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A Tribute To Bill Kiker



West bound I-20, pretty close to the center of nowhere. If you could say you were sitting on the edge of a truck seat, thats where I was. Cringing with every breath. A 100 miles from a wrecker big enough to handle a rig, and a transmission that sounded like a hog eating hickory nuts. I had just passed a road sign, Toyah 12 miles, and I knew I could at least find food and water and get out of the highway. The transmission was ruined, so I kept tickling the throttle, just enough fuel to keep it moving. Eight miles, six miles, four, then I was at the exit. Off the highway and into a small Truck Stop. Toyah Texas, is at the edge of the Permian Basin, just 22 miles east of the junction of I-20 and I-10. It is an unlikely place for a settlement, unless you take into consideration it's proximity to the Texas oil patch, which during this time frame was not doing well. Toyah was also the home of Bill Kiker, a genuine southern gentleman from Mississippi. I never knew exactly what had drawn Bill to west Texas, but I was glad he was here, since he also owned the Truck Stop. This was my kind of place, and I had been stopping here for a while. A gravel parking lot, and just 3 or 4 pumps, a nice quiet place that mostly catered to regulars. A better than average restaurant, was a big bonus. Well here I am miles from nowhere with a broken truck, at least I could have some lunch, and have a conversation with someone who spoke southern. I found Bill in the Restaurant, explained my situation, and asked permission to dolly the trailer down. Just don't block the road or my fuel pumps was his reply. Across the road from the Truck Stop, an older fellow operated a truck garage, I didn't know him at the time, but I knew that he and Bill had managed to keep a feud going for a while. As I approached him I didn't know what to expect. When I told him the transmission would have to come out, he said "son I can't do that anymore". Well, I asked, can I rent one of your bays and use your transmission jack. Yes, he replied, if you will hire my grandson to help, he needs to learn to do some of the things I can't do anymore. All of a sudden things were looking up. Back at the restaurant, I called Haygood Truck parts in Dallas, now TruckPro. Do you have an RTO14715 in stock? No, what have you got? An RTO15615, Has it got an oil pump? It has,


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As I continue my theme, I had just learned that Haygood Truck Parts had a reconditioned RTO15615 in stock. My next question was, can you get it shipped today? Tomorrow morning, was the reply. Back at the garage we drove the truck into a bay, and started to dismantle it. I say dismantle because I had to pull the whole lower fairing, front to back off the right side. Otherwise once you get the transmission down to floor level, you cant get it out from under the truck. Back at home I could have used the front end loader to raise the truck off the transmission. Lot's easier. With the transmission out all I could do was wait. West Texas in the summer is hot. Without a Motel in sight, at least I had a bed of my own to sleep in. I have never been able to understand why a truck manufacturer would build a conventional truck without a sleeper door. Evan with a shop fan, when the outside temp is close to 100, You can't sleep well. For the next two days, I spent my time back and forth from the garage to the restaurant. About 9:00 O'clock on the third morning, I called Haygood. Where is my transmission? I don't know, was the reply, I'll find out and call you back. In a few minutes I had the bad news, the transmission was sitting on a loading dock in Odessa, 90 miles east, waiting for a freight forwarder. No one had an Idea when it might be picked up. As I left the bank of telephones, and walked through the restaurant, I saw Uncle Bill sitting at his table. Uncle Bill, I have a problem that I don't know how to deal with. What Kind of problem? Well the transmission I have ordered is sitting in Odessa, and the have no idea when the can get it here. I know how to deal with it, he said, take my pickup and go get it. No, I'll have my brother in law take you, he knows his way around Odessa. In short order we were on our way. In Odessa, we picked up the transmission, stopped by an oil distributor for 5 gallons of 50w and left. When we got back to the garage and unloaded, I asked Bill, what do I owe you. Just put some gas back in my truck, was his reply. Thats how I remember Bill Kiker, Generous, and kind to everyone. Back at the garage, I, along with the grandson put the truck back together. When I went in to settle up with the owner I asked about the bill. Oh I guess about $150.00 for the bay and $165.00 for my grandson. Wow

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I could set for hours on end and listen or read stories like this. My uncle retired from trucking a few years back, and he started in the early 60's. Man he can tell some great stories to. Be cool Bollweevil.

P.S.- How's the mack coming along?

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