The term “old school” is thrown around a lot these days, but most of the trucks that are described by this phrase aren’t the real deal. But this month’s cover truck most certainly is! Existing within the industry are some amazing generations of truckers that I have been able to meet, write about, and watch as the years go on, but something you don’t often see is a truck such as the pictured Kenworth, owned and operated by Keith Bothwell (67) of Wiggins, CO, that is still used every day. Keith is 50 years strong in the industry, and like his old truck, after being pulled from the weeds, it is a rolling representation of what trucks looked like in days gone by. This unique perspective gives us an understanding and appreciation for what trucking was and is today.
Growing up in Colorado, mainly in the Fort Morgan and Greeley areas, Keith can’t recall a time he didn’t know he would get into trucking. He pushed around toy trucks on the sidewalk as far back as he can remember. His mother would get so mad because he would wear out the toes of his boots and the knees on his pants “driving” those toy trucks around. In his family, Keith is the third generation of truckers, with his grandpa being the first, who had a Case tractor dealership. With the onset of World War II, parts for the tractors were hard to get, so his grandfather bought an old 1934 Ford truck he could use to get his own parts and haul the tractors, as well.
A child’s first teachers always seem to be their parents, and whether parents realize it or not, their children are paying attention. This wasn’t any different for Keith as a young boy, riding along with his father, and watching him while he was driving. Keith learned a lot from his father including how to treat people, how to be a professional driver, how to take care of equipment, and how to maintain the equipment. But what his father didn’t realize is that even though Keith didn’t pick up on how to shift a truck, he paid very close attention to his dad’s driving and learned how the truck sounded when it was shifted. I’ve heard about this from others as almost a form of art, much in the same way that those who know how, can shift without using a clutch.
Keith got his chauffeur’s license at age 16 and, in 1974, at age 17, right out of high school, he went trucking. He ended up waiting until he graduated because his mom made him finish school first. He started out driving for Gary Alan, who told Keith, “Hook up to that trailer, head to Dodge City, KS, and I’ll see you tomorrow.” At first he hauled anhydrous, and then he moved on to working for Del Speicher, hauling grain in a hopper bottom. Keith did some other driving jobs, and then started driving for Jerry Weber, hauling beer and produce, out of Fort Worth, TX.
In 1995, Keith managed to get into a recognized company with a fleet of orange trucks – Tri-State Commodities, Inc. out of Greeley, CO. He was able to run their show truck to shows during the summers for about 20 years and then, during the winter months, he would work in the shop. In the early 80s, Keith tried his hand at pinstriping and lettering, learning on his own. He said he had seen enough bad work to know that he could do better, so he set out to do his own paint designs, utilizing what colors worked and what didn’t.
On June 25, 2019, Keith married his wife Candie, and our friend and July 2019 cover trucker Jake Bast was the one to marry them at his home (at the time) in Wells, NV. Later in 2019, Keith was told by his friend Aaron Smith about an old worn-down truck in the weeds located in Akron, CO. In November, Keith went to look at it, purchased it (his very first truck), got a wrecker, and then dragged it home. This truck was once owned by Jerry Weber (previously mentioned who Keith used to work for) and still had the original mural on it. All of Jerry’s trucks had something similar on them, based on the old B.C. comic strip by Johnny Hart, which featured humorous cavemen. The original goal for this truck was to just have it for fun and take it to shows once he had it finished – or so he thought.
The pictured truck, which is unique in so many ways, is a 1962 Kenworth 925. When Keith bought the truck, it had no engine in it. Eventually, he took the truck down to the frame rails and, piece by piece, found the needed items, and then started putting it all back together. Buying a 1982 chassis from Gregg Shupe, which he repainted, Keith used it as the foundation of this truck. The transmission is a 5+4 Spicer, which is what came with the truck when it was purchased. The truck also has 3.55 rears and a 252-inch wheelbase.
When you look at this truck, you must look closely at the little details Keith has added or accentuated. The “Mr. Horsepower” sticker on the vent window was gifted to Keith by Jake Bast, as Keith has always had a love of hot rods. The cab and sleeper have the original paint from when Jerry owned it. The hood was extended because Keith decided the truck needed a Caterpillar 3408 in it, which was necessary to accommodate the space this big V-8 engine would require. Keith opted for a 3408 in the truck for two reasons: because he always wanted a hot rod, and to be different (hardly anyone has them anymore).
Keith and Clyde “Mayor of I-80” Green (November 2022 feature trucker) found a radiator shroud that they just started cutting away at, until it fit. Keith fabricated a lot of things on this truck including the clutch linkage, the steering column, and even the exhaust. He had to make the exhaust (turbo to the Y pipe), because no one had the exhaust for a V-8 for a truck this old. He also built the bottom radiator mount and the light bar across the back of the truck. Every air valve and all the plumbing and wiring on this truck is new, and Keith said the truck is currently about 80 percent done.
It was in June of 2023 when that “80 percent complete” benchmark was reached. At that point, Keith still thought the truck was just going to be for fun, but Clyde found him a nice little gig that he couldn’t pass up, and that “just for fun” truck officially became a work truck. For those that don’t know, Clyde owns Equality State Transport, Inc. out of Cheyenne, WY. Coming on board with Clyde also meant representing Clyde’s company by putting the name on his truck. The “Equality State Transport, Inc.” on Keith’s truck was done with a mix of powder and paint which is a trick Keith learned from his sign painting days. It is applied very dry, so it skips, giving it the appearance that it has been on there for a very long time. Prior to going to work, Keith and his truck went on their maiden voyage together to the ATHS National Convention and Antique Truck Show last year in Reno, NV.
Everyone has someone they look up to, a person that has influenced and or supported them in their ventures, but for Keith, there is more than one person he’d like to thank. To his father (picture framed photo Keith is holding), who was everything to him including respecting him so much and wanting to be just like him. To Del Speicher for trusting an 18-year-old kid with driving a big fancy Peterbilt and allowing him to take it to get it washed. To Jerry Weber, who owned cool trucks and gave Keith the opportunity to drive one of them. To the members of the Shupe family, owners of Tri-State Commodities, for being a company Keith could both be a part of and admire, not only for their beautiful equipment, but how they run a business. Last but not least, big thanks to Clyde Green, a man Keith has been a longtime friend with and someone he has learned so much from, including how to treat people. Clyde is a man Keith highly admires who is always uplifting.
Today, Keith and Candie, along with their precious pup Agnes, reside in Wiggins, CO. The highlights are their trips to Little Rock, AR to visit Keith’s daughter Bailey and his grandchildren, Lincoln and Kamryn. Keith sometimes hauls for Tri-State pulling one of their trailers. They have been gracious enough to let him work on his truck in their shop and also let him park the truck in their yard. More than anything else, Keith uses this unique old Kenworth to pull a 2018 Polar liquid center drop trailer hauling liquid fertilizer.
He said he really enjoys driving this truck and there will always be work it needs or things he can tinker on. The interior is a work in progress, but I think it looks pretty cool already! Keith also said that he used to love to drive, and every trip was an adventure. That being said, he and this cool old truck are trying to get back to that again.
Colorado, like many of the western states, is plentiful with beautiful areas providing some cool backgrounds for photographing big trucks. Greeley is no exception, with accessible locations to get Keith’s truck into, including the Park-And-Ride, with a mountain range backdrop, some beautiful fall colors captured around Promontory Park, and Trinidad Bean & Elevator Co.
This trip out of town had me starting in Larned, KS where I photographed the January 2024 cover truck, then headed to Nunn, CO to not only get a long overdue visit with one of my best friends, Leah, but to make my way down to Greeley to photograph Keith’s truck. During the second day, Keith said I needed to get the full effect and ride shotgun to one of the locations, which I gladly obliged. It was a real treat to have Leah with me so she could see what I get to see each time I photograph a truck, but also for her to get a firsthand look through the windshield from the passenger seat of Keith’s truck. Between Leah and I, I’m really not sure who wore a bigger grin that day.
Special thanks from Keith goes to his wife Candie who has been his biggest supporter and has more faith in him than he has in himself. It means everything to him to have a teammate in all of this. He couldn’t do this without her, although he said he could do it if he was single, but in a marriage, she is the only one he could do this with. Also, special thanks to Jared and Deb Jakino for taking their camper out of their shop to give Keith a place to put his truck inside and to work on it. Jared helped Keith a lot with not just the use of the shop, but also with his time and tools, which he is grateful for.
I’ll accredit one of my great friends, with many thanks, for being the one to bring this truck to my attention. Jimmy Johnston (March 2019 feature trucker) and I were having a conversation and he kept talking about this guy’s “cool old truck” – but what I really heard was what a great guy the owner was. Technically, when I photographed Keith’s truck, it wasn’t the first time I saw it in person, because I passed him in Wyoming on I-80 back on July 26, as I was making my way to Utah. It was soon thereafter that I called Clyde Green, and he was able to give me some more information on Keith, along with his phone number. Beyond Keith and Candie, thank you to Jimmy and Clyde very much for helping me to get the ball rolling. As most know, I don’t just trust anyone with giving me article recommendations where I can just schedule a photo shoot with a truck and its owner, sight unseen.
Thank you to Keith and Candie for your time, laughter, communication, and most importantly, the friendship. Keith, Candie, Leah, and I all met up with Clyde and his wonderful wife Melody in Cheyenne for dinner, which definitely needs to happen again. Clyde and Keith are pioneers in trucking that represent what makes our industry strong. Their knowledge (and Keith’s KW) gives us a unique perspective of trucking’s past. As always, to all the drivers out there doing the deal, truck safe.