My Dodge ¾ ton pickup is indeed a “Cowboy Cadillac”. It takes the gravel road out to the ranch as well as any luxury car, yet accommodates chains on all four tires and pulls a ten-ton load of hay effortlessly.
It is smooth and quiet on the highway, and gets 21 miles per gallon at 70 MPH. It handles a trailer load of cows so steadily that you almost forget they are behind you. Usually....
I was on my way to the auction this week with 9 dry cows in the trailer when I felt a jerk. It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to figure out whether it was engine troubles, tire troubles, or just what.
But within a few miles it became obvious that it was in the transmission. I crawled under and found it to be hot, with oil pouring out of a side plate. By that time even the stick was feeling very strange, and it didn’t shift properly.
Cellular coverage was marginal at the RV park where I pulled off, but I was able to make a few phone calls and soon had help on the way. In the meantime, a traveler from Switzerland came over to visit, and I ended up drinking beer in his shade.
My wife arrived in a rented pickup at the same time as the tow-truck. I had the trailer jacked up, so we pulled my pickup out and backed under with a new one, and soon we were back on the road to Billings.
By the time we unloaded the cows it was time for supper. We found a restaurant with a patio where Max the cowdog could join us, and enjoyed the evening. On the way home we stopped at the RV park to visit further with the Swiss, and invited them out to the ranch.
My pickup has a six-speed transmission that has served me well for 200,000 miles. But I now learn that it is notorious for bearing failure while pulling heavy loads in 6th gear. The seized bearing usually ruins the aluminum case – good used replacements are rare, and repair is expensive.
It would have cost me $600 to hire a semi to haul these cows. Because it has the capacity for 50 head, it would have been nearly empty with my meager load of 9. But for the price of a replacement transmission I could have paid for that trip on a semi – SIX TIMES.