If you spend much time in the St. Regis/Superior country you probably have seen a beautiful red Kenworth that rarely has a speck a dirt on it. If you get the opportunity to meet the driver, you will find a man that some say has never had a bad day in his life. His positivity and professionalism are well known and is the subject of this month’s Timber Roots.
Bruce Johnson was born in 1954 in Williston, North Dakota. He was born into a farmer’s family that lived in a small town in Eastern Montana. At the age of three, his father passed away. His mother would remarry and the family would migrate from Glasgow to Missoula in 1965. After high school, Bruce spent one month working at a sheet metal shop. Bruce noted that his month here taught him a life lesson. After his payroll check bounced, working for quality and honest people is crucial.
Bruce found himself in Missoula working for the next couple years working for Taber’s Truck Stop. In 1975 at the ripe age of 21, Bruce started driving log truck for Don Hansen Jr. in and around Missoula. During breakup, he made a few trips to California pulling a refer for Don. It was at this time Bruce was lucky enough to go on a blind date with his now wife Kathy. The date went well and a second date was planned. Kathy waited patiently for Bruce as he was running late and just when she started wondering if he would show, the sounds of an empty log truck bouncing down the alley were heard. The two headed out on their date with a quick pitstop at Bruce’s mothers for a quick shower. The two were married in 1976.
Bruce soon went out on his own and purchased his own truck. This adventure lasted six months and he sold the truck to Dave Hudson. Bruce took a hiatus from log trucking and drove wrecker for Otto’s Towing and Crane. Well before the days of cell phones, Bruce would be on call for 24 hours all the time waiting patiently by the phone for the next call.
After a few years with Otto’s, Bruce came back to hauling logs working for Leroy Christofferson. Bruce would spend the next 23 years working for Leroy. During his tenure, Bruce hauled a lot of logs but also found himself tasked with duties most log truck drivers would never dream of. Leroy’s business model was quite diverse. During the few off days of hauling logs, Bruce found himself working at the company’s liquor store and driving limousine. Bruce has found memories of working with The Montana Hope Project hauling kids in a limo to the airport for trips to Disneyworld. Many of the returning children said that the best part of the trip was riding with Bruce to the airport.
On January 1st, 2005 Bruce once again was self-employed after purchasing his current truck from Leroy. He had the opportunity to drive the truck for a while before buying it and with a steady haul, took the opportunity to start out on his own. Tom Pearson kept him mostly busy and Barry Smith would always have a load for him when needed. When Tom started slowing down, Bruce would eventually haul mainly for Barry. One day while Bruce was tightening up his load in Turner Creek in the Joe, a young Ben Smith approached him and shared the news the he was buying out his uncle Barry. Ben wanted Bruce to consider hauling for him. This relationship has worked well for both parties and the shiny red Kenworth can be found hauling logs off of Ben’s operation to this day.
An article about Bruce Johnson cannot be complete without mentioning his dedication to the MLA. Bruce has spent many years first as a chapter director, then on the executive board helping the MLA be what it is today. Bruce and Kathy are familiar faces at almost all MLA functions, traveling all across the state to attend. His many years of dedication and support are much appreciated.
Bruce’s career has led him down several paths. From driving limo to hauling logs, Bruce has done a lot. Not only has Bruce been successful in his business but his personal life as well. Kathy and Bruce have been married for 47 years. They have two daughters, (Jaclyn and Candace), two son in-laws, two grandsons and a great grandson. His dedication to his family and the logging profession will leave a legacy in which his timber roots will continue to grow.