wilkins before heading out to find some locations to shoot trucks on Sunday.
Leaving the grounds to secure a few good locations for some upcoming photo shoots, after about 35 minutes, I found the last location which satisfied me with the spots I had found. I was in, what felt like, nowhere Oklahoma, or as some may refer to as BFE. As I was pinning the location of the abandoned and dilapidated gas station on my phone, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye – it was a little puppy who was lacking food and care. Long story short, the next couple of hours were filled with tears, phone calls, and then a 45-minute drive to a dog rescue.
Friday was full of trucks rolling in and attendees walking the grounds. Later that day, two-thirds of the trucks in attendance rolled out for a convoy that went through Tonkawa. With the flat landscape, train horns and loud pipes could be heard for miles, and black smoke lingered in the air. I enjoyed the convoy with friends, including Terry and Kasey Aslinger, as well as Colton and Lauren Chase with their son Truett.
The funniest part of the convoy for me was when the trucks were passing in both directions (some passing for the first time while some were already on their way back to the grounds). There was a lot of neck breaking as I tried to take pictures of trucks to the left and the right at a rapid pace! As soon as the trucks got back to the grounds, the Jason Callahan Band took the stage and provided great entertainment to all of the show-goers who remained. For those wanting to partake, some folks enjoyed a little “hydration” at the Bad Apple Bar.
Saturday was my time to do a hot lap of the grounds in the morning, before everyone was awake, to capture pictures of almost all of the trucks in attendance. This show was definitely amazing with the types of trucks – there was something for everyone, including antiques and late model trucks and, of course, everything in between. Nic Baker from Superior, NE, who drives for Thomas Trucking, lucked out being parked next to the famous cabover “sign” that is standing nose-first on the ground with a cornfield in the background. This made for an amazing early morning shot.
Darren Friedrichsen with the W9 Kenworth he drives for Fleenor Bros. out of Carthage, MO, Heath Rickner with his sharp white Peterbilt 359, Clint Christensen with his big house Pete 359 and Mike Grim (along with his sidekick Winston) and his Pete 389, were looking good, as well as Gibson Trucking out of Broken Arrow, OK and their fine lineup of 359s, another lineup of trucks owned by Berry and Sons Trucking of Eufaula, OK, Oaks Trucking out of Horton, KS, and the Bates boys with their Kenworths from Missouri. My friends Josh Foster and Troy Huddleston from Roadworks Manufacturing were also there, and Troy drove in with their black and lime green “Night Moves” Peterbilt 389. Their booth was set up directly behind the 10-4 Magazine booth, which was being run by our own Eric Hill. It was great to be able to visit with Eric and help him out periodically in the booth.
As most know, this isn’t a judged show, but everyone looks forward to the raffle that occurs on Saturday afternoon. With plenty of prizes to be given away including fenders, coolers, polishing products and more, this is always a fun time. But the coolest thing to see was the plaque presented to Cliff Wilkins from Carl at Rockwood Products. Carl made a trip to Oklahoma to photograph a bullnose the Wilkins family had recently purchased so he could go back to Wisconsin and create the plaque. What about the bullnose? Cliff rebuilt the 1955 bullnose Kenworth in 1977 and hauled cattle with it until he sold it in 1983. This truck remained local to Tonkawa and, this year, the Wilkins family had the opportunity to buy it back. The plaque was created to show appreciation and recognize Cliff for all his years of hard work and dedication. Carl not only brought the plaque, but he also supplied free root beer soda and ice cream for root beer floats to attendees.
This year’s show was awesome and something to truly behold! I had the opportunity to attend this show last year and was caught up with all the trucks in attendance. This year, being taken over by the “unmentionable thing” that has canceled so many of our beloved shows, has caused attendance to rise at the shows that continued to go on, including this one. Some 330 trucks checked in at registration, but the total count surpassed that number with more trucks rolling in after registration had closed. This was truly a wonderful event full of friends, fun and, of course, big trucks!
Those who know me, know I love to put a spotlight on the positive things that happen within the trucking industry, as there is so much negativity that seems to overshadow the good. This year at Busted Knuckle, many paid tributes to their friend Jose “Roger” Sanchez from New Mexico. Roger was a part of Durkin Diesel and, having left everyone too soon, his friends did the only thing they knew to do – hold a fundraiser to help Roger’s family. Crazy H BBQ out of Camargo, OK came in with a cabover and a cattle pot and put together a spread that included 325 pounds of brisket, 127 racks of ribs, 100 pounds of sausage and 120 pounds of smoked bologna as the main course from the smoker.
Tickets for the dinner were sold for $25 each, with all proceeds going to the Sanchez family. Friends and friends of friends all came forward to purchase a ticket and most, I noticed, put in more than $25. Food and cooking were all donated to make this all come together. As you might imagine, this wasn’t a one-person deal to organize this, there is a long list of individuals responsible with volunteering their time and effort. Over $10,000 was raised, and it was a true vision to see the long line of people coming together for a great cause (and great food). It is moments like these that make me extremely proud of the industry I am a part of, and I am truly honored to be able to share these stories.
It was hard to believe this was only the second show I had attended this year. Typically, by September, I’m usually closer to around eight shows that I have been able to go to. So, naturally, Sunday was bittersweet, as many trucks had already left, and more were still leaving. With all the nice rides in attendance, my only regret is that I didn’t have time to take more photos. The Wilkins family would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the volunteers who help make this show possible. Also, a big thank you goes out to all the vendors, sponsors, and participants who continue to make this event a successful and fun weekend.
Special thanks to Cody Pride for the night shots, Kyla Wilkins Grose for her continued help and always making me feel welcome, and to FURever Friends Fund Animal Rescue in Enid, OK for giving the pup I rescued hope (my best friend Leah has decided to adopt her). Mark your calendar for September 17-18, 2021 for next year’s show. With ten years and counting down to the 11th annual Wilkins Classic Busted Knuckle Truck Show, you know it will be an amazing time with awesome friends and trucks. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.