Tough as Nails, Reliable as a Rising Sun




It’s time to pay tribute to my livestock trailer who I have undying respect for, for never yelling “whoa!” in a bad place and always being able to show up. But at the age of 52 years, my accountant thinks it’s time for him to be taken off my depreciation schedule.


Dugan was built in Texas and named after the guy who built him in 1969. When I told Dugan of my decision to follow my accountant's advice, Dugan said, “Why me? I’ve got four new tires and a new floor, so you can no longer see the road below. Who would want to retire an icon like me that still has miles to go?” I know Dugan, growing old is not all that it’s cracked up to be. I believe you were the first Gooseneck trailer to arrive on the Central Coast.


I remember it well. The year was 1970 and I was but 35 years old and full of energy for new ideas and new ranch equipment that could make my work cheaper and easier. Dugan, you fit those new ideas perfectly, as I could now sell my two ton truck with an 8 x 16 foot flatbed with stock racks. I could haul my cattle and horses but I always needed a loading chute to use it. You came into my life and hooked directly to my pickup and my horses or cattle could take a small step up and go directly into my mobile cattle corral and along with my two ton truck, a license fee, insurance, gas oil, and maintenance all disappeared.


It was a summer day and the arrival of my Dugan trailer was announced by the barking of our dogs and the oinking of our pet pig “Purco” who thought he was a dog. Gene Rambo, my neighbor and world-famous All Around Cowboy in the 1940s and 50s, was also the new Dugan livestock trailer dealer. Well Gene, he steps out of his pickup and I notice he has his “go to town clothes” on making him look as shiny as a new penny. But Gene was a no nonsense sort of a guy, so when all the dogs came up to check him out Purco thought he should also. Purco being a friendly sort, got right up close to Gene looking for a friendly pat but instead got a swift kick to the belly to which Purco responded instantly by laying a big turd on the toe of his right hand shiny boot. Well this led to an outpouring of laughter by Zee and I and our four children. As for Gene his only utterance was to ask Zee for a rag to clean his boot and a check in the amount of $2500 and he was gone.


Dugan was stronger than any wild bull or steer that, once loaded, could never escape. Dugan could go almost anywhere on the ranch to retrieve a wild steer that had been roped and tied to a tree and he could also be as gentle as a butterfly. So when our oldest daughter Katy was about to be married on an early October day in 1983, a warm southern storm arrived with enough water in its belly to, in a matter of minutes, turn our dirt road into a muddy mess. We live on a hill about 200 feet above the valley floor, so it was a good thing that most of the 500 guests had already arrived and as quickly as the deluge arrived and dumped its load of “don’t rain on my ceremony” it quit. But it delivered enough rain on the dirt road leading to our house to make it impassable for two wheel drive cars. For Katy on her wedding day I’m sure it looked like a disaster in the making but I knew all our friends and neighbors were a plucky lot. I announced that if they would all wait in their cars or in our barn I would have a taxi shortly. Quick Jack, get your hired man! In no time we had hooked Dugan up to the ranch 4 wheel drive pickup, washed all the cow shit out and parked him where we could load about 30 wedding guests at a time, and with several neighbors in four-wheel drive pickups, in no time everybody was at our house. It was quite a sight to see one elderly neighbor lady as she stepped out of Dugan with Mink coat on and a ready smile say “that was a never to be forgotten way to arrive at a wedding.” For all the other guests a little rain made for a fun evening and for those with vehicles parked below Dugan was there to give them a ride back down and a feel for how a cow travels.


For Dugan the next several decades were uneventful, only wearing out several sets of tires, a coat of paint, and three wood floors by the hooves of horses and cattle, as I didn’t like slippery aluminum floors. This coat of paint I came to regret. As my priorities changed to a more environmentally friendly way to manage the V6 Ranch, that meant that I would never again put a coat of paint on Dugan as rust had become my favorite color for our dry and brittle climate.


Then in 1993 Zee and I watched the movie City Slickers, and since then we have invited 20 guests to help our cowboy crew gather our steers in the Spring for pasture moves or bring them to the corrals to be sold. For the last 28 years Dugan has the job of hauling all the stuff necessary for 20 guests and our Cowboy crew to spend two nights camped out at Mustang Camp on one of our four Cattle drives each year. This is when Dugan steps aside as gathering and driving cattle can only be done from the back of a horse.


Dugan and I were both adding years to our lives as he needed brakes and tail lights and I was finding that some days it was nice to take an afternoon nap. Like the summer afternoon that I was coming back from the Templeton Livestock Auction where I had sold a Dugan trailer load of cattle that had missed being gathered earlier. From the auction to the ranch it’s 40 miles, but for the last 30 miles if you passed two cars that was heavy traffic. So, what I have found for me, the best way to keep my eyes open and on the road was to eat Sunflower seeds while concentrating on extracting the seed from the shell with my tongue. But this day I was fresh out of seeds so I had to travel alone. Which set the stage for the next circumstance that was about to unfold. Suddenly I heard a loud bang and my steering wheel was ripped from my hands and in my rear view mirror I watched Dugan, jackknife, break loose from my pickup, and then rollover on his side. Well, that sure enough woke me up. As I climbed out of my pickup I hurried up the road because Dugan was resting crossways on a turn blocking both lanes. But luck was with me as nobody came into view for about a half hour. That’s when a mother and her daughter arrived. I introduced myself, then asked if any vehicles arrived would you tell them to please wait ‘till I get Dugan off the road. Sure enough luck was still with me as there was cell service and I was now telling my son John about my predicament, and would he come with a chain and flatbed trailer. By then another neighbor had arrived in a pickup and said “looks like we got to get your trailer back on its wheels and I’ve got some heavy Nylon straps that if we tie them to the offside frame I believe I can pull it over with my pickup. John arrived just as Dugan rolled back over on his wheels and it was time to see if Dugan was road worthy. And yes he was, except for a little road rash from skidding on his side he was in perfect order so we hooked him up to my neighbors pickup like nothing had happened. But my pickup had to be drug onto John’s trailer with a bent front axle and frame (which when the insurance adjuster looked it over, he “totaled it”). For now it was time to get to the ranch before someone called the Highway Patrol. That was a few years ago.


Dugan has done it all these past 52 years and still gets the call to go where no other trailer can go on the ranch. But trips to Paso Robles with much of the electrical system chewed up by some rats relegates Dugan to home duty.


“Ya know dad” says John “you really need a new trailer before you end up in the hospital. One that lets you stay on the outside of the fence and the cattle on the inside as you throw the gate shut, instead of trying to climb over the fence and then run to close the trailer gate before some unhappy critters decide to leave and flatten you on their way out.” That dose brings to mind just about a month ago Zee and I had gone over to a neighbors ranch to bring back five head of our steers that had strayed onto his ranch. I backed Dugan into his loading alley and then herded the cattle into the alley on foot and that's when one steer threw his head up in the air and ran me up on the fence. It took about half an hour before the wild guy had settled down enough that, with patience, we were able to get the five steers up to the trailer but not in. Now Zee and I were on our hands and knees trying to devise a way to pull the gate shut when the steers finally decided to hop in and we could close the gate. That’s when my neighbor drove up with a quizzical look on his face and said “What are you two doing down there, looking for gold?” “Well,” I said, “loading these cattle only with patience takes a while.” Micky hops over the fence gives a holler and in went the five, and with a closing of the tailgate I said to Zee “We’ve got to stop what we’re doing or get a better trailer for old folks. The kids might have a point, because at our age I want to be all in or all done, not just breathing.”


For you Dugan, age 52, how about if I park you where everybody that enters the V6 will see you in all your rusty splendor and wonder “what’s this piece of junk doing here for all to see,” without knowing that this is no wore out piece of junk but a guy who still has his work clothes on. Waiting for a call so he can once again get to use his new tires and floor.


See Ya,

Jack


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