Around 25 years ago, a Montana truck driver by the name of Bill Sprout got a rather unique call that brought him right into the middle into one of the most unique and largest crime stories in the state of Montana—the arrest of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, at his cabin in Lincoln.
MTN News spoke with Sprout in his first-ever televised interview about the delivery he made decades ago.
“I don’t know how they picked me or why they picked me or what they did, but they told me one day to come into the office,” Sprout says. “I just thought it was disciplinary or something. They told me about what was going to go on. I had to get a check and go through all of my background.”
Do some quick math and you’ll know Bill Sprout knows trucks.
“I’ve been driving trucks since I was 18 and I went to work for Whitewood Transport in 1993, bought my first truck,” Sprout says.
That means Bill’s been driving for just about 50 years.
And after MTN News found him at his garage in Ennis, another clear fact: he’s not behind the wheel for attention. Case in point, this was his first time talking on television news.
“I don’t like the limelight,” Sprout says. “I don’t like to be in it. I just do my job. It gets over and done with.”
That changed in December, 1997, when Bill and his Whitewood Transportation semi were summoned to Malmstrom Air Force Base for a particular cargo.
“The morning that I was supposed to be there to pick it up, nobody was supposed to know about it,” Sprout says. “I get up there and the whole street is lined with reporters and that so I just drove into the air base. There was helicopters so everybody knew about it. Except my family.”
The cabin home of the Unabomber and a secretive mission that quickly drew national eyes.
“It was supposed to be all Army or all Air Force personnel so we figured out how I was going to load it and I didn’t like that, so I told them how I was going to load it. We got it loaded,” Sprout says. “I had to tarp it which I’m probably the only one who has ever tarped a cabin and hauled it. I couldn’t leave the Air Force base. They wouldn’t let me go anywhere.”
Once the journey began, Bill says it wasn’t long before his truck and the wrapped cabin were constantly swarmed by reporters and bystanders, all trying to get a look at Kaczynski’s cabin.
“I finally called up my boss and said you got to get these people away from me,” Sprout says. “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal but, as it turned out, it was pretty big. I mean [people] were following me, they were standing on bridges, alongside the road. [The FBI] sent two marshals and two federal agents and then a helicopter followed me all the way from Great Falls down there.”
“I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning and these reporters were climbing over the fence to look at it,” Sprout says. “They were standing by the truck and the cab, doing this live interview stuff. It was 4 o’clock in the morning and it was 14 below and I just looked out the window and thought, okay, have your time with it.”
Sprout spent the first night on the road in Pocatello, Idaho, before making his way to Lovelock, Nevada, to spend his second night, describing another moment when Nevada law enforcement pulled his truck over.
“I had to have a permit and it said towed instead of hauled,” Sprout says. “Finally, the patrolman who was leading me down there, he come over and told that officer, ‘This guy’s on national TV. I don’t think you want to give him a ticket so let him go.”
Sprout recalls a moment on the highway where, rather than turn onto the lane leading to scales, he continued to follow his police escort, an unexpected move by a reporter in a helicopter flying behind him.
1,300 miles to Sacramento in three days, where the jury could take a look at the cabin themselves, stopping only to sleep and for weigh-in, with one exception.
“Helicopter up there follows me, commenting on how they were going to interview me when I stopped at the scale,” Sprout says. “I never did stop. I kind of got a kick out of that.”
All the while, hauling the infamous payload, staying in constant contact with his family.
“They were watching me on television, kept calling me and telling me I was on TV,” Sprout says. “My wife and kids picked out the name UnaTrucker, so I have a license plate that says UnaTrucker on it. That’s something my grandkids can look back on.”
That license plate still hangs in Bill’s workshop.
Even now, Bill just looks back at the trek that made headlines with a simple statement.
“This was just a job,” Sprout says. “No big deal about it, just doing what I do. That’s the way I’ve lived my whole life. I just do my job. Hopefully, it is good enough and if not, I don’t know what to say.”
A cabin that hit the dark part of history books with Bill at the wheel, representing Montana in the most Montanan way.
“It’s nice to look back and see what I did but just a job is all it was.”
Bill never retired after that historic delivery.
At 65, he still drives his semi across the area, hauling things like talc now, as does his son.
“When I got done, I went and found a truckstop because I didn’t get much sleep on them three days,” Sprout says. “It was just nice to relax and not have anyone bother you and not have the telephone ringing.”