The Log Truck driver from hell an Australian logging story

It was mid winter in the Australian bush. The clay and sand roads were as greasy as a lamb chop. Where the road had been carved through the cuttings, the rocks jutted out of the road surface where the grader had been only weeks before. The rain had washed the clay and sand off and left slippery granite covered in topsoil washed from the higher ground. We needed another log truck driver, the other guy we were using was doing highway miles out of a roadside landing, a lot better job than we were offering.

At the best of times it was always hard to get good log truck drivers. My dad referred to the worst of them as "bloody truck murderers" meaning that they "killed" a truck by being mechanical imbeciles, or lousy log truck drivers.

In those days the trucks were pretty crook so if you had a truck killer as a driver, he would seldom do two loads a day to the mill and chances are you would have to go and drag him back on the road at least once a week after he had skidded off the slippery bush road surface.Most times the driver would be OK although the only reason for that was they often leapt out of the cabin as the truck left the road.

Lousy drivers with little experience had bought trucks when Australian Paper Mills created a boom in wood pulp that became available after the big bush fire of 1939. By 1950 every able bodied entrepreneur seemed to grab a truck and convert it to carry timber for wood pulp.The experienced log truck driver had to share narrow winding roads with these "wet behind the ears" truck drivers and it was hell.

The country road that we lived on had 150 pulp trucks a day coming past our front door, most of them going too fast, waving their dog trailers behind them.

You can still find truck wrecks at the bottom of many of the steep valleys where they ended their lives, and sometimes the driver's life too. The most common result was that the driver would jump out before the truck left the road, and one guy we knew did this successfully twice.

As a result of some of the city drivers getting killed in their own trucks, they started hiring log truck drivers who would succeed in getting the pulp to the mill without accidentally disappearing over the side of the road two mile down in to the valley, or just as likely embedding their truck and themselves in a huge tree.

Log truck drivers don't grow on trees ya know!

We started having trouble finding drivers.

I don't remember where dad found him, probably the pub. "Mack" was a Scotsman and a pretty fair driver. He took the first three loads though the access road and on to the mill, and was back empty for another load. He would sleep in the huge cabin of his old Thornicroft truck and load himself or have "the wee one" meaning me, load him first thing in the morning. As long as Mack was contracted, I had many a cold day break start. I loved it! Mack was as funny as a circus to me, with his wry humor and his broad Scottish accent.

He accepted a little kid loading his truck like it was an every day occurance in life before he met me.

When you load logs on a log truck with the blade of the dozer, the logs tend to go in whichever direction their shape, weight distribution and the terrain take them, and many times I have seen a dozer operator put a log in to the trucks cabin, roll the log over and off the other side, tip the truck jinker over on it's side, or on one occasion tip the whole truck upside down! Half the skill is in retarding the progress of the log by nudging it in exactly the right place, and as I'd maneuver the log Mack would be nodding approval.

Like I said, I liked Mack, and so did dad, so when we moved to the next logging site we asked him to stay with us as our contract log truck driver on this much drier and easier job.

When Mack agreed and said his thanks, Dad replied "Good log truck drivers don't grow on trees you know!" Which we all thought was hillarious!

As with many logging sites at that time, we had to gain permission to travel through a property to take the dozer in, and take logs out with the truck.

The property in this case was a road across a disused farm.

The owner was a silly old coot, who was a stickler for closing gates, even though he had no stock on his property at all, and one day as Mack pulled up with a load of logs to open the gate, old Charlie gets in his ear about closing the gate. Macka jumps out of the old Thornicroft, ignores Charlie and opens the gate, gets back in, drives through then stops, gets back out of the truck and closes the gate, while Charlie is still giving him an earful about making sure the gates are always closed.

Mack carefully closes the latch on the gate, gives it a shake to ensure it is closed properly and walks back to the big old Thornicroft and pomptly backs over the carefully closed gate!

Old Charlie shouted "You stupid bastard you buggered me gate!

Mack reply? "I kinna be rrespoonsebool ferrrrr whet gooos orwn behaind ma barkkkk! and drives off!

Dad squared off with old Charlie, but it near killed him not to laugh while he apologised.

Mack was always down the pub on Saturdays as were all the loggers, sawmill owners and log truck drivers.It was where everyone squared up for the week. Truck drivers got paid by the contractors the contractors got paid by the local mills.

On one occasion there was a brawl in the pub between two loggers.

Mack ignored it until someone spilt his drink then abused him. Instead of getting in to the brawl, Mack threw both of them over the back veranda, about a six foot drop! All the locals had seen people chucked out of the pub before, but not over the back veranda!

If you're still out there Mack, I'd like you to know that I thought the world of you, and feel sure you were one of my dad's favorite drivers, and a good mate to all of us.

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Comments 24 comments

Christa Dovel profile image

Christa Dovel 7 years ago from The Rocky Mountains, North America

I enjoyed your story.

blondepoet profile image

blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

Wow this was a super great read Earnesthub.Fair dinkum haha.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

blondepoet I thank you for reading. It was fun to write. I have some fond memories of the bush.

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ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

If you've got enough like this it could make a great collection for a book. Just a thought.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Hey thanks CWB! I must admit to having at least another hundred similar stories, but can't tell all of them yet, even in a book! I guess I could change some names and places.

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ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

That's what writers of such books usually do. After all, the innocent must be protected and apparently the guilty as well.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

CWB, I thank you for the encouragement. I have thought of writing a book, but so far I have squibbed it. I will see if I can muster some dutch and make a start. I have a new website as of today, so will be busy trying to squeeze some visitors to it for a few months. I decided that since I am such a critical bastard I should make a revue site and hand out some un-hyped advice!

I am going to be testing software on my website, and selling only the software I use and trust. Knowing me and how fussy I am, I'll wind up with two items for sale!

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 7 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Delightful story. Loved the part about Mack backing up over the gate. How did Mack end up? Did he work for a long time for your dad? Or is there another Hub about him I haven't seen yet?

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

great to hear from you Sally's Trove! Mack worked on two more contracts with us over the next two years. We did win a big contract that he helped fulfill. I will write more about him soon, as I have had a few people who enjoy Australian bush stories. I only tell true ones, as I am not great at making up stories.

Mark Spearman 7 years ago

Great read, thanks. I see logging is never easy, not even in Australia. I think of nothing but desert land there because it's all you see on TV. Of course there's more, but I just never think about it.

I loved the part about the gate. Very funny.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks Mark! It is always tough in the bush anywhere I reckon. Australia has got a fair bit of very dense old growth forest and heavy new growth as well, yet from above the whole place looks like one huge desert, so your perception is mainly right.

cally2 profile image

cally2 7 years ago from Paraparaumu, New Zealand

Good on yeh. Working men and the bush always make a great story

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks cally! I love the bush here, but it was tough living there!

Niteriter profile image

Niteriter 7 years ago from Canada

I really enjoyed this one! I used to be a long-haul truck driver (not logs!) myself some years ago so this was of reminiscent appeal. Good job.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 7 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

I have driven a couple of late model trucks in the past two years. (A friend hauls Melbourne/Brisbane.)

Boy these guys have it good! The 10 tonne went like a Porsche empty, and the air seat and light hydraulics were superb.

I loved it!

The other drive was a 5 tonne Isuzu which was sooo comfortable I did not want to leave the cab!

bearclawmedia profile image

bearclawmedia 6 years ago from Mining Planet Earth

Bloody good yarn.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you kind sir! It is all true as well!

attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 6 years ago from Australia

That's a great read Ern, bringing the logging camp to life. Our overseas visitors might wonder what 'crook' means, but i'm not telling them. Cheers

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thanks attemptedhumour!

It is fun to look back on. I guess it's easy to forget the cold, wet, miserable times when everything broke and we bloody near starved!

Still, it was dads own business and he was never afraid to put it on the line and fight back.

oliversmum profile image

oliversmum 6 years ago from australia

earnestshub. Hi. Loved your take on what our beautiful unique Australian Bush is like.

Some of those Log Truck Drivers were stark raven mad, more so the ones that would not put chains on, they seemed to thrive on the danger.

The Black Spur was a challenge to a lot of them, but they just took it in their stride, no fear, crazy.

Mack sounds like a really great guy.

Thanks for writing a wonderful story and sharing it with us. Voted up and Awesome. :) :)

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Thank you Oliversmum! I enjoyed writing this. Great memories.

My father lived on the other side of the Black Spur for many years when he retired.

I used to ride my motorcycle up there on the weekends. A great piece of road these days, not so great in the old days though.

wilderness profile image

wilderness 6 years ago from Boise, Idaho

Awesome hub, Earnest - I enjoyed the read. I fought the log truck drivers as a young driver in the mountains around us and it didn't take long to learn to get out of the way! Getting the load to the mill was far more important than not running over other drivers. It always paid to know when and where the log trucks were in the area.

earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia Author

Great comment wilderness. It only took a couple of gentle "nudges" to educate anyone brave of silly enough to challenge a log truck's road space in those days!

The truth is most of them couldn't steer or stop, in fact all they could do was wish you weren't there!

attemptedhumour profile image

attemptedhumour 5 years ago from Australia

Hi Ern It's just so nice to get out to that rough natural environment, especially with those rich characters. Cheers mate

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