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Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

I got to know Neil and Dean Dahlman from Warren, Minnesota while hauling sugar beets. I knew them because they used to pick-up milk at our farm when I was a kid. Dahlman trucking recently gathered their extended trucking family for a sixtieth reunion and I was invited to attend.

Neil Dahlman started trucking in 1945 with the purchase of a 1936 Dodge truck. Neil enjoyed it so much that he got Walt Hillman to join him on the road. Neil and Walt were young men, full of adventure and kept things lively by eating donuts. Now eating donuts isn’t very exciting but passing them from one truck to the other at fifty miles per hour can get your heart pumping. I don’t think Neil or Walt would advise this method of delivering donuts to today’s young trucker but it kept things fun. Walt and Neil spent each Fall around Pisek, North Dakota building roads and sleeping under the stars in the box of their trucks. Walt quit trucking in 1949 but Neil grew the business and today they remain friends.

Part of the reunion was to note the incredible loyalty of Larry Lacoursiere. Larry has worked for Dahlman Trucking since 1955. Larry met Neil Dahlman while building Highway 92 between Red Lake Falls and Terrebonne, Minnesota. Neil wanted Larry for his crew because Larry knows how to work. Larry worked at the mines in Ely, Minnesota then hauled milk cans for his dad to the Creamery in Brooks, Minnesota. After the Highway 92 project, Neil wanted to contact Larry but knew (in Neil’s words) “the only way to find that little guy will be in the beer joint playing cards in Brooks.” Larry had a more active social life back then but all the hard work has kept him in good shape and behind the wheel of a Dahlman truck to this day.

Tough, working men are honest and practical because to do otherwise wastes time and destroys their good word. When Neil Dahlman hauled for Minnesota Dairy in 1956 his banker wanted him to receive a milk hauling contract from owner Robert Massey. Mr. Massey said “contracts are made to be broke, my word isn’t.” I also appreciated how glowingly the group spoke of their female drivers. During construction of the East Grand Forks tech college, Dahlman Trucking employed Lorraine Norby and Kathy Dahlman. Larry and Neil both said those women could drop a load anywhere and didn’t drive over the marking stakes.

Sixty years ago things got even better for Neil, he married Fern and together they had two children-Van and Dean. Dean and his wife Mary operate Dahlman trucking while Van left for sunny Arizona and his own trucking company in 1986. My parents and siblings remember Dean hauling milk from our farm but I was too young to remember. My impression of Dahlman trucking has always been the trucks. There’s no better looking truck than a blue Dahlman (preferably a Peterbilt) with five axles and that stocky silhouette. I think most people would remember Dahlman’s removing snow or applying gravel and hot mix all in an effort to make travel easier. The reunion showed me how much the Dahlman’s cared for each other and their employees. Apparently that kind of environment not only makes for a nice workplace but a very successful and long-lived business.