Meet Your Neighbors: Retired trucker recalls colorful career

There used to be a television program title "People are Funny."

If it ever returns, Karl Johnson could well be its host.

He has some good material from which to draw from a 35-year career as a truck driver living in Denver.

In 1975, Johnson was on a run between Cheyenne and Wheatland, Wyo.

when he noticed a woman carrying a gasoline can walking beside the road.

He stopped and offered her a ride, which she accepted.

The woman was looking for a gas station so she could fill the can and return to her car, which had an empty tank.

"I said to her that it was a hell of a nice day," Johnson said.

"She told me she was a born-again Christian and did not appreciate any cussing.

"I went to light a cigarette and she asked me not to smoke.

"Here I am in my own house and I'm not to cuss or smoke.

I asked her to get out and she did."

Johnson said he had driven about 10 miles toward Cheyenne when he and the woman parted company.

Johnson began his career in 1952 with Burlington Truck Lines, which was headquartered in Galesburg, Ill.

After 2.5 years, he switched to Garrett Freight Lines, which was headquartered in Pocatello, Idaho, staying with that firm until retiring in 1988.

He was married with three children and worked out of terminals for both companies in Denver.

"I hauled dry freight which means everything from dog food to furniture, appliances and clothes," Johnson said.

"I liked city driving best and did more of it than road driving.

Line drivers are away from home too long and can be transferred.

I didn't want to end up (living) in Nevada or Utah."

In 1981, Johnson was headed back to Denver when he saw a car pulled off the road with a flat tire.

He stopped and found the driver sitting behind the wheel, reading a newspaper.

Johnson offered to help change the tire, and the offer was accepted.

"I opened up the trunk and got the jack out," he said.

"I told the driver I was ready for him to get out and help me.

"He said, 'No, that's your job.

You're supposed to change my tire.' I told him he was the one with the flat and left."

The driver subsequently complained to Johnson's supervisor, saying the truck driver had been discourteous.

His boss laughed when he related details of the incident, Johnson said.

In 35 years on the road, he was involved in one serious accident during the 1970s.

He was driving on a two-lane road near Eagle, Colo., on his way to Moab, Utah, when a pickup going in the opposite direction crossed the centerline and hit his cab over tractor rig head-on, Johnson said.

The pickup went under the cab and its driver was killed.

Johnson sustained a bump on the head and had one knee banged up, but did not require hospitalization.

In 1988, Johnson took early retirement due to the failing health of his wife, Leona.

They moved to Las Vegas, Nev., and she died of cancer two months later.

Johnson and his present wife, Carol, have been married 10 years.

He had driven through Kingman and liked the area, so they moved to Kingman in October 1998 from Grand Junction, Colo.

Johnson said he saw action in Korea as an infantryman in the United States Army during 1948-51.

He received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, he said.

Johnson is a member of the Kingman Elks Lodge.

He also is active in Teamsters and writes a bi-monthly article that appears in the Rocky Mountain Teamsters newspaper.

Neighbors is a feature that appears Monday in the Kingman Daily Miner.

If you have an interesting story you'd like to share, contact Terry Organ at 753-6397 ext.