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Riding in a Yuke

July 28, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Keith Schell

When I was growing up in the country outside of town in the 1960’s, the highway by our house was in poor shape and needed to be re-constructed.

So a government project was tendered and awarded to rebuild the highway directly in front of our house.  

One of the things that was decided was to re-route the direction of the new highway through a big rock face close to our house. A demolition team was brought in to divide the rock face in half to make way for the new highway. 

I remember seeing cranes moving around the giant tire blankets they brought into the area that were used to cover the rock face to muffle the aftermath of the explosions as they dynamited their way through the big rock face close to our house.

I remember seeing traffic being stopped in both directions and hearing the warning sirens to alert people in the area and then the “WHOOMP” of the explosions as the big rock face just up the road from our house was gradually sliced in two to make room for the new highway.

To haul away the big pieces of rock after the dynamiting, the construction company brought in excavation equipment and giant heavy-duty dump trucks manufactured by the Euclid Road Machinery Company of Euclid, Ohio, USA. The trucks were commonly known to the average person as ‘Yukes’.

One early evening after dinner I was walking by myself down the side of the highway to go see my friend at a neighbour’s place.

Coming up the road towards me was one of those big Yuke dump trucks. I stood as far back on the shoulder of the road as I could so I could watch the behemoth go by.

But when it got right up to me it stopped!  

The driver leaned out the passenger window and addressed my by name. I had never seen this guy before in my life!  

He said, “Keith, want to go for a ride?”

I was on the spot. It had been drilled into us not to take rides from strangers, but this guy knew who I was! I hesitated and didn’t answer him right away.

He understood my hesitation and reassured me, “it’s okay, I know your Dad!”

THAT WAS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME! HEY, I’M GOING FOR A RIDE IN A BIG DUMP TRUCK!!

As I climbed up the ladder he opened the passenger door so I could get in. THIS IS SO COOL!! When I closed the door and got settled on the seat he put the Yuke in gear and we began chatting to each other as away we went!

As I looked around the cab, I vaguely remember the dashboard was very basic: Just a speedometer, tachometer, two-way radio and wiper controls and cabin heater controls for the winter and a little fan for the driver in the summer. But no extras, like AM-FM radio or anything. This was simply a basic utilitarian heavy-duty work vehicle and it performed its task very well.

As we were riding along, who should I see walking on the shoulder of the road but my friend who I was originally intending to visit. I asked the driver if he could give my friend a ride as well and he said “Sure”. So I waved at my friend as the Yuke stopped and he climbed up for a ride as well.

Our Yuke got to its destination and we waited to be loaded with large pieces of stone. The Yuke shook under the weight of the giant pieces of debris that were being loaded into its box.

Once our Yuke was loaded, away we went to the intended dumping area. As we watched from the cab rear window while the load of stone was being dumped I said to my friend, “This is pretty neat, isn’t it?”

And he replied, ”Yep! I went for a ride last night!”

WHAT??

My friend gets two rides and I ONLY GET ONE?? THAT WASN’T FAIR!!

After thanking the driver when he dropped us off, that ride inequality stuck in my craw. So the next evening I went back for another ride but the Yuke driver smiled sympathetically and said, “Sorry, Keith. My boss says I can’t do that anymore.”

Sigh.

And even though I only got the one ride, in hindsight it was still one of the coolest things that ever happened to me when I was a kid!

I will always be grateful to the unnamed guy who knew my Dad for giving me one of the coolest guy experiences a kid could ever have: a ride in a Yuke, the biggest dump truck I have ever seen in my life!



         


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