“Mack Tough” the driver said, touching the ornament of his snub-nosed truck, then he took a handkerchief from his overall pocket and wiped away the fingerprints from the chrome bulldog.
“That emblem means a lot,” he may have added.
This cab-over-Mack truck came to the shirt factory every week to pick up cases of sport shirts headed for Puerto Rico. I liked the emblem. I liked the saying “you look like you been run over by a Mack Truck,” too, so I decided to look up some dope on the Mack, and its symbol. I remembered some other stuff in the process.
Before World War I, Mack trucks had no connection with bulldogs. When the company got a contract to build their flat nosed AC model for the US Army, they shipped two thousand Mack trucks to England to help fight World War I. The British soldiers were much impressed by the tough American truck, as shown in a typical conversation.
“The front of this Mack looks like a bulldog, “ Reggie said.
“Hangs with you like one too,“ Harry added.
“You know where ‘bulldog’ comes from, mate?”
“No,” Harry replied.
“Bull-baiting,” he replied. “Back in the Middle Ages, they would chain a bull to the ground, so he couldn’t run, then turn the dogs loose. The bull could still kill ‘em — toss them in the air, gore ‘em with his horns — stomp ‘em with his feet, but they just would not give up— either they got killed or they grabbed the bull by his nose and hung on until they pulled him down. So they named them ‘bull dogs.’”
“That’s a grim story, mate.”
“Grim but true,” Reggie said. “They outlawed bull baiting over 80 years ago. But that’s where the bulldog got its name.”
“Macks are about that tough.”
The pairing of a bulldog and a Mack truck seemed so appropriate, that Mack placed a bulldog emblem on the sides of its trucks by 1921. By 1922 the company had adopted the Bulldog as its corporate symbol. Ten years later, Mack’s chief engineer, Albert F. Masury, carved a three-dimensional bulldog from a bar of soap, while laid up in the hospital. This bulldog became the model for what became one of the most admired symbols ever to grace a truck.
The first Bulldog ornament appeared on a Mack truck with a visible radiator — as its radiator cap.
On conventional Mack trucks , the ornament became a handle to pull open the hood. For cab-over Macks, which had no hood because the whole cab tilted up, the ornament served as a handle to steady a driver as he cleaned his windshield.
In the ’50s, we had a big Mack truck fan in our town. “Lard” may have actually driven cab-over Macks at one time, but the truck he now drove around town was a 1949 Studebaker half-ton ,whose hood ran straight out from the two-piece windshield, then tapered into a nose at the point where it capped the grille. No Mack Bulldog, and no Mack engine, for sure, but the engine in Lard’s truck was worthy in its own right: so toughly built that Car and Driver later boasted it could run at a unbelievable 5.000 rpm in engine tests for hours, almost unheard of at the time for any engine, perhaps even Macks.
Lard tried to make up for the deficiency by bolting a Mack Bulldog on the hood of his Studebaker pickup.
“Why you got a Bulldog on the hood of that Studebaker, Lard?” came the inevitable question.
“This truck’s got an L.P. Mack motor in it,” Lard told Jimbo.
“Do you believe it, Jimbo?” I asked.
“No,”Jimbo said. “Nobody else does either. You can’t get a transfer truck engine in a half-ton pickup,” Jimbo continued. “You just can’t do that.”
One Sunday afternoon the Studebaker truck with Bulldog and the alleged L.P. Mack motor became the center of another controversy.
“Lard just ran over a cat,” someone yelled as Jimbo and I walked by, so we walked up to the cross street where the alleged crime occurred.
“With his Studebaker,” the yeller continued.
“Poor kitty,” said another. “Looked like he’d been run over by a Mack truck.”
Lard frowned and spit on the street, as leaned against his Studebaker .
“Where’s the victim?” we asked.
“We don’t know,” they said. “But Lard killed him all right.”
“I didn’t kill no cat,” Lard protested, “and you know it.”
“What was that loud cat-noise we heard, then?”
“I don’t know.”
“Why’d you stop if you didn’t kill that cat?” they asked.
“You-all were yelling so loud,” Lard protested. “I didn’t kill no cat.“ He scowled. “If I did, find him. Show him to me.”
When his accusers could not produce the corps, Lard climbed in his Studebaker and drove off.
“He didn’t kill no cat,” I said, as Jimbo and I walked away.
“I don’t think he did either,”Jimbo said. “On the other hand, if he lied about the engine in his truck, maybe he lied about the cat, too.”
I wanted to find out if Lard had done that, so I just looked up everything I could find about Mack trucks, came up with no “L.P. Mack” motor anywhere, for the founders of the Mack company bore the names Jack, Gus, and William. I could not find the name L.P. Mack.
However, I did find that Mack actually built their own pickup trucks between 1938 and 1944, so maybe Lard got one of those engines for his Studebaker. That way he could have had a Mack engine in a half-ton pickup. And maybe he was misquoted about the “L.P. Mack,” or maybe he got the name wrong. I don’t know.
But the weight of public opinion was against him, and from that day, the spot where the cat was allegedly run over by a Mack powered Studebaker became known as Cat’s Crossing,” and the man with the Mack Bulldog on the hood of his Studebaker truck was known as “Cat.”
Leon Smith is a storyteller and regular contributor to The Anson Record.