What is it they say… you don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps. If you’re not a little bit nuts when you start, we can always train you! Let’s take a short test to see if you are a worthy and loyal truck enthusiast. How many brands or name plates can you name? Do you know what color a Cat engine is? Do you do the arm pump when a large car drives past on the street? Okay, here’s a tough one – when giving directions do you start by referencing the guy on the corner who drives the green W900L, saying, “Be sure to turn left at his driveway.” Now this is the deal breaker: what is more important, dollars per mile or smiles per mile? If you said “smiles per mile” then you are one of us. Welcome to the club.
This month is the end of summer and soon all the local truck shows will be done for the year. Fortunately, there are plenty of pictures to remind us of the good times hanging out with friends, taking in the light shows, and driving in parades. Can you believe 10-4 Magazine has been recording trucking memories for 30 years and counting? That takes a special kind of truck nut! Sure, I’m one of those unstable individuals, but there are so many more who devote their time and energy to preserving our history through their stories and the great pics we see in not only this magazine, but others throughout the industry.
Semi crazy isn’t something you wear like a crucifix or even in the manner of your clothing. It’s in your soul, deep down, and it becomes the power that drives you. It’s the secret sensation of, “WOW! Look at that!!” as you can’t tear your eyes away from a vintage long hood standing tall in the sunlight. Then there’s that COE hooked to a container you were watching when your car drove off the road and nearly ran down the stop sign. I have to hand it to you, that was a great save, and when you jumped out and checked the rear tire, like you planned to stop there, that was a nice touch.
That’s what I’m talking about – the people who are nuts for trucks. We tend to incorporate words into our vocabulary that reflect our passion. For instance, when my hair started to turn gray, I told people they were chrome highlights, and we refer to my wrinkles as pinstripes. As a whole, most of us see ourselves as an extension of the equipment we drive. The style of truck doesn’t matter, if you drive it long enough, the miles will show. The real crazy ones wear them as a badge of honor. My rule of thumb is that my Peterbilt truck still looks good at 60 mph from across the median.
Talking with the publisher of this magazine, Dan the Man, earlier today, we were chatting about what was happening in 1993 that is relevant to trucking today. Since I’m old enough to remember way back then, I mentioned the earliest truck show competitors of that time have gone on to influence later generations of truck nuts. I’m not one to name drop, but here are a few many of you grew up watching and reading about in this publication and others, as well. I can’t name them all but here are a few who stand out.
First on my list is Kim Jaikes, who has been writing about the history of trucking for years and driving even longer. When I think about living the lifestyle, no one tops her level of truck crazy. When she and her husband John got married, they had a transportation themed wedding, right down to the music
from Smokey and the Bandit. Did I mention it was held in conjunction with the biggest truck show in the Midwest, Iowa 80’s Truckers Jamboree? Now that’s what I call ate up with truckin.
Another common face in 1993 at most truck shows was a lady known for saying, “I can’t make you rich, but I can make you famous.” She was one of the earliest truck photographers. Miss Bette Garber set the tone for today’s new school “hot shots” with a camera phone. In an age when there were not so many women in trucking, she was a trendsetter. Today, we have many ladies bringing pictures of pride to our magazine, and to them I say, “You go girls!”
Yesteryear had many men who were also making a name for themselves through the art of photography. Terry Biddle produced the now popular truck photo business cards and post cards, called Photo Card Specialties. He and his wife Linda were fixtures at all the major shows, and their work can be seen in everything from the manufacturer’s brochures to private collections. They were known throughout the truck show world, and at one time they had their own show in the Wisconsin area. Terry unfortunately passed away this last month in Florida, and he will be missed by many, me included.
When I think of media influencers from days gone past, it’s hard not to mention one of the greats. A man who made an impact with his professional persona as “Lowboy Lucas,” but he was also the single person most responsible for getting NAST (National Association of Show Trucks) off the ground. Behind the scenes, he produced the in-hotel advertising for the MATS and GATS truck shows that were seen in Louisville and Dallas during those events. He was one of the first to take trucking media mainstream to the general public through print and across the air waves with his weekly radio program. Today, he is still active in the public arena, only now he is known as Doctor Lucas Fry, and he is serving a higher purpose. Hey, it’s good to know people in high places.
Speaking of high places and truck royalty, I would be remiss not to mention the true king of trucking. This is a man who has been pushing the white line longer than most of today’s drivers have been able to read. If they are smart, they have been reading some of his words of encouragement and lessons from the road. His work appears in Landline Magazine monthly, but he is known across these United States as the guy from Horseless Carriage. He has since retired from there but is still trucking. Not only are his trucks legendary, but his stories, along with his personality, are the stuff dreams are made of. I am of course talking about America’s favorite driver, Dave Sweetman.
And what royal court would be complete with only a king? I searched in my bag of long lost memories and sure enough there was a queen hiding in there, too. Many of our current readers may not be familiar with some of these people, so here is what I remember about Cathy Sherman. She was trucking as an independent operator before most of the trucks we consider “vintage” were even manufactured. She was leased to one company and stayed there for more than 30 years. She would have stayed longer, but they stopped using owner operators who had their own trailers. She then spent the duration of her driving career at Badger State Western until 2022 when a broken hip sidelined her from driving the big trucks.
What sets Cathy apart from so many other worthy contenders is she did this all backwards. Before her driving career she was a journalist for one of the larger farm publications in the Midwest. This led her to do much promotional work on behalf of the industry, and her objectives were for safe highways and to improve the image of trucking. Lord knows we needed it back in 1993. I asked Cathy about her award as the Independent Contractor of the Year, which she received in 1994. Along with the award was a brand new tractor! Yes, she parked her 359 and climbed aboard her new International Eagle, which was paired with a matching reefer trailer. She and her matching unit were common sights at most of the truck stops between Wisconsin and California.
There have been others who started their writing careers at 10-4 then moved on to other positions up and down the highway. I’m thinking of one lady who we have known for many years. She was most responsible for the building of my son’s (Steve) truck – his first attempt at a real working custom ride. That story started in Louisville, KY at the MATS event. We were standing outside in the Pride and Polish competition area when the conversation got around to Steve not liking some of trucks in the contest. Suzanne Stempinski is not one to beat around the bush or side-step an issue, and she simply said to my son, “If you think you can build a better truck then do it!” And do it, he did. And what an education he received along the way. Today he builds custom trucks for some of the biggest names in the industry. These are the people we need to thank for motivating us to be the best we can be, and to remember the lessons they taught us, as we roll into the next 30 years.
What a fun ride down memory lane. Each of these people are the reason why 10-4 and other publications like them have been a part of our lives. It’s not always about the iron on the street, but the people in the seat (and the stories they have lived). Any of us can go to a builder and commission a project, but that won’t guarantee us success in the dog eat dog world we call trucking.
This month (September) is when we celebrate our 30th year as a mainstay in truck magazines, and I think Big E (Erik Sieben), one of the founders of the magazine who passed away a few years ago, is smiling down on every one of us. Congratulations to 10-4 Magazine and all the people who make it possible and thank you to all our devoted readers and fans. Rolling forward there will still be challenges to test us, but as in the past, we will rise to the occasion and press on. Break out the bubbly and raise a glass… here’s a toast to all the semi crazy people out there that we love, 10-4.