Faces of Magnum:
For more than 60 years, OTR driver Earl Christmann has been traversing America’s highways to deliver goods safely and on time.
How long have you had your CDL?
I’ve been driving for over 60 years now. I got my CDL right when they came out. You didn’t need a CDL in my time. When they came out with CDLs, then everybody had to get one.
I learned how to drive the old-fashioned way. When I started out, I had no help at all. I learned with a load of cattle. But back then, we didn’t have big trucks like we do now.
How long have you been driving for Magnum?
It’ll be 22 years in October.
What made you choose to become a truck driver?
I used to haul cattle to the sale barn, that’s how I got involved.
Do you use a CB radio? If so, what is your handle?
Prairie Dog. That’s been my handle ever since I got a CB radio.
What is your favorite thing to haul?
I like reefer work. It’s clean work that you don’t have to worry about. With cattle, you get dirty all the time and your truck stays smelly.
I’d rather haul live animals than dead meat any day. When you take a curve, the cattle will move with you. Dead meat will go the opposite way.
What do you like to do when you aren’t driving?
I like to do yardwork and fix things around the house. And, of course, spend time with the grandkids. The little guy likes to play basketball with me – he’s so fast! And he’s only three!
What is something you are proud of relating to your driving career?
I help people out. In the wintertime, I won’t let anybody sit out on the road.
One year in January, I was about 15 miles from Missoula and it was blizzarding real bad. I saw a car parked on the side of the road, and a pregnant woman was inside. I couldn’t figure out why she was parked there, but then I realized she was in labor. I got on the phone, and they sent a snowplow and an ambulance to take her to the hospital. I was lucky we had cell phones because otherwise I don’t know what I would’ve done.
Where is your favorite place you’ve traveled while driving?
Out West. Nobody wants to drive out West, but I enjoy it. It’s a big experiment. Especially with these new automatic trucks, I love it. People are more friendly out West too.
What is the best thing about being a truck driver?
You meet a lot of people. I meet a lot of drivers, and I get along with everybody.
What is the hardest part of being a truck driver?
Dispatch is the hardest part, but you have to get along with them because it’s part of the job.
You’ve been driving for your entire career. Can you share one memorable story from your time on the road?
It was March 3, 1966. I still have the paper from that day.
I had just gotten home from a hauling a load of cattle. It was four in the morning and all of a sudden, the phone rang. My mother answered it and told me I had a phone call. I picked up the phone, and it was the boss saying he had another load of hogs that needed to go out to Seattle. I said, “I can’t do it.” I knew I could not make the trip out to Seattle with that load of hogs without sleep. He told me I had to, so I went down to South Dakota to pick up the hogs.
I got to Aberdeen, and the money was in a sealed envelope. They told me to call this guy and his wife, and they would come along. I think they were arguing while I was sleeping in the bunk, and he went around a curve too fast and rolled the truck. I flew out of that little window in the back sleeper. The fuel tanks were laying on my legs for five hours until the paramedics came. I was in a body cast for 18 months and had 98 stitches. For 15 days, I was unconscious.
It took about a year for me to start driving again. I’m not afraid of much, but I was afraid for a long time.
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