Trucker honored for 51 years of jammin’ gears
It was 1951 on the family dairy farm in Loveland. Ray Enoch knew his father needed to move some cows, but with a broken back, his dad couldn’t get out of bed to do it himself.
So Enoch, just 13 at the time, hopped in the driver’s seat of the family truck and took off without telling a soul.
“I pulled a no-no and drove to Denver with a load of cattle,” Enoch said Tuesday, wearing his trademark cowboy hat while sitting in a booth at IHOP in Grand Junction.
Years later, when Enoch’s mother took a phone call from a truck driver who had the mumps and needed someone to take over his route, she knew who to hand the phone to. Enoch hasn’t stopped driving since.
Even though his career technically began with that first stunt 58 years ago, Enoch will be honored for 51 years of full-time truck driving at 10 a.m. today during a Colorado Motor Carriers Association meeting at Wagner Equipment Company, 2322 Interstate 70 Frontage Road. Enoch, who lives in Loma and works for J Brach and Sons Trucking Inc., will receive a plaque from the American Trucking Historical Society at the meeting.
Enoch says he chose trucking as a way to “pay the bills,” but it became a way of life. He drives big rigs, but he can rattle off a list of truck models in and out of that category.
Trucking jargon trickles off his tongue with ease. He estimates he has logged somewhere around 20 million miles, and he’s been to every state but Maine and Hawaii in a truck.
His best stories are from the road, even though he says “most of it was just hum-drum driving.” He made $500 hauling a truck out of a muddy parking lot in Dallas after three trucks made the attempt and failed. He made another $2,500 hauling the truck and its heavy contents four miles up the road to its destination. The process took eight hours.
“That’s the heaviest load I’ve ever pulled,” Enoch said.
Trucking brought him and his wife, Jeanie, together. She was a secretary at an Idaho stop on one of his routes. They chatted about things they had in common and kept talking on and off for five months until he persuaded her to ride along with him one summer. He said he’d take her home if she didn’t enjoy the trip.
“She hasn’t yelled at me to take her home yet,” he said.
Jeanie Enoch eventually got her commercial driver’s license, and the pair drove in tandem from 1985 to 1992. A common route was to leave Wednesday for Sterling, drive to New Jersey, sweep across the country to Los Angeles and arrive home in time for 24 hours of leisure before heading back on the road to do it all over again.
The experience bonded the two, and Jeanie said, “Now, it takes a lot to watch him leave” home.
Their first trip was her favorite, because it’s when she learned he could sing. He serenaded her when “Waltz Across Texas” came on the radio on the way to Galveston, Texas.
“I cried, and I blushed. He’s the only one who can make me blush,” she said.
The places she’s been and the people she’s met were some of the best parts of life behind the wheel for Jeanie. But there were also scary times. On one ride, the Enochs worried their 13.8-foot-high truck would lodge under a 13.4-foot-high bridge clearance, and they backed up traffic by moving through the passage slowly with Jeanie’s head out the passenger-side window. Luckily, construction workers had not changed the sign after bridge repairs, and the clearance was actually 14 feet.
“We made it by that much,” Jeanie said, measuring a thin fraction of an inch between her thumb and index finger.
There have also been white-out blizzards, times when being five minutes late meant an unexpected overnight camp-out, and a single accident, which was caused by a different vehicle.
Ray plans to keep going until he can’t pass a physical anymore. Even two heart attacks haven’t stopped him. To this day, Enoch will take any load and any route, said J. Brach, one of the sons from J Brach and Sons.
“We send him out to do anything,” Brach said. “I sent him out to Florida and West Virginia not too long ago.”
Enoch’s more than a hard worker. He’s a mentor, friend and team member.
“He’s part of our family,” Brach said.