RATTAN, Okla. — Making a living isn’t easy in farm country. It takes perseverance and adaptability, two traits that owner-operator Zac Cooper has in abundance.
“I pull a flatbed, cattle trailer and hopper bottom,” he told The Trucker. “Whatever I need to get it done.”
Cooper drives a 1998 Peterbilt 379 extended hood with a 550 horsepower Caterpillar 3406E engine. He purchased the truck in 2011 and has put an extensive amount of work into it. The pearl white tractor is finished with a baby blue frame and accents, and it looks good enough to be featured on a Cat Scale Super Truck collector card.
The truck had more than a million miles on it when Cooper purchased it in 2011. He had the engine overhauled, stretched the frame to 295 inches and added a window to the sleeper before refinishing the exterior in 2016. He also added air ride to the steering axle.
The white and baby blue color scheme continues inside the cab of the Peterbilt, where Cooper has painted the dashboard and the floor to match. Eventually, he wants to reupholster the interior in a motif featuring white diamonds with baby blue buttons, but, he says, it’s still a work in progress.
The truck now has more than 2 million miles on the odometer, but it’s still running strong.
Cooper’s primary haul is lumber products from one of the forestry businesses that surround his hometown of Rattan, Oklahoma,
located in the southeast corner of the state, about 20 miles from the Texas border.
He also hauls grain in the hopper-bottom trailer — and then there’s the cattle trailer. Cattle ranching is the family business, and the Coopers run about 300 head between the family farm and the 350 acres Zac Cooper purchased just down the road.
Cooper drove trucks and other vehicles while growing up on the farm, but he didn’t enter the trucking business until he enrolled in college after graduating high school in 2006. While attending college classes during the day, he took a nighttime job driving tanker trucks in the nearby oil fields. By the time Cooper graduated from college, he had decided on a career in trucking. He worked as a company driver until 2011, when he bought his current truck.
Cooper lives on the 350 acres he bought, along with his wife, Eva, and their 6-year-old son, Kycan.
“He loves to fish,” Cooper said of his son, “but I don’t care much for it. I like hunting.” It isn’t hard for Kycan to find a place to fish, since the farm has four ponds on it.
The family enjoys visiting truck shows when they can. “We don’t care about the judging,” Cooper said. “We just really enjoy the people there.”
Even though he’s only 6 years old, Kycan is already interested in trucking, and frequently rides along with his dad. As Cooper spoke with The Trucker, he was taking his wife to an appointment while his father picked up a load for him, guided by young Kycan.
“He (Kycan) knows the way as well as I do,” Cooper said. “He knows how to get in and out, and where to go to get loaded.”
Maintaining 300 head of cattle spread over hundreds of acres takes work, too, but Cooper makes it a family affair.
“We like piling in to the side-by-side and driving around the land, looking at the cattle,” he said. “We also spend a lot of time in our pool.”
Cooper usually runs freight hauls that get him home nightly. In two hours, he can be in Dallas or Texarkana, Texas; Fort Smith, Arkansas; or nearly to Oklahoma City. “I spend very few nights in the sleeper,” he said.
Rattan, Oklahoma is a long way from some of the cities where protests continue, but Cooper has a word for those truckers who are hauling across the country.
“Stay safe, and keep your doors locked,” he said.
Cliff Abbott is an experienced commercial vehicle driver and owner-operator who still holds a CDL in his home state of Alabama. In nearly 40 years in trucking, he’s been an instructor and trainer and has managed safety and recruiting operations for several carriers. Having never lost his love of the road, Cliff has written a book and hundreds of songs and has been writing for The Trucker for more than a decade.