The trouble with Jerry Malone was that he was never satisfied working for someone else, even though he was an outstanding salesman and made a good living at it. But financial independence always meant more than financial security; he was a capitalist, pure and simple. And he could sell a bank or a loan company on a scheme almost as easily as he could sell used cars.
Jerry came to the whale business relatively late in life and, indeed, he is still known in his new trade as a "JCL," a Johnny-come-lately. Bald and 39 now, with three teenage daughters from that first marriage that ended in divorce, he has had experience as, among other things, a farmer, a school bus driver, a bartender, an automobile racing driver, a ma�tre d', but mostly as Jerry Malone, used-car dealer. There was Jerry's Auto Sales, M&M Auto Sales ("Our cars melt in your heart, not in your hands"), The Wild Irishman, Auto Liquidators. Jerry Malone sold a purple Edsel once.
It all fits in: Malone grew up as part of the first generation to have clearly exhibited greater admiration for the speed, show and breeding of mechanized vehicles than for animals. And nowadays, too often, Jerry is less celebrated as the man who owns Little Irvy and created the whole scheme, than as the man who drives that gorgeous Kenworth. A frozen whale inside? It might just as well be a pay load of lettuce or strawberries.
Indeed, though he has been involved with motor vehicles all his life, Malone admits that even he was awed by the growing mystique of truck and trucker. "When I was getting started with the whole idea," he says, "getting money, getting my whale—all that was only a challenge. There was only one thing that worried me and that was whether I could handle the truck."
He laid on the Jake brake down a steep incline. "Now, here's what I'm going to do next," he said. He was really excited, and the red was coming to his face. "I am having the first drag truck built, the first one. Just the cab, and it will be something. I'm calling it The Boss Truck of America, and it will be all red, white and blue. The whole frame will be chrome, and nobody's ever done this in the history of the world—$4,000 in paint and upholstery, $6,000 in chrome and, remember, this is just the cab. More than 600 horses, a V-12 Jimmy diesel engine with Allison automatic transmission instead of gearboxes. It'll weigh nine tons, and when I drag—get this—it'll need special chutes coming out the back to stop me. There's about 1,500 fairs in the U.S. and Canada, and I can play auto shows and trade shows, and when I come roaring out of there, red, white and blue, I can hear it now, that announcer saying, "Hang on with Malone, ladies and gentlemen, because here he comes in The Boss Truck of America!' "
There was a knock on the camper door, and Jerry got up to answer it. The man standing there was perhaps a few years younger than Malone, a well-built, healthy-looking fellow with his wife and daughter. Jerry recognized him; the man, who said his name was Carl Perleberg, had stopped him earlier to talk about the truck. "It's a good show inside," he said. "We liked it."
"Thank you," Jerry said.
Perleberg is an apple grower in Quincy, Wash. He had come out there from Fort Lee, N.J. because outdoors was the life he wanted. His wife worked and he moonlighted when they first arrived in the Northwest, and they saved enough to buy some land and plant 9,000 apple trees five years ago. Perleberg kept putting his profits into more orchards, and this year he cultivated 170,000 apple trees.
"Yes, it was a good show," Perleberg said, "but you know what really impresses me?"
"No," Jerry said.