By Robert Bach
As a young lad growing up in San Andreas, I often dreamed about some day driving a logging truck. There were several lumber mills operating in our county at that time, so big trucks would roll through our town on a regular basis. I can remember lying in bed at night and hearing the growling of the trucks as they shifted through many gears on their way up the long hill through town.
Before Herb Dahlberg began his 34 year career with Calaveras Cement Company, he drove a logging truck for the Churchill Mill located across the highway from Toyon. It was probably his son, Jack, one of my boyhood chums, who put the bug in Herb’s ear that I longed for the day to ride in his truck. In any event, Herb invited me to ride with him to haul a load of logs from San Andreas to the Pickering Lumber Mill located between Sonora and Tuolumne City.
On the big day, my mother made me a working man’s breakfast which I gulped down and then as fast as my eleven year old legs would churn, I made a beeline uptown where Herb would meet me in front of Dragomanovich’s Grocery Store. I got there an hour early, nothing was going to stop me from the ride.
You can’t imagine the feeling I had when I heard in the distance the roar of the big engine and saw the belches of smoke coming from the twin exhaust stacks. When I climbed up into the cab, it was as if I had stepped into boy heaven. As we rolled our way towards Angels Camp, Herb showed me how he shifted all those gears. He even let me touch some knobs and handles. By the time we inched our way down the narrow rode to Melones, I had become, in my mind, assistant logging truck driver.
After we had crossed the bridge over the Stanislaus River, Herb pulled off the road, got out to kick the tires and check the chains holding the logs to see if any adjustments needed to be made before starting up the long grade into Sonora. I too, jumped out of the cab to kick some tires and yank on some chains just like Herb. I informed him that things looked pretty good so we proceeded onward.
When we arrived at Pickering to unload, I was feeling like the most important kid on earth. In my mind, I believe I supervised the entire unloading operation and more. Afterward, Herb took me to a little coffee shop in Sonora. He ordered a hamburger and coffee. I ordered a hamburger and coffee. He grinned and told me to change that to a milkshake. I changed it to a milkshake!
It was late afternoon when he dropped me off, this time in front of Winkler’s Store. I slid out of the cab and told him to wait a minute while I kicked the tires. I wanted to make sure he would make it home safely without me.
That was nearly 50 years ago, but that ride is forever etched in my memory because a hard working truck driver, Herb Dahlberg, gave a young boy one fine day.