Last weekend, twenty-five men and women in Conway, Arkansas, put their hands on the red, waxed body of a Ford F-150 truck—four days later, only one person was left standing. The winner drove the prize home.
The Stuck on a Truck competition, as the event is known, started in 2001 as part of the Toad Suck Daze festival that takes place each year in May. The contest is inspired by the 1997 documentary film Hands on a Hard Body, which chronicles the excruciating, and often excruciatingly boring, days of the entrants in a similar competition, in Texas, to win a Nissan Hardbody truck.
This is how you play: you don’t remove your hands from the truck. This year’s contestants endured high temperatures and sleep deprivation from noon on Thursday through the weekend and, for a few of them, into Sunday evening. Contestants are allowed a five-minute break every hour and a fifteen-minute break every six hours. Prizes are awarded to the last five people standing, but most go home with nothing. Fans can watch the action live in the stands surrounding the manhandled truck or at home on the SOAT website. (The non-action of the silent, stop-motion webcam is surprisingly captivating.)
The only thing more riveting than the competition itself this year was the obsessive reporting of the members of a SOAT Facebook betting pool started by Ben Lownik, a student at Hendrix College here in Conway. Tyrone Jaeger, Hendrix College professor and contributor to The OA, placed his bets and spent thirty-nine hours keeping an eye on his chosen winners at the truck or watching the action unfold online. Below, read the dispatches of this year’s biggest SOAT superfan—and find out who stayed stuck on the truck.
My pick for first off the Truck: Matt Grisson. Anyone who defines competitiveness by racing the spouse to the car is easily distracted. I’ll challenge Matt Grisson to a crawfish pie-eating contest at 5 p.m., and he’ll leave the truck.
My picks for going the distance:
1) Brian “Old Man” Root, last year’s second place finisher
2) Mo “Actually Likes to Do the Dishes” Skelton
3) Amy “The Fletch” Fletcher
This just in: “ATTENTION: The contest has been rocked by four disqualifications. ADJUST YOUR BETS ACCORDINGLY IN THE NEXT HOUR.”
I add Joseph “Not that Joseph Smith” Smith to picks to replace Brian Root, who is disqualified for being a resident of Florida. (Root is also outed as a professional handathoner.) Joseph’s in the three spot and the other two move up a notch.
Joseph “Not that Joseph Smith” Smith is not nearly as tall as I typically like my motivational speakers to be. No wonder he considers himself an “accomplished bachelor.”
Jumbo runs out after the break, cartwheels, lands, and grabs the back of the tailgate hard enough that everyone else (already on the Truck at this point) bounces awake. Unreal.
Joseph “Not that Joseph Smith” Smith is first off. Good luck on planet Kolob, Joseph.
Only three things will stop Amy “The Fletch” Fletcher:
1) Tanning bed withdrawal.
2) Her one-handed technique, which kills people come Saturday and Sunday.
Luke Martin keeps chatting up Jumbo, thinking that they’re simpatico, that they’re truck buds. My guess is that soon I’m going to look over at the webcam, and Luke Martin will be gone. Vanished. Jumbo will be smiling. His throat will be making a swallowing motion.
Ronald “Wants a Safe Vehicle for His Boys” Upson is off the Truck. He was last seen leaving Conway with his sons tied to hay bales in the bed of his El Camino.
Who’s next? You know they never leave one at a time. Weak soul sees weak soul and thinks: It’s okay. I’m not the only one. Sleepy. So sleepy.
Oh, no! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Jumbo just put on his T-shirt arm bandanna that doubles as a napkin. Luke Martin looks to be lunch.
In the days before the socialists took over the government, if you walked off the Truck you were deep-fried and served in a waffle cone to the remaining contestants.
Update: Renee “Dream & Dream Big” McGhee is off the Truck. Evidently dreaming big is standing on the Truck for 26 hours and 30 minutes.
Ginger “Her Big Hair Sets Her Apart From The Other Contestants” King can’t seem to keep her one foot in her flip-flop, and she was resting her head on the back of the Truck. It’s not looking good, Ginger fans.
Johnny Tipton: out. Last seen waking from a nap with fellow concrete worker Ronald Upson.
Johnny “Recently Became Smoke-Free” Tipton sighting at the Tobacco Super Store.
Most of the stuckers are looking pretty awesome. Tonight the moon is full. I suspect that at least one of the stuckers will turn into a werewolf, probably Jason “Every Tactic Available” Hocott or Charlie “Wags” Wagner.
Oh my. Aim Aim... Fletch... Punkincakes... Big Red... Flex... otherwise known as Amy Fletcher has gone to the tanning booth in the sky. She’s off the Truck after a piddling day and 13 hours. My board—my top three—is in ruins. My hope for glory dashed like a bottle of spray tan smashed against the bumper of a sticker-covered truck!
As Bodemeister, tomorrow’s Kentucky Derby favorite and winner of the Arkansas Derby, sleeps and dreams of unicorns in fields of blue grass, thirteen souls are left standing, hands on a truck, waiting and waiting, thinking of Jane Fonda in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?
Just keep dancing...
Amy Fletcher, in the pink headband, returns to the scene of her demise.
Keri Davidson decides she’d rather watch the Kentucky Derby, but first she has to flee Faulkner County for Pulaski County to get the mint julep fixings. Off the Truck before sunrise.
Jumbo’s legs are pale, even his tattoos have faded. My heart drops and I wonder why he is not receiving medical attention.
Oh wait! Jumbo is wearing white compression socks. Disaster averted.
It’s official: Jumbo is digesting Luke Martin. Some time around 7:00 this morning, the judges noticed that Martin had disappeared and questioned Jumbo, who pointed toward the midway and then spat out a pair of eyeglasses.
Russell Dorsey is off the Truck. Yes, Russell Dorsey was on the Truck (though no one paid him any mind).
After my mother-in-law and I try to convince my wife to get on the Truck next year, a Hendrix student promises a “kickawesome pit crew of Hendrix SOAT fanatics.” This brings tears to my eyes. (Kickawesome, it should be noted, is a term coined by Conway’s own Kris Allen, who evidently won a contest called American Idol. I don’t think he’s ever competed for the Truck.)
Apparently Kayla Scott doesn’t know that Jumbo swallowed Luke Martin like a mustard-covered corn dog. She’s been chatting the big man up, and you know what happens next.... Gulp.
Interesting that Mo is yawning. I was actually just going to mention that I love the way he’s dominating the corner. The fact that he was hallucinating stormtroopers earlier is also in keeping with ’09 winner Chuck Speer, who saw spaceships on Front Street. The Stuck on a Truck God is a Sci-Fi God!
This morning, Jumbo's slightly smaller brother asked me to verify his spelling of “Yankee,” like the baseball team. He then discreetly held up a sign for Jumbo that said, “She’s like one of those Yankees girlfriends.”
Jumbo's brother holds up a motivational sign.
Brandon and Russell Dorsey should get a drink. No one placed a bet on either one. Well, someone bet that Russell would fall first.... I think the tape on Brandon’s sneakers is probably keeping his swollen feet from bursting out of the skin. Just a guess.
Renee McGhee tried to Dream Big, and she packed up her tent, her back massager, and her extra pair of Nikes in 26 hours and 30 minutes. The best SOAT contestants don’t dream. Dreaming is for sleepers. Hallucinating from sleep deprivation is for winners.
Back on the Truck. Ginger’s now dressed in her pjs. Jumbo’s back to the compression socks. And Brandon’s pit crew bucked up and bought him a new pair of sneaks. Mo plays the corner. Kickawesome!
Jason “Will Use Every Tactic Available” Hocott seems to be employing the “I don’t really know where to stand at this party, ’cause it doesn’t seem like anyone wants to talk to me” tactic. Everyone has been going back to the same spot but Jason. He’s not sure where he is anymore.
Some think that Ginger has changed into pjs because she’s wearing her grandmother’s compression hose (some say diaper). If she comes out in a nightie, I’d start to worry. Does anyone remember if her trainer, the great Terry Odom, ever wore pjs during his 91-hour stand?
I’ve heard rumors that the three Cauthen boys have a deer camp (read: condo) filled with their SOAT winnings. I heard that in ’06, Shane Cauthen, after 87 hours and 46 minutes, just picked up the Truck and left.
Jumbo’s “Pit Crew”: The Cauthen boys.
Just spent a few minutes at the SOAT tent. If you are friends with Wags, save him a spot on the couch for the Derby. He’ll be home soon. He’s leaning on the Truck, wearing one ball cap on top of another (okay, he’s been doing this for a day), and the interior of his right calf is all red. He’s woozy. But on occasion, they come back from the wooze.
Van Halen’s “Jump” comes on the radio, and the pj-wearing, ankles-swelling Ginger starts to dance and smile. She’s got game. As does my man Mo, who’s answering football trivia questions. In addition, Stephanie Henson has obviously been training by gardening and doing jumping jacks mid-day. If the face tells the story, Stephanie’s in the lead. She looks as fresh as a daisy. And it’s hot with no wind....
Did Wags steal the spot in between Jumbo and Kayla? Game on. Wags is gone before the next break. He’s having a mental breakdown.
When Stephanie Henson said she was “in it to win it,” she meant the gift certificate to Arby’s that she won for being on the truck for 67 hours and 37 minutes.
With only five contestants left, you’ve got to believe that there is some serious psychic warfare that goes on. Does one pray-meditate-hope to stay on the Truck or for the others to get off?
Charlie “Wags” Wagner and Melissa “Second Out” Wyles watch the drama of Day Four.
In other news, Ginger looks like a million bucks. During the break, she was chatting it up with her pit crew and smiling. I talked with Terry “91 hours and 26 minutes on the Truck” Odom, and he has a lot of confidence in Ginger. He says that she was drumming her fingers earlier, but he’s cured her of that. When I mentioned that I thought Mo was looking good, Terry said, “He reminds me of myself.” Mo, you can take that praise to the grave.
The front end of the vehicle is in a world of hurt. Jumbo’s mother is holding up signs telling him that it will get better. Brandon “Yes, I’m Actually in this Contest” Curtis is snarling at his pit crew. Clint Evans is leaning on the Truck, and at break time he basically needs to be escorted from the Truck. Clint’s pit crew should take a move from Anna “136 hours on the Truck” Johnson’s team and just take a seat next to the Truck during breaks.
If you’re watching the webcam, you’ll notice all the attention being paid to Clint “Looks Like He Just Got Hit by a Truck” Evans. Clint’s so tired that if the Truck became a bed, he wouldn’t have the sense to sleep on it. Take a nap, Clint.
Clint’s pit crew has given up. They’re now sitting behind him. And it looks like the Pit Boss is asking Ginger to sing a song. She’ll happily comply.
Clint goes off while biting his nails. His pit crew should have given him a mani during the fifteen-minute break. Jeez, people! Give that man a $2,000 gift certificate toward the purchase of a new Trane Heating & Cooling System courtesy of Freyaldenhoven Heating and Cooling!
Overheard at Truck: Foreigner's “Feels Like the First Time” is playing, and when a spectator asks the Pit Boss what song it is, he says, “Are you even American?”
Dear Pit Boss, Foreigner is a half-British band named Foreigner.
Does anyone know if “Jumbo” is his given name? Really, Brandon needs to get off the Truck just so the final contestants can be named Mo Jumbo Ginger.
Brandon is out for clapping after the Jesus song.
Mo Jumbo Ginger. Ginger Mo Jumbo. Mo Ginger Jumbo. It doesn’t matter how you say it: It’s kickawesome!
I’m going to open up a restaurant just so I can call it “Mo Jumbo Ginger.” Everything on the menu will have that as part of it’s name. Mo Jumbo Ginger Chicken. Mo Jumbo Ginger Spinach Salad. Mo Jumbo Ginger Pale Ale. You get the picture. Drop on by. All of our booths are situated in pick-up beds. Person with hands on the table the longest gets to order first.
If you’re new to SOAT, 2010 winner Terry Odom is currently standing in a green T-shirt next to the Truck. He’s also wearing a hat. White hair. White beard. An inspiration to all of us who like to watch people standing with their hands on a truck.
Help Wanted: Pit Boss for Stuck on a Truck. Like to stare at people’s hands? Know how to tell time? Like to lean on mirrors of a pick-up truck for extended periods of time? We’ve got a job for you! Ability to listen to awful music for hours on end a plus. People skills and experience not necessary.
I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think that Mo likes the front of the Truck. He looked more comfortable with his arms up on the back end. I do like that all three are two-handers. They are all well coached.
What is Mo’s pit crew doing? They’ve got him standing away from the Truck to answer trivia questions? You can’t have Mo standing sideways like that. Not this late in the game. Get to the other side of the Truck, so Mo can face the target. This is a disaster waiting to happen.
Someone please tell me that they took Mo off the Truck for some other reason than to say good-bye.
3 days, 3 hours, and 3 minutes. Get comfortable folks. No one wants to go home with a freakin’ lawnmower.
What the hell keeps happening with View 2!? The webcam is junk. It’s not even really a video feed. It only updates a single image every five seconds. We’re taking this thing over next year.
Someone just finished proofreading final portfolio letters and is headed down to the Truck! Now if I can just pull myself away from the webcam feed to walk the ten minutes to the Truck.
Will someone please call me if anything happens in the next ten minutes?
Possibly the greatest moment of my life: Eating 2-for-$5 turkey legs with my wife in the SOAT tent with Ginger and Jumbo left. George Thorogood is singing “Bad to the Bone” on the radio. Jumbo begins to dance. Ginger begins to dance. I feel the power of SOAT.
Melissa Wyles, who is much younger than her bio picture would have you think, said that she went off the Truck (17 hours: LOL) because her stomach was upset and the smell of grilled turkey legs made her puke. Both Melissa and Jason Hocott say they’ll be back on the Truck next year. I’ll be placing my $ elsewhere, thank you.
SOAT fans, I was there when it happened. Jumbo was in pain. He had been hallucinating before the break, uncertain whether Ginger was touching the Truck or not. He kept leaning down and staring at her hands. Then he started leaning over and looking off to the side. Jumbo’s brother told me it was because Jumbo was trying to draw the pit boss’s attention to the fact that Ginger was occasionally leaning on the bumper. During the 15-minute break, Jumbo slept for the first time. He came back looking good but then kept taking his right hand off and looking like he simply didn’t want to be there anymore. He took his right hand off, stood there, and then walked off right toward us. We cowered in fear, and fortunately the Cauthen brothers not on the Truck raced into the ring and hugged Jumbo. Testosterone sprayed the crowd.
When Jumbo came off the Truck, I felt like I was walking by a cave just as an angry bear was waking up from hibernating.
Congratulations to Ginger “A Girl Can Be The” King. We should try to arrange for the betting-pool winner to go out for dinner with Ginger.
This year’s winner: coached by Terry Odom. Last year’s winner: trained by Odom (at least in the late going). Two years ago winner: Terry Odom. If you have any plans to compete for the Truck, my advice would be to become friends with Terry Odom. Bake him a peach pie. Ask him if he’d like you to wash his truck. Give him a massage while he’s watching PBR on ESPN.
Thanks for the ride, Jumbo. It was awesome.
After her SOAT victory, Ginger drives her truck to Memphis, where she is participating in a dance marathon. In Atkins, home of Jumbo Cauthen, intense seismic activity has recently been reported. Geologists report that it’s Jumbo sawing some logs. Sleep tight, big man.
As I’ve been rereading the dispatches from the Truck, two things stick out to me. First, I totally underestimated Ginger. Second, I think Jumbo would have stood a better chance had he not swallowed Luke Martin whole on Saturday morning. Even Jumbo needs a proper masticating technique, and if we learned anything during the SOAT 2012, it’s that technique is everything.
For more information on Stuck On a Truck and to learn more about your favorite contestants, click here.
Every year, the citizens of Conway, Arkansas, and the surrounding towns gather for one weekend to celebrate the Toad Suck Daze Festival. What is a Toad Suck Daze, exactly? According to the Festival website:
Long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River when the water was at the right depth. When it wasn’t, the captains and their crew tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern there, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who said: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” Hence, the name Toad Suck. The tavern is long gone, but the legend and fun live on at Toad Suck Daze.
The tavern is not only long gone—the whole county is now dry. But, yes, the legend and fun do live on. Photographs by Marc Smirnoff.