truck-stop.jpg

Dinner Without Politics

“Anyone a-settin’ here?” he asked.  “No sir, it’s waiting on you,” I answered.  The counter at a truck stop about an hour west of Chicago was filling up.  I normally sit at a quiet booth and read news, Ricochet, and email, but after a fairly hard day behind the wheel from Kentucky north through Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Chicago, the idea of commiserating with other truckers wasn’t so bad.  

“You know how long I been at this?” he asked.  Before I could say no, he answered, “fitty-seb’n years.”  I looked up and beheld the quintessential old time trucker.  Deep lines crisscrossed his face like a roadmap, his bright blue eyes set ablaze against skin that looked like dark, tanned leather toughened by years of exposure to the elements.  How many millions of miles of highway had those eyes navigated?  

Most of his teeth were gone so that when he closed his mouth it looked like his chin might bump up against the bottom of his nose.  He had a laugh like Walter Brennan, and a wry sense of humor.  “I’m 75 years old, and I retired twice already.”  “Government work?” I asked.  “Oh no,” he said.  “I ran my own trucking company for awhile,…had a few trucks. Then I bought some nightclubs too.”  “Nightclubs and trucks?” I asked.  “Yep, it was dumb.  That was Mickey Gilley’s doin’ too.  Never shoulda listened to him.  Sold the trucks and the nightclubs and retired a young man,” he continued.   What happened?  ”Blew it all away, got back on the road for a few years, then got into cattle,” he said.

“Cattle?” asked another voice.  Another trucker sat down to my right and announced that he still owned some cattle.  So I sat between these two cowboys, looking from one to the other as if at a tennis match, enjoying the exchange.  “Say, do you have one o’them ‘lectic fences?” asked the old timer.  “Yep,” said the other one, adding, “but I don’t even have to keep it running now.  The cows won’t go near it.  Hell, I even took down part of the fence and just left the posts up and they STILL won’t go beyond the posts.  They don’t even know the fence ain’t there.”  

“Well,” said Old Timer, “I got one of them ‘lectric fences years ago, and you wanna know what happened?”  Pushing his black baseball cap back for effect, he continued, “I had one o’them whatchamacallits,….the big ones on my pants…”  “Belt buckle?” I asked.  “Yeah that’s it…looked like a satellite dish but I was young n’ stupid.  Well sir, I got a mite too close to that dad burned ‘lectric fence, and it arched over to that belt buckle and lit my world all up!”  Even the waitress who had been hovering nearby listening joined the laughter.  

“You was in the military?” he asked while looking over my hat.  “Yes sir,” I answered.  “I caught what they call a ‘hop’ when I came back from Korea,” he said,  ”but it weren’t in no cargo plane.  They put me in a little jet.  The pilot liked flying upside down a lot, …made me sicker n’ a dog.”  

I asked him why he was back on the road this time.  “Gets in your blood I suppose,” he answered, adding, “my daughter keeps fussing at me and saying I need to sell my motor home because I’m never gonna use it.”   Then he asked about the weather up around Appleton, Wisconsin because he has to be there at sunrise tomorrow.  The driver to my right had just come from that area, so he gave him the latest reports while I pulled up the exact mileage and best route on my smartphone for him.  “They got me runnin’ those damned ‘lectronic logs now.  I cain’t figure the [expletive] things out.  Do you know those idiots in the office I work for couldn’t even find my truck for two weeks with their little gadgets?”   

Just before he left, I asked him what he missed most about being retired.  “The kids,” he answered.  He explained that he used to take groups of children, some of whom were disabled to an extent, and teach them to ride horses.   Then with that priceless hoot of a laugh, he bid us a good evening, paid his bill and went on his way.  

Not once did any of us mention anything in the news.  No politics, no primaries, no twisting or spinning events, no mental gymnastics in support of, or in opposition to a candidate or a cause.  Just three truckers, from different walks of life, with different stories, but with a common purpose, …to deliver the freight and share a few laughs.  It was a hard day,..but a stellar evening.  

   

  1. DocJay

    What a beautiful story! I love America.

  2. Stu In Tokyo

    Thanks Dave, almost as good as sitting there with you!

  3. Robert E. Lee

    I wish I could have been there.

  4. AUMom

    Thanks for sharing it with us, Dave. It sounds like a lovely evening. 

  5. Bruce Hendricksen

    Where were you, Dave, I88?  Sounds like you were in my backyard, near Naperville.  Great story. 

  6. Caryn

    Lovely!  What a nice slice of Americana.  Thanks for sharing.

  7. Dave Carter
    C
    Bruce Hendricksen: Where were you, Dave, I88?  Sounds like you were in my backyard, near Naperville.  Great story.  · 3 hours ago

    Rochelle, Illinois, Bruce.  The Petro on I-39, just a mile north of I-88.  Nice and quiet little area.  

  8. Dave Carter
    C
    Caryn: Lovely!  What a nice slice of Americana.  Thanks for sharing. · 10 minutes ago

    And the scoop of ice cream on top of that slice of Americana was enjoyable too.  

  9. Del Mar Dave

    Real people, real stories, real life.  Tnx, Dave.

  10. Stuart Creque

    Sounds like ideal company: a shared bond from your profession and enough difference to make the stories fresh.

  11. Noesis Noeseos

    Dave,

    You probably won’t believe this, but in the very innocent early stages of the hippie movement, there existed one strain (cf. Freewheelin’ Franklin of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) that actually did try to continue some old American traditions.  Hitchhiking was not in one respect so different from early pioneering.  True, hitchhikers were more or less moochers; pioneers, on the other hand, cleared land and planted farms — but let us be honest, on land that had been taken from Indian tribes. …

    But the main, non-political point is that there actually was a spirit of adventure, of exploration, of pioneering, of Americana. 

    The bolsheviks, of course, soon took over, but some of us old hipsters actually did stumble into the Libertarian Party. …

    Many, many years ago, in days of naivete.

  12. Dave Carter
    C
    Noesis Noeseos: Dave,

    You probably won’t believe this, but in the very innocent early stages of the hippie movement, there existed one strain (cf. Freewheelin’ Franklin of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) that actually did try to continue some old American traditions.  Hitchhiking was not in one respect so different from early pioneering.  True, hitchhikers were more or less moochers; pioneers, on the other hand, cleared land and planted farms — but let us be honest, on land that had been taken from Indian tribes. …

    But the main, non-political point is that there actually was a spirit of adventure, of exploration, of pioneering, of Americana. 

    The bolsheviks, of course, soon took over, but some of us old hipsters actually did stumble into the Libertarian Party. …

    Many, many years ago, in days of naivete. · 6 minutes ago

    Oh I believe it.  And, I respectfully submit, that spirit still lives in the cross country truck drivers.  Not all of them,..but I still catch a whiff of it from time to time.  That was one of the main things that drew me to the profession.  

  13. Dave Carter
    C
    Stuart Creque: Sounds like ideal company: a shared bond from your profession and enough difference to make the stories fresh. · 11 minutes ago

    And entertaining!   A gathering of truckers is a pretty eclectic bunch.   

  14. Noesis Noeseos
    Dave Carter

    Oh I believe it.  And, I respectfully submit, that spirit still lives in the cross country truck drivers.  Not all of them,..but I still catch a whiff of it from time to time.  That was one of the main things that drew me to the profession.   · 5 minutes ago

    Dave, I have spent my life about as far away from the life as a cross-country trucker as you can image.  But just once I saw a fellow handle his massive rig in an astoundingly expert manner.  He turned this monster around with amazing delicacy, missing traps and obstacles that a lesser man, without such expertise, would have hit and thereby have caused havoc.

    I thought I was pioneering an adventure when at 18 I danced around with the hippies, but even then I perceived that most of them were not really serious.  And even the best never put aside their dependency for a true spirit of self-reliance.

    A beer or two to you, my friend.

  15. Doug Kimball

    It’s nice to get away from the contentiousness for a while and listen to others not quite so obsessed with politics.  This is the open, decent, hardworking, honest America we love and respect, for which our counterparts have little but contempt.  They would have them all beholden to federal assistance entranced in a kind of mass Stockholm Syndrome forever voting for continued assistance.  If they had their way, the old trucker would be living in a HUD assisted home, on SSI and foodstamps, cashing his monthly check at the Indian Casino.

  16. dogsbody

    Great story–and a beautiful photo!

  17. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    Noesis Noeseos:

    Some Ricocheteers, steeped in the self-certainty of theology, look to the White Knight to head the Crusade that in November will lead our pluralistic republic back to the simplicities of Puritan New England…

    Pretty language. But not, I think, accurate.

    I’m not aware of anyone here who wants to return to “the simplicities of Puritan New England”. Especially not the Catholics.

    Nor do I think that any of us expect a “White Knight” this election season. Not even those effusive in their praise for Santorum. He’s still a politician, after all, with shortcomings from every point of view.

    I also would dispute the notion that embracing theology causes self-certainty. Accepting the axioms of a theology (and they are axioms, not subject to further proof) allows a person to feel certain about some things, but causes very little certainty about the self, at least in my experience.

    I’d say religious people feel self-doubt and get conflicted about what’s the right thing to do just about as often as irreligious people (some more, some less). It’s only that the doubts and moral quandaries are framed differently.

  18. Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    “Say, do you have one o’them ‘lectic fences?” asked the old timer.  “Yep,” said the other one, adding, “but I don’t even have to keep it running now.  The cows won’t go near it.  Hell, I even took down part of the fence and just left the posts up and they STILL won’t go beyond the posts.  They don’t even know the fence ain’t there.” 

    Keep the cows in, keep the cows in With a broke ol’ ‘lectric fence. Those durned cows will stay behind it, Maybe ‘cuz they’re rather dense.
    “Do you know those idiots in the office I work for couldn’t even find my truck for two weeks with their little gadgets?”

    I always suspect technology of trying to pull stunts like this.

  19. Larry Koler
    Dave Carter

    Noesis Noeseos: 

    But the main, non-political point is that there actually was a spirit of adventure, of exploration, of pioneering, of Americana. 

    The bolsheviks, of course, soon took over, but some of us old hipsters actually did stumble into the Libertarian Party. …

    Many, many years ago, in days of naivete. · 6 minutes ago

    Oh I believe it.  And, I respectfully submit, that spirit still lives in the cross country truck drivers.  Not all of them,..but I still catch a whiff of it from time to time.  …

    Be sure and catch the debate on this with our weird old English libertarian, Mr. Dellingpole — from occupied Europe.

  20. Larry Koler

    Or did I misunderstand you?

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