Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tales from the Road: Cattle Call

Did you ever notice how much a livestock trailer looks like a school bus from certain angles?

Today I was driving over to a friend's place and as I came around a curve I caught a glimpse of what I thought was a school bus pulling into a ranch gate.

I thought 'cool, they must have a summer kids program back in there somewhere'.

But as I pulled even with the drive I looked over and saw that what I had taken for the tail end of a school bus was actually the rear half of a goose-neck livestock trailer with a white sun-shade roof. The only thing missing were the big flashing lights.

The thought of us stuffing our kids and livestock into such similar transportation was briefly amusing, but then I was reminded of something I hadn't thought about in over 40 years.

In 1972, when I was in basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood in central Missouri, that's exactly what they used to do to us. Load us into livestock trailers, only these were the full size, tractor-trailer kind.

You might find this amusing in a quaint, 'embellished memory' sort of  way, but the photo below accompanied an Army  news article  titled:



The article goes on to explain that before these were deployed elsewhere, Fort Leonard Wood received a prototype of this new transport for testing in 2001!!!, 29 years after I was livestocked into the bowels of those old, dusty, rattly, noisy, and just generally uncomfortable cattle-cars. 

To be fair, those old livestock trailers had been thoroughly cleaned out so it's not like we were slopping around in bovine waste products. In fact they had even been painted olive-drab, inside and out, perhaps so we didn't feel quite so much like we were on the way to the abattoir, though I'm not sure the prospect of running a obstacle course in the hot sun or sitting around on hard wood planks learning to fire a LAW after a full day of PT and a night of fire-watch was all that much better.


  1. In February 1972 I stood with 3 other guys at the San Diego Airport, after midnight waiting for "our ride" to MCRD for Marine Corp bootcamp. While the Navy recruits nearby got on their gray school bus, we walked into a dark livestock trailer. We rode with no windows, no lights and a hand rail that went down the center of the trailer. Luckily it was a fairly short trip. I still remember that ride in detail today ... but when they opened the doors at MCRD ... a whole new ballgame.

  2. I am very proud to say that as the GSA Director of GSA Vehicle Engineering (Ret), I was the one that designed the new trailer. I worked closely with a number of Army civilian employees to make sure that the new Troop Transport Trailer was comfortable, very safe, had room for the 80 troops and provided storage for their Ruck Sacks in overhead racks! While it only looks like a standard cargo van on the outside, it was designed on a extra heavy duty equipment trailer, and included many safety features. Additionally, as an additional comfort feature, it included comfortable bus seating, and air suspension instead of steel leaf springs to assure a comfortable ride. It also had a diesel engine driven generator, that powered a highly efficient air conditioning system. During the initial design period, when we told many of the troops at Ft Leonard Wood what we were doing, they could not believe it, but when it was delivered, everyone thought it was beyond real and only a joke, and they would never see it in service. I vividly recall that the Commanding General, Andres (sp) was thrilled beyond imagination, and he could not wait to ride in it himself! -- Mel Globerman, Dir, GSA vehicle Engineering (ret).

    1. Hey Mel! I'm sure the troops appreciated your design, or at least they would have if they had been stuffed into the old livestock trailers first. Where were you when I needed you??

      Of course those were different times and back in my day the military in general was just starting to think of the troops as anything other than grunts. But I survived and don't have any regrets - - - well, OK, a few regrets maybe - - -

    2. Greg -- thanks for your kind thoughts, and you are correct about the troops comments on the old "cattle cars". I spoke to many people at the beginning and during the project including the DI's, fleet management people, and even the troops, and when I told them what I had in mind, they were skeptical that it would come to fruition. I always felt a responsibility to our troops, and as such when there was vehicle project for the military, I always pushed for what was in their best interest. That included a massive redesign for safety and function of the old style ambulances that the military (all services) used to use. -- mel g.