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We got a big dirt convoy

ROGUE RIVER - While most valley residents had hours left to sleep on Saturday, a convoy of nearly 75 truckers traveled up and down Interstate 5, delivering loads of topsoil for high school athletic fields dubbed the "Chieftain Field of Dreams."

The soil will be the base of a complex of athletic fields, a track and grandstand for the school. A nonprofit group formed to help make the complex a reality through fund raising.

Rogue River's high school athletes and coaches have had to drive to the area's middle school and former high school site for sporting events and practice since the high school was moved in 1974.

On Saturday, volunteer truckers from across the valley started at the Kirtland Road pits of Rogue Aggregates, traveled along Interstate 5, and through downtown to the high school beginning at 5:30 a.m. Each carried one or more loads from a 1,600-yard mound of topsoil donated by Central Point landowner Bill Parker.

The soil had been excavated earlier this month by Rogue Aggregates and processed for Saturday's project by Foley Roads.

Principal Dave Orr, who counted trucks as they poured in, said response to the entire project had been "unbelievable."

The project began more than a year ago, and is being coordinated by coaches, parents and community members. All labor and materials are being donated.

A $50,300 donation by 82-year-old resident R.C. "Bob" Gail and a $50,000 grant from Nike Corp. last month brought total contributions to $330,000.

"This is all just so unbelievable. So many people have come together. It's just a perfect example of what happens when a small group of caring people gets together," Orr said as he waved seven more trucks down the road.

Signs throughout town thanked the truckers, and pedestrians stood staring as truck after truck was guided down the road.

Some drivers waved and honked. Some drove with their kids.

But no one would accept credit for the job they had done.

"It's just about the kids," insisted Steve Kukert of Tom White Trucking, who showed up at 5:30 a.m. to carry two loads. "It's not about us. It's about them."

"We just did what needed doing," argued one trucker who quickly changed the subject when asked for his name.

But Dan Robertson, a high school parent and building contractor, said the drivers provided a valuable service.

"From my experience, to get that much dirt hauled in would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $40,000. It's not so much the dirt but the cost to hire drivers.

"This much support is just amazing."

George Tocher, coach and board member of the nonprofit Chieftain Field of Dreams Organization, said the huge response from the trucking community was thanks to the efforts of Pat Lund, a Rogue Aggregates employee.

She wasn't accepting credit either, but according to Tocher, Lund spent more than two weeks finding and scheduling trucks to arrive at different intervals so traffic flowed smoothly.

"The response from drivers all over the valley has been outstanding. This is a fantastic event taking place, but all I did was call and ask a few drivers that buy rock if they could help out," Lund said.

Bill Leavens, president of Rogue Aggregates, passed the buck, too, claiming that "without Parker and Foley," there would have been no soil to haul.

"Bill Parker wouldn't accept any royalty payments on the soil and Stan Foley screened and processed the topsoil for rocks and weeds. This is the typical kind of stuff Stan Foley does all the time.

"And there are too many truck drivers to mention. ... Everyone from multiple-truck fleets to single person owner-operators. It wouldn't be fair to try naming all of them. We might miss one," said Leavens.

Foley agreed the truckers deserved thanks.

"We even had some truck drivers call that were upset we hadn't called to ask for their help yet," said Foley.

"And Boise Cascade has played a huge role in this thing. They've been a heavy donator right from the get-go. I hear they're going to seed the place," Foley said.

Bob Branch, project engineer and football coach, summed it up.

"I've had five kids come through here. Everyone has their own story to tell. It's just a community effort. There's a great group of kids out here that need facilities on par with the rest of the valley and we're here to make that happen for them."

Buffy Pollock is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at