Thursday, September 3, 2015

#TBT: Spitballin’ with Cowpoke

Editor’s note: “Throwback Thursday” has become a popular way to share past pics or stories on the Internet. Bob Martin’s award-winning “Spitballin’ with Cowpoke” column in Land Line was a reader favorite from 2009-2011. Bob passed away in 2011. Here’s one from the November 2009 issue.

Remember the nicknames truckers used back in the day? Some of my favorites were GMCs and Internationals. In the 1950s, GMC made a bubble-nosed kinda cabover-looking job that everybody called the Cannonball. The name seemed to fit although I don’t think it came from the brute power of these trucks as a lot of them were powered by a 4-banger Detroit. GM followed that up in the ’60s with one we labeled the Crackerbox.
Bob "Cowpoke" Martin (Photo courtesy of Peterbilt)

Then in the ’70s, GM built a truck that actually came from the factory with an official model name: The Astro. That didn’t stop us. We renamed this astronomical GMC a West Virginia Peterbilt with a Sunporch. Anyone who has ever driven one would understand why.

I drove all three, and if I were to rate them, it would be in this order: (1) Neat Old Truck, (2) Man, it’s Cold in Here and (3) I Think I Might Throw Up.

Internationals had some cool nicknames. Remember the High Binder? How about the Cherry Picker? And of course, the Emeryville. And who can forget when International stuck a hood on their classic Emeryville? This truck rated two nicknames, Hog-Nose and The Donald Duck Truck. Pick one. And of course, the neatest truck International ever built was the West Coaster. Of course all Internationals were Binders or Farmalls.

Who remembers back around 1970 – give or take – when White Motors came out with a cabover? Probably the flagship of the fleet, it had an official model name, not just a number – The Road Commander. How long do you think it took us to turn that around to the Road Commode?

What about a 5- and 3-way Brownie? Don’t get excited; it’s just an old-timey tranny combo – a two sticker, 5-speed main box, Fuller, Spicer, whatever, and a 3-speed Brown Lipe auxillary. Another one was married 4-by-4s (huh?).

Does anyone who ever had the pleasure of operating one miss the 12-speed Spicer? That tranny had a lot of nicknames but none I can think of that would get by the editor of this magazine.

Motors had nicknames, too. How about your Shiny 290 or One Six Bits or Iron Lung? How about Nine Oh Nuthins, Thumperdynes, 4-Bangers – and my favorite, a Double-Breasted Yamaha with a Hair Dryer. If you had one, it made your truck sound like Porter Wagoner’s bus back in the day.

If you worked for Transcon, you drove a TrashCan. If you worked for Navajo, you were a Blue-Eyed Indian. If you drove for Consolidated Freightways or CF, you were a Cornflake.

It wasn’t just the trucks, trannies, motors and companies. There was a lot of slang stuff out there, but at least we knew what we were talking about.


  1. Those were the days my friend. I drove a few of them myself and thought the days would never end. With fondness now missing the comraderie the nick names and being Kings of the Road while dodging the White Knight make the memories comeback like it was yesterday.
    Desparado, Lefty and Dragonfly were handles I used when I drove a One Stack Mack with a window in the back, dreamin bout looking neat in the seat of a store bought Pete.
    Doing west coast turn a rounds listening to the Jackson Browne's, "Load and Stay" the convoys on I-10 couldn't be helped and no one did 55. Southern Shaker was fast but couldn't fight the law. Yes the hours and days were long but fun and energizing to say the least. It wasn't like a job. but more of a mission, being a hand back then was like being on a Specials Ops team delivering the goods and making history. The times will never be forgotten. 10-4 over and out.

  2. Great stuff from our old friend and columnist Bob Martin. RIP Cowpoke, we miss you.


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