March 03–Derald Eastlick’s approach to hauling grain was a little different.
In 1954 he bought his first truck, a Ford F-600, and drove around Eastern Montana offering to buy farmers’ grain for a dime more per bushel than the local grain elevator would pay and haul it to Billings, where he’d then sell it himself.
It was a winning strategy. He grew his single Ford into a trucking company with a fleet of 20 semi trucks and a half-dozen additional owner/operators called G.D. Eastlick, Inc. For 63 years Eastlick and his team hauled grain and goods all across Montana and the western United States.
Earlier this year, Eastlick decided it was time to retire and liquidate his company. And so the company will officially come to end this month and an auction, planned for March 10, will sell off the remaining equipment, trucks and trailers.
“I’m 87 years old,” he said. “I heard some people retire before that.”
A year ago, Eastlick ended up in emergency heart surgery after one of his heart valves was discovered to be completely blocked and had to be replaced.
“It was kind of a wake-up call,” he said.
Eastlick’s plan initially was to sell the company. In fact, he was hoping to pass it on to his grandson.
“He didn’t want to be on call 24-7,” Eastlick said.
Finding a buyer was difficult. With the way the industry works now, Eastlick said the contracts he has now with clients would be lost and picked up by other trucking lines had he moved to sell.
In the end it was easier to liquidate the company and auction off everything left, he said.
Reno Babcock is the auctioneer for the sale. He’s set up a preview from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at Eastlick’s truck shop at 4300 State Ave.; the auction itself set for 11 a.m. the next day.
“This auction is going to draw a lot of the local agriculture folks,” he said.
The big items include five Kenworth semi trucks and seven refrigerated trailers. Also included are smaller items like shop tools, truck parts and even some furniture.
“It’s a decent-sized sale,” Babcock said.
Eastlick is clear-eyed about it all. He’s acknowledged it was time to retire but still seemed a little wistful about it. He’s been driving or managing the trucking company since he was 24.
“It’s the end of an era,” he said. “It’s been quite a ride.”
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