My thoughts, exactly: Keep on truckin’

Jim Chase

The hills are alive with the sound of … dump trucks. Honestly, did you have any idea there were so many of the dirt-hauling, diesel drinking heavyweights around town before they all started cruising the streets of the Crescenta Valley? I didn’t. But ever since the ongoing efforts to empty out the debris basins in our foothills began after the Station Fire, you can’t miss the near constant convoys of truck after truck after truck lumbering up, down or across one of our many north/south streets from sunup to sundown and often far into the night. The bark and burp of “Jake brakes” echoing across the foothills has become the new sound track of our valley.

The variety of dump trucks parading through our streets each day is staggering – from bright, sparkling metal flake colors to dull, weathered and welded matte finishes. From flashy chrome-covered showroom beauties to grease dripping, rust buckets and everything in between.

The more trucks I see, the more I’ve noticed the impressive variety of owners’ names on the doors of these huge haulers going by. So far, truckers with Hispanic surnames are fairly equal in number to Armenian-surnamed owner-operators. But both of these groups are far outnumbered by truck owners who employ their sons in the business – as in “Somebody & Sons Trucking.” Seeing many hundreds of trucks these past several months with father and sons’ names on the door, I feel bad that I didn’t go into the trucking business with my own boys.

Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed it. In fact, even at my supposedly mature age, every time I see one of these trucks I want to go play in the dirt. It’s an instinctive, primeval thing that’s been with me since childhood. Some of my most enjoyable memories of growing up on Harmony Place are of digging in piles of dirt that always seemed to be in our family’s backyard from a drainage project, septic tank installation, or some sort of landscaping endeavor that required piles of dirt and rocks to be a part of the terrain for weeks on end.

My older brothers and I would play the yellow paint off our battered old Tonka trucks. Once we had the “roads” and other infrastructure graded and constructed to our demanding specifications, we’d mobilize our extensive collection of smaller, metal Dinky toys. We’d play in any available dirt for hours upon glorious hours – pushing our mini-metal motor pool of trucks and tanks and artillery and support vehicles. On occasion, especially when we knew parents were not likely to find out, we’d bury firecrackers saved from previous Fourths of July and light the fuses as a convoy of toy tanks approached. The resulting explosion (who knew about IEDs back then?) and shower of dirt would produce gales of hysterical laughter. Dirt in our eyes? Sure. The occasional accusatory glance from wary neighbors? Guilty as charged.

But boy, oh boy – what I wouldn’t give to have such fun digging holes and getting dirty like that again. It’s no wonder there are places like “Dig This” in Steamboat Springs, Colo. where “adults” take wheelbarrows full of disposable income to spend a day on a 10-acre site learning to move dirt, rocks and gravel at the controls of real, working, full-size excavators, skip loaders and bulldozers. The company has been such a success the owners are opening a second facility near Las Vegas this year. Pass the hard hat and show me where to sign.

All of this gives me an idea. Rather than drain any more state, county or city funds at what I’ve been told is the going rate of $90 an hour for a dump truck and driver these days, why not charge guys with arrested development like me for the privilege of driving a big, honkin’ truck around? Why, I’d bet California could even turn a profit for a change.

I’ll see you ‘round town.

Jim Chase is a lifelong CV resident and freelance writer. He can be reached at