Truck of the Month
by Jim Park
One of the best looking trucks around hails from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. It's a 2000 Freightliner Classic XL run by Jody Laroue and his wife Laurie, pulling a 2000-model Manac dry van trailer. And it won serious prizes in its first few outings on last summer's show circuit.
It all began with a suggestion from his father, Craig, that Jody and wife Laurie paint a western-style wagon wheel on the side of their truck. Their name, Laroue, means 'the wheel' en francais. Not long afterward, the elder Laroue passed away, and Jody's mother, Rita, died shortly after that, leading to the creation of a touching tribute to both his parents: a mural painted on the right-hand side of their trailer.
Craig Laroue, who was a real country boy, is depicted driving a stagecoach, with Rita peering out from the window below. Jody says the illustration was intended to convey his parents' last ride, with his father at the wheel and his mother accompanying him. The illustrations, done by airbrush artisan Al Proulx, also of Sault Ste. Marie, are even more life-like than the photographs he used as reference material, says Jody.
The rolling work of art just took off from there. The Laroues gave Proulx a pretty wide berth in creating more of his stunning murals. Between Al and Laurie, there's enough imagination and talent to keep painting trailers for some time to come. Presently, there's an amazingly detailed steam locomotive on the left-rear side of the trailer, and a glorious portrait of an Indian chief on the right. There's a bald eagle wearing an Indian head-dress painted onto the nose of the trailer, a portrait of James Dean, and an illustration of three horses galloping past a derelict wagon mired in a river bed. Each one is totally unique, and absolutely breathtaking in its detail.
In keeping with the rustic country theme, they've used a lot of polished wood where other owner-operators are inclined to lay on the stainless steel. The deck behind the cab is solid wood, and the aluminum rubrails on the trailer will soon be painted and lacquered in wood grain.
Jody has been trucking, first on the family farm, since the tender young age of 15. Laurie took up the trade after they married. They run as a team for the most part, under their own authority, hauling anything you can stick into a van.
A while back, Jody was put out of action by a serious injury, leaving Laurie to hold down the fort. Jody says he has nothing but gratitude and respect for the job she did over that 18-month period. "She really came through back then. I really can't thank her enough for what she did," he says. "If not for her, we'd have lost everything while I was home playing Mr. Mom."
This is the couple's first show truck, but they've already made an impression on the judges. At last summer's Rodeo du Camion event in Notre Dame du Nord, Quebec, their first Canadian show, they walked away with the People's Choice Award. Jody says that one means more to him than all the judges' opinions in the world.
Prior to that, they had shown the truck at the Richard Crane Memorial Truck Show in St. Ignace, Michigan. They scooped the Richard Crane Legend Award for the best truck of the show.
They placed well in Reno, Nevada, too, at the Alamo Truckerfest Stars and Stripes show (best mural and second in the division) and again at Charlie's Truck Show in Grayling, Michigan (first in division and second in mural).
Their Freightliner Classic looks almost forgotten compared to the trailer. There are two small murals on the sides of the sleeper, and Laurie has done a lot of work on the interior since we took our photographs, but they've got plans for the power unit in the coming months. Laurie and Jody will be putting more work into the trailer as well, but first, they say they'll need a second wagon to pull while they get down to work on their pride and joy.