Friday, August 5, 2016

IF OLD TRUCKS COULD TALK


I have a soft spot for silvering barns, rusted wire fences, weathered, hand-hewn livestock chutes, and old trucks.  The west is full of ‘em and each of these relics of our west has a story to tell, I’m sure. I’ll stop smack-dab in the middle of the road if I think I can get away with a decent shot at one.

Particularly the old trucks.

Some of the best “retired” trucks are found near the middle of nowhere, parked in a wheat field or subsumed by a thicket of brambles. 

Some you see a great distance away as you travel a rifle-shot straight section of road across the plain. 

Some spring upon you as you round a bend or crest a rise. 

Some rest in junkyards, but good photos are hard to shoot, given all the other good junk so near by. 

Some are displayed in front of farm stands or outside wineries, but these, posed as they are, seem a little less like an artifact and more like an ornament.  I don’t think they really count. 

Some are behind fences although I’m not certain the fence is keeping ‘em from escaping to somewhere.

Through decades of pausing for a photograph of an old GMC or International

– or worse, not pausing and wishing that I had –

I have begun to spin my own yarns about a flat bed delivering fodder to cattle in a parched August pasture, the stakeside fording an angry creek down from the bridge washout, or a workhorse ranch pickup getting spiffed up for a Saturday night on the town.

But all of those tales were made up, products of my romantic fantasies about ranch life with its early mornings, hard work and dreamless sleep beneath peaceful, starry midnight sky.  Yep, all of these stories were little fictions – little personifications – because derelict trucks can rust by the side of the road or out behind a collapsing barn, but they can’t tell stories.

That is, until one spoke yesterday.


Yesterday’s truck, a 50s era Studebaker was locked inside a cyclone enclosure designed more to keep passers-by such as myself from getting too close rather than having the thing roll off somewhere under its own power on its rusted wheels and arthritic ball joints.   

In faded paint on the driver’s side door were the words “Hopson Dairy.  Anderson California.”

I was nowhere near Anderson, California so I visited the Internet in search of the old truck’s story.

In bygone days, milk came from dairies and was delivered directly to the consumer’s door.  Milk came in glass bottles, the likes of which you may find at an antique shop nowadays.  In the northern end of the Sacramento Valley near Anderson, California, the Hopsons owned one such dairy.   For decades, the family maintained a small herd of cows, the facility to milk them and the means to distribute product throughout a small region of Shasta County. 

Up that way in the 50s, Redding Motors on Market Street (the old US 99 though town) held the Studebaker franchise.  I can’t help but wonder how many of these workhorses passed through that dealership’s doors.  One of them may have been the old crate I spotted so many miles from Anderson.

According to the Redding Record Searchlight, the Hopson Dairy was established in 1943 and ended production in 1987.  Twenty years later, on a Saturday in March, heir Ben Hopson auctioned the place lock, stock and milk bottle.  And the old Studebaker. 

Courtesy and (c) Redding Record Searchlight
It was included in the picture of the about-to-be-disposed-of dairy, published in the March 14, 2008 edition of the Record-Searchlight next to a stock trailer and some aging agri-implements.


We do things differently now. Mom and Pop groceries have withered as Safeways and their ilk have grown.  Many local hardware stores have succumbed to the presence of the Home Depot and Lowes.  Countless downtown haberdasheries and five ‘n’ dimes have faded away as Target stores and Wal-Marts have appeared.

On the plus side, these big stores offer value – or, at least, a perception of value – to the buyer.  The downsides – perhaps more romantic than economic – include the demise of some family farms, the loss of some independent businesses, and death of some of those chores for trucks like the old Studebaker.  

And their stories.

© 2016
Church of the Open Road Press

4 comments:

  1. Great finds in those old trucks. Sure makes you wonder where they've been.

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  2. And what really bugs me is that some of the old ones I might catch a glimpse of are of the era of those I used to drive when I delivered local freight while in college.

    Gives me a little hollow feeling: like seeing a current photo of a movie star or television personality you "knew" when you were a kid and you find yourself asking "What happened?"

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  3. What a great post! I'm a grandson of Gail Albert Hopson, who co-founded the Hopson Dairy with his brother and father. I went looking for images of these old trucks and came across your blog posting. There was a fleet of them, and my dad and his older brother delivered milk in them during summers after they turned 16. I'd love to know where you came across this one!

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    1. Thanks for your response and for adding a bit of history to my blog. I'd contact you if I could figure out how to do so - short of that, there's this on that Hopson's Dairy Truck. Westside Road heads south from Healdsburg, CA. About six or eight miles south, a tiny, one-lane, partially paved road called Sweetwater Springs veres to the right (before you get to the old Hop Kiln Winery) and arches over the mountains as a back door route into Guerneville. Over the mountain and on descent, you'll come across an old mine with a bunch of ramshackle buildings and implements. (Not sure what they mined there. Mighta been an old sawmill, but what the heck.) Corralled in a cyclone fence is the old Studebaker pickup pictured in this post. Rugged country, but sublime and quiet. Nice resting place for the ol' girl (were it not for the fence...)

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