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The Log Truck driver from hell an Australian logging story

Updated on February 24, 2011

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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