Good teachers are remembered forever

From left, Jason Yates, Matt Cleaver and Glen Frick sit below the life-like longhorn Rusty.

Combine a fondness for antique autos with some strong civic spirit and a few good skill sets. There you have it. A recipe for the transformation of a 1965 Chevy pickup into a unique vehicle and a symbol of respect. Watch for this one-of-a-kind truck at the upcoming Christmas parade in Huntsville on Dec. 7. It will be the only one with a longhorn bull riding in the back.

When Jason Yates, owner of Sparky’s Garage, bought this truck from its longtime owner Glen Frick in May 2019, he got an idea. He could use his skills to turn the truck into a way to pay homage to Frick, a former English teacher of Yates’s. He knew this truck would be recognized by hundreds of Frick’s former students in Madison County. (Frick worked at Huntsville from school years 1978-1979 to May 2004.)

Yates also knew that Frick had hauled loads of cattle during his weekends “off” from school.

So the truck became a good way to pay respect to both of Frick’s careers. All it needed were some stock racks and a bull and a name on the door (School Boy, because that was Frick’s CB handle).

Charles Gurley donated the stock racks and Yates stenciled School Boy on the driver’s door. But the bull in the back took some doing. Enter Matt Cleaver.

Soon after the “Frick cattle truck” idea came to Yates, he began trying to recruit the help of Cleaver, who is a skilled taxidermist. But Cleaver didn’t exactly have a lot of free time. He said he works 40 hours at Cornerstone Bank and about another 40 on his taxidermy hobby. Both Cleaver and Yates had been students of Frick’s, and Cleaver liked the idea of creating a rolling tribute to their former teacher.

The men found a suitable longhorn in Oklahoma, and brought it home to slaughter. Cooper Cartmell ground up the meat. Cleaver skinned and tanned the hide. He also got a life size foam form online and sculpted it until it fit with the tanned hide. Then the sewing began.

Cleaver and Yates worked from mid-July to late-September fitting and sewing the prepared hide to the form. They bolted the form’s legs to a sturdy wooden floor they had made in the pickup and named the life-like longhorn Rusty.

Before all that, Yates had completely refurbished the old truck’s innards. He installed a 2007 engine. He replaced the 3-speed transmission with a 4-speed. He changed the rear end and front suspension. He put in all new brakes. But the truck body is the same one that so many in Madison County know.

It’s Frick’s Old Red on the outside. Yates said he’s calling it Beefed Up because of its new innards and its bovine load. Whatever you call it, it’s impressive.

Frick was only the third owner of this ‘65 Chevy; he had it for 37 years before he sold it to Yates. This was the truck that Frick often drove to work at Huntsville schools. Before teaching in Huntsville, Frick taught eight years in South Dakota and five years in Eureka Springs for a teaching career totaling 37 years.

Frick drove different trucks on weekends while teaching. “I’ve been attracted to trucks all my life,” he said.

“I remember the 1947 Chevy flatbed my dad hauled cattle in.” So, when he got his chance to haul his first load of cattle, he didn’t hesitate. He drove that first load and subsequent loads alone from sale barns to points all over the mid-west and south – Texas, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana – usually in trips of about 500 miles one way. He often made two trips in a weekend.

“Cattle hauling gets in your blood,” Frick said, “The people, the animals, the driving all combine to make a unique community.” The tractor-trailers hauling cattle around the country are a small percentage of truck traffic.

These drivers often load and unload the animals alone and often in the wee hours of the morning. Frick said he hauled cattle for 32 years and two weeks, and he knows the day of his last cattle haul – Oct. 25, 2014.

Frick seems pleased by the way Yates and Cleaver chose to honor and thank him for his part in their lives. Their respect for him is mutual. Frick said, “I could give those boys $100,000 to hold on to for me. And when I came to get it, every penny would be there.”

When you see Rusty riding in the back of  Beefed Up in a parade, you’ll know what it is: a symbol of mutual respect and a mobile “thank you” to a good teacher.

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