In the Gullickson family’s 75 years of hauling milk and other food products in and out of Deerfield, there have been a lot of trucks.
Just one though, was exclusively driven by longtime employee Leon “Butch” Mueller.
Mueller had been hauling milk for Irv Gullickson for five years and was in his mid-30s when the company bought a brand new 1971 Peterbilt semi-tanker for him to drive.
It remained Mueller’s rig for more than 45 years, as he picked up and delivered loads all over the United States for the family-owned company.
When he retired, the Peterbilt was briefly stored and now is undergoing a full restoration by Truckstar Collision Center in Deerfield.
Gullickson family members, too, have enough of a soft place in their hearts for this particular semi-tanker that a few years ago, they had a small-scale replica made of it, that is often driven in area parades.
Truckstar Production Manager Chuck Ja Doul said the restoration has been complex, requiring the sourcing of parts and fabrication vendors, ”as no actual new parts are available,” for this particular model.
The work has come down to the smallest details, DeJoul said.
“I honestly think every nut and bolt have been replaced,” he said.
Along the way, DeJoul said the stories being shared about the rig’s history “make me smile.”
“That is priceless,” he said.
Mueller, who grew up on a farm near Vesper, Wisconsin, had hauled milk for other companies before being hired by Irv Gullickson. He remembers the Peterbilt as “an excellent truck, really, really well built…just so reliable. They don’t make them like that anymore.”
He said the only products he ever hauled in it were milk and cream.
Mueller said he knew at a young age that he wanted to work in the trucking industry.
“I guess it was in my blood,” he said. “I found something that I liked to do.”
Mueller lives today near Vesper, in Wood County. He said he hopes to get down to Deerfield when restoration work on the Peterbilt is completed, to see it for himself.
“I miss that truck,” he said. “It was such a part of me.”