Great Jobs 20-Good Moves
Soon Russ and I were making some pretty good money transporting the big wide, long Mobile Homes. The smaller trucks we had were not quite the gas eaters that the big rigs were. Even though those monsters were wide and long they did not weigh much. 20,000 pounds was about tops for most of them. Much greater gas mileage than a great big tandem axle rig pulling a 42 foot trailer full of furniture.
Pulling these big wide monstrosities over the old Federal and State highways was not all cake and Ice cream. Michigan did not have too many rules about them as a lot of them were manufactured there. Indiana required flag vehicles front and back. Illinois had not even made any rules and without rules that state for the most part would not allow them on their highways. Other states had various rules and usually getting from one state to another was a mish-mash of rules and regulations.
I had pulled a few trailers to a dealer in Saint Louis, George Wilson Trailer Sales, who had his dealership up near Natural Bridge and Lindberg. The first couple I delivered had to go through Indiana, Kentucky, and back up Missouri Highway 61 in order to be legal and have the proper flagging required by the State Permits. To be sure all the extra miles and flagging charges would put a lot of extra delivery price to be added to the cost of these trailers.
So, on one delivery, George asked me if there was a better way to get deliveries to him and if I could find a way he would give me an extra $100, instead of paying all the extra miles and flagging charges, which were well over $400.
“You got a deal”. I told him, “The next time you order a new trailer from the factory you call my dispatcher, Eileen, and tell her you want me to deliver if. And you also tell her to compute the direct miles between Cassopolis, Michigan and Saint Louis, Missouri without any flag charges except the miles necessary through Indiana”.
Of course when the next order came through my dispatcher, Eileen warned me of the consequences of running through Illinois and said any tickets and charges in Illinois would be ‘on me’. And not only that if they confiscated a shipment or tied it up in any way, it would cost me.
Now, there was a challenge that intrigued me. I still loved the lure of 'getting even’, making the ‘local yokels’ look like the idiots I considered them to be was still a big thing in my life. ‘I’ll get ‘em Dad somehow or other’. You have to remember I had a very bad feeling for ‘cops’ who had treated my dad so mean for no good reason. Now I could make ‘em all look like the bums they were. What a way to make my points. And to me a lot better than running booze to Arkansas. This could be real fun.
Well, the actual miles between the factory in Michigan and Saint Louis were just at 400, so George Wilson would be saving over 250 miles of freight charges and another few hundred miles of flagging charges. I would be getting my regular mileage rate plus an extra $100 which for an overnight trip was not too bad. And now I had to go home and chart my course through Illinois and past the scales and local yokels. I always did have a great brain, everybody had always told me I was a ‘smart ass SOB’, so what’s new?
To get through Illinois I had to leave Michigan and head for US Highway 41 down the border of Western Indiana. In Indiana Audrey or Russ still got minimum Flag charges, we could not get away from that. But, where US 52 crossed into Illinois was the route of choice. An old narrow highway with little traffic, but there was a scale right at the border in Illinois. I usually left Michigan late in the afternoon so I could hit that scale when it was closed. Usually that scale was not too busy so it was closed by 6 or 7 pm. No problem there.
US 52 ran into US 24, another old road with very little traffic. And by the time I hit there it was dark. Illinois 47 ran off US 24 on down south to just about a mile above Litchfield, where a 24/7 scale was always in operation. That was on US 66 the major highway between Chicago and Saint Louis and points beyond and it was already a four lane highway. And now my ‘ingenuity’ came into play. It was still dark, and all I had to do was get across 66 to the other side of 47 which was at that point an old farm road and ran over to Illinois highway 7 and that highway ran into 66 again right at the Chain of Rocks Bridge over the Mississippi right into North Saint Louis County. That bridge charged tolls at the time but no problem there, all those booth attendants wanted was their toll not highway rules. Getting by that I was home free and usually was parked on the lot waiting for George to open for the day. Great payoff and I could usually get George to pop for breakfast. By late that evening I was back home, unless I wanted to pay a visit to Mom.
I made several of those trips for George and he really liked me and was always sure to ask for me to deliver his trailers. Sometimes when he had them sold he would even let me deliver them to the customer which was another charge, and most of those deliveries didn’t take long as they went to a mobile home park in and around the Saint Louis area and usually took less than an hour to deliver and set up.
As I look back, these were the great times with Audrey, and her new found friends from her work place, and Russ. We were making great money, even saving some. We had a new freezer full of meat and fish and all sort of goodies for weekend cookouts. Russ and I built a dirt track car to race on weekends at the local dirt track that ran drag races and demolitions. So who do you think was the driver? We won a few races and even survived a demolition or two, but that dirt track was hardly a place to make money and we did not have the time to follow the circuit.
And, I suppose this would be a good place to tell the story about Audrey’s Ford that I bought her so she could get her Michigan license and use it to flag for me and Russ. It seems a few of our Michigan pals used to like to go Ice Fishing, a favorite midwinter sport for most guys who live around the lake areas which were close to Dowagiac and Cassopolis. On one weekend I went along for the adventure, although I was not much of a fisherman. It was late January and for the most part the lakes were well frozen over.
When you get into Ice fishing the common practice is to cut a hole in the ice. A tent can usually be put up over the hole and with the cold winters of Michigan, even a small heating stove can be placed in the tent to keep warm. And you fish through the hole and fish deep as the large fish are near the bottom. Well, it so happened I caught a few but in the process I was freezing to death and of course a few nips of booze had a way of warming up the cold ‘bod’. That night when I started for home I tossed the fish in a gunny sack and tossed them in the trunk of the Ford. When I got home I was cold and tired and headed for bed and the warm covers. Of course the fish were forgotten until about April. Soon Audrey complained about a foul odor in her car, and we began looking for the source. She had a few choice words for me when I opened the trunk and drug out the sack of forgotten fish. It took some doing to get rid of the odor long enough to get the car peddled off. So, that year Audrey got a new ’57 Plymouth.
We did go to Indianapolis each spring on weekends to watch the time trials. And we even got to meet A. J. Foyt, a real nice guy, who eventually won four Indianapolis 500 races.
All in all the ‘50s were a fun time for all of us.
Watch for Helmer's next chapter on Great Jobs in the August issue.
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