Most of the time our plans look good on paper, but how it actually works, is that we end up somewhere completely different. But if you are meant to do something or be something, time, life, circumstances, and decisions made will lead you where you are supposed to be. Josh Branscome of Lawsonville, NC knew he was destined to be in trucking, but he didn’t get into it immediately. However, his path led him to this destination, and now he is along for the ride in the “boneyard built” Peterbilt 359 seen here.
Since the age of three, Josh has grown up in Lawsonville, NC and from as far back as he can remember, trucking was all he wanted to do. Also, at three years old, his mom met and eventually married a man named Don Sheppard, who may not have been Josh’s birth father, but he became his father from that point forward. With Don in Josh’s life, Josh would eventually go on to carry the tradition and become the third generation of truck drivers in the family.
Riding along with Don whenever he could, Josh earned a CB handle that has remained with him to this day. Josh loved eating Cheetos and would always have it all over him. One of his dad’s drivers, Mark “Lightning” Boyer, gave him the name of “Big Cheez” when he was about four years old, and that name is still not only used, but it is hand-lettered on his truck today.
At nine years old, Josh was put in the driver’s seat of Don’s 359 while Don sat in the passenger seat with a cooler to his left, drinking beer, and teaching Josh how to drive and shift the truck, running up and down their driveway. Josh wanted to finish high school and immediately get into trucking, but Don wouldn’t hear of it. He wouldn’t even go with Josh to get his CDL and went on to say it wasn’t no life for a person with a family. Don held firm to not going with Josh, however, Aubrey Kallam, one of the guys leased to Don, was more than happy to take Josh, in a 359 Aubrey had purchased from Don. Needless to say, Don was anything but happy about it.
Although Josh got his CDL after graduating, he went to work for his aunt who owned a septic tank company and eventually ended up buying the company. Driving a truck, however, was never far from Josh’s mind. While owning the septic company, Josh was also a paramedic.
At one point, Don and Josh got into a yelling match over Josh wanting to go trucking. Josh finally asked (more yelled) that if he didn’t want Josh to get into trucking, then why did he teach him how to drive? Solemnly, Don responded that was all he knew and if he wanted to spend time with Josh, it had to be around a truck. As there is never enough time, Josh unfortunately lost his father to a heart attack in 2013.
A month after his dad’s passing, Josh told his mom he was gonna go trucking – she thought he had lost his mind. That statement didn’t stop Josh because he quit his paramedic position, sold the septic company, bought his first truck, and started living his dream. Although this wasn’t his first truck, this beautiful 359 that is pictured, was purchased by Josh in 2018 from Floyd, VA and was owned by a logger. At the time, the truck, which was barely running, was painted white with two-tone red stripes and had a flat top “coffin bunk” sleeper. When purchased, the truck was being powered by a Cummins Big Cam 400. Josh is the fifth owner of this truck, and once it was road ready, he ran it about a month before he started the ongoing restoration project.
The first changes this truck saw was a stretched frame and a Pete FlexAir suspension. In July 2019, Josh swapped the Cummins out for the CAT NXS engine it has today. Fast forward to June of 2020 and the truck not only received a new paint job with a dark gray base and a Metallic Flame Red and Silver stripe, but also saw a sleeper swap to a 48-inch stand up from the original 36-inch flat top. The sleeper swap and paint were completed in just nine days because Josh had to get back to trucking!
The pictured truck, as previously stated, is a 1983 Peterbilt 359 that boasts a CAT NXS engine, 13-speed transmission, 3:25 gear ratio and a 269-inch wheelbase. As most may notice, this 359 is a short hood, which is uncommon amongst the many extended hoods that are still running the roads today. The truck has received all its chrome from The Chrome Shack in White Pine, TN and sports some custom pieces such as the 7-inch Dynaflex pipes, Hogebuilt full fenders, and hub oilers from Lifetime Nut Covers.
What I found most interesting about the truck, besides the fact that it is beautiful, is how the truck came together and what Josh used to make that happen. Everything on the truck, except the chrome and custom parts, came from Strickland’s Auto & Truck, including the sleeper, suspension, transmission, and engine. A repair and parts facility in Cana, VA, Strickland’s also has 15 acres of salvage to shop from. This truck was truly boneyard built.
Having a great conversation, Josh and I talked all about his childhood and everything involving trucks leading up to today. As with everyone I write articles about, I try to get their favorite memories from drivers when they were kids, as well as their favorite memory from their trucking years, so far. Josh remembered his dad hauling wood chips and one time, when they were at the paper mill, Josh needed to get out of his dad’s truck and hop into his friend’s truck. This friend, who’s handle was Taterhead, owned a cabover Mack truck, and Josh thought it was just the coolest thing riding on the dog box, heading out of the mill that day.
Since Josh has been trucking, he absolutely loves what he does, but said by far his best experience was driving DA Strickland’s 1981 Kenworth W900A to Reno, NV in 2019 on their way to the ATHS National Convention and Antique Truck Show being held there that year. DA told Josh that one time when he came up alongside of him in the other truck, as they were rolling through Mississippi, he could see that Josh was just so happy to be in a truck.
I had asked Josh who the most influential person in his life is and without hesitation, he said, his father, Don. Josh said his dad was part of the group of drivers he considers the “old time” drivers, the ones who took pride in not only their trucks, but their presentation with the way they dressed and the way they did their job. Some advice from Josh on purchasing your own truck and becoming an owner operator was to find steady work so you’ll receive a check weekly. He also went on to say, it doesn’t matter what kind of truck you drive, what matters is the pride you take in your truck.
Today, 34-year-old Josh continues running this truck full time, pulling his brand new 2022 East frameless end dump trailer, running under his wife’s company, Snow Creek Transport LLC. Josh and his wife Misty bought Josh’s childhood home from his mother in 2014 and together they have three children – Lauren (18), Savannah (14), and Trey (11). Along with Josh’s classic 359 Peterbilt, there are two other trucks leased to the company which are owned by a father and son, Billy and Cody Edmonds, out of Asheville, NC. The trucks run regional and over the road, depending on the time of the year and what they are hauling. You will find them mostly hauling agricultural commodities to areas in and around Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
Social media can be a drama-filled platform that some hate to even use, but for networking with people in the trucking industry and finding trucks with stories, it has become very useful for me. I didn’t find this truck, but rather my good friend Daniel Anderson found it and showed me photos. I reached out to Josh at the beginning of this year to learn more about the truck. Several times we tried to meet up, so I could get a look at the truck in person, since he was running very near to me in Georgia every week. Either Josh was running through the night, or I was out of town, so those attempts proved unsuccessful. I was finally able to line it up to go to Lawsonville, NC in May of this year (2021) and photograph the truck in his immediate area.
Admittedly, Josh said his truck is his pride and joy but, oddly enough, his truck hasn’t been in the limelight of truck shows. If he attends a show, he is usually driving one of the trucks owned by his good friend DA Strickland, who was mentioned earlier.
Special thanks from Josh to his mother Kim, because no matter how hard times were, she would always find some way to make it work and she always supports Josh in whatever he does. Special thanks also go out to his wife for being amazing and sticking with him through the good and the bad times. Josh’s failures wouldn’t have become successes without her love, help and support through it all.
Thank you to Josh for having the truck dialed in and making time for me to photograph the truck. It is always great to witness drivers who not only take pride in their truck but truly love what they do. It is exciting for me to find these hidden gems with great stories, and I am truly honored to have the opportunity to tell their stories. It was great meeting Josh, his whole family, and getting to see another part of North Carolina I hadn’t seen until that point.
Sometimes when I photograph a truck, I trust the owner to find locations since I don’t reside in the area. Josh found the perfect spot that, if you don’t know this location, provided several different spots to put the truck without any one of them looking the same. Remember that septic company Josh used to own? Well, this is where we photographed the truck. Josh’s aunt turned it into a venue called Emerald’s View in Danbury, NC – and what a view it has!
We couldn’t have asked for a better day to photograph the truck with no rain in sight. Some of the best parts of doing what I do is seeing beautiful places in our country and meeting some amazing people along the way. Inspiring stories that I not only appreciate, but stories that others can appreciate, as well. There is something to be said about the grit some people have to follow their dreams, never give up, and have a good foundation of support behind them. Don’t be afraid of the direction you are going – be afraid of the regret you may have if you don’t go.
While talking with Josh, he oozes a love for trucking that radiates from the smile he has when talking about his truck and being behind the wheel. He saw potential in a truck that others did not see, and being resourceful, it led to a great story about a cool truck that was boneyard built. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.