By Ryn Gargulinski: Qauy County Sun
They may not have grown up to be cowboys, but two Tucumcari ladies did end up in roles a tad less than traditional. One works construction while the other hauls broken-down cars.
Jinnah Bates said her grandfather always told her “women don’t drive trucks.” She began driving a tractor trailer at the age of 15.
Even earlier she was helping out with small tasks around her dad’s gas station in her hometown of Cleveland.
“People would come by and say ‘that girl looks like she is 12 years old,’” Bates laughed, adding the vehicle business came naturally for most of her siblings — her five brothers are ingrained in the car business, while her sister is a traditional housewife — but all of them still call her when they need repairs.
Bates is the only one in her family who drives a truck. One of the top winners at the first national truck show she ever attended, she calls her purple airbrushed beauty “Tow Girl.” Although she is on hiatus while she brushes up on her diesel certification at Mesalands Community College, Bates said she intends to be up and towing fulltime again by the end of the year.
In addition to keeping her certifications current, Bates has years worth of hauling a semi full of government explosives and infamy as being the coolest mom when her daughters were young.
“If they had problems with classmates they would tell them, ‘my mom will whip your dad — she drives a Harley and a tow truck.’”
When asked what excites her about her work, Bates said “You never know who you’re going to meet, where you’re going to end up or what’s going to happen.” Not only does she find it exciting, she said, but certain aspects never fail to amuse her.
“Sometimes I’ll pull up in my tow truck, get out, and if it’s a man stranded he’ll ask: ‘Where’s the guy?’”
Judy Ross said she shows up bright and early for work at Versatech Industries with the rest of the construction crew. But Ross is not required to wear a hard hat or steel-toed boots. The main requirement for her job is that she be accurate — she weighs trucks that haul asphalt and other loads that often total the trucks out at 24 tons.
“I don’t think they’d put you in jail,” Ross said if she let a truck go above its legal weight of 80,000 pounds, “but things would not go smoothly.”
Ross, who has been a weigh master for the last five years, fell into her job by accident. With a background in clerical work, she was shocked when her husband’s construction firm asked if she wanted a job.
“I had no experience in construction,” she said. “I never thought about this (as a career).” Now she said she so enjoys the duties of stamping out weights on an antique scale and balancing her books — not to mention the pay — she is encouraging her 26-year-old daughter to follow in her boot steps.
“She doesn’t want to do it,” Ross said. “She just has the image that construction work is hard and dirty. You work long hours, but you want long hours in construction,” she said, “and this is the easiest job in the field.”
Does she ever find working in the same company as her husband difficult? “We’ve been married 36 years — who cares,” she laughed.