Line One
Journeys
800 hams
Remember the song "Who's Gonna Feed Them Hogs" by Tom T. Hall?

By Bob Martin
OOIDA Life Member, Lafayette, IN

 

I met him in the hospital about a year ago
And why I still remember him I guess I’ll never know
He’d lie there and cry out in a medicated fog
Here I am in this dang bed and whose gonna feed them hogs?

Four hundred hogs comes to 800 hams
And that’s a lot of money for a hog-raisin’ man
Four hundred hogs comes to 1600 feet
The market’s up and there’s people waiting on that meat.

The doctors say they don’t know what saved that man from death
But in a few days he put on his overalls and he left
That’s all there is to this small song, but waitress ’fore you leave
Would you bring me some coffee and a hot ham sandwich please?

 

Great song, Tom. My tale is not about feeding them, but about hauling them hogs from the Midwest to Philadelphia in the mid-’60s.

I got into the hog-hauling business for a year or so as a company driver – I’m thinking 1966. At that time I was jumping around from job to job checking out the greener grass and looking for a home. I later found my dream job, a Teamster gig that paid 11 1/4 cents per mile.

I hired on with a hog hauler out of Pennsylvania and worked out of Indiana. Their niche in the hog business was hauling from northern Indy and Illinois to Penn Packing, a hog slaughter operation in downtown Philadelphia.

The company mostly did a relay operation – western driver load in Indiana or Illinois, and relay with an eastern driver at either North Lima, OH, or Ronnie’s Point, WV, just east of Wheeling.

There were other East Coast packing houses back then. Nowadays the trend seems to be to build the packing houses in the Midwest where a lot of the hogs are produced. Duh.

The Interstate system had just started in 1956, so it was far from complete – although most were started and had lots of unfinished sections.  

The turnpikes were done all the way from Chicago to New Jersey. Anyone remember the supper clubs on the pikes? Every single service plaza from the TriState tollway in Chicago to New Jersey was a Howard Johnson’s.

Choices were eat at HoJo’s, pack your lunch, or get off the pike. High-priced lousy food; they were taking advantage of a captive audience, in my opinion.

Who remembers when the PA Pike had seven tunnels? Path Valley Service Plaza? But no Nathan’s Hot Dogs or Mickey D’s. 

I-70 wasn’t done yet through or around Wheeling, so we all had to wiggle our way through town on US 40. In downtown Wheeling, getting around the corners was really close for a cabover and a 40-foot trailer. If you weren’t careful, you were liable rip a balcony off of someone’s second floor apartment.

Then finally, Ronnie’s Point. It was my relay point and a small but purely truck stop. And full service? Well, you have to read between the lines here; after all, this is a family magazine.

It was tough work. In winter, because of the weather and in the summer, well, hauling hogs in the hot weather ain’t all peaches and gravy. Heat is the hog’s worst enemy.

A triple deck 40-foot trailer was the wagon of choice of some carriers. They had two or three compartments on each deck.

Here’s how it was: Run in however many you wanted in the front pen, chase them in on your hands and knees, slam the gate and go get the next bunch. Sometimes the hogs just didn’t like the seating arrangements. One time I had a gate that failed to catch. I was crawling on hands and knees to close it, and this hog was coming the other way at full speed. Iron gate 1, my head 0.

After loading 200-plus head by yourself, you were pretty well wore out and ready for a break. No time for sitting in the shade with an iced tea. Put them in the wind, or some will die and the boss will have stroke when you call in the dead count.

Occasionally the worst that could happen did happen. After humping it to make my relay point with my eyeballs looking like two burned holes in a blanket due to too many cigarettes, coffees and lack of sleep – there would be a message. “Your relay truck ain’t gonna make it; take your load on to Phillie. Have a pleasant evening. Oh, by the way, they want you in there by daylight.”

This usually meant a visit to the shop where the tire guy doubled as a pharmacist.

“Waitress, could I have a thermos of that industrial strength coffee and a hot ham sandwich to go, please?” LL


Bob Martin is an OOIDA Life Member from Lafayette, IN, and frequent contributor to Land Line Magazine.