In the very early days of my life on this planet we lived on Fayetteville Rd, just up the street from a bridge that's still there and passes over I-20. From our home that lacked air conditioning (though I don't remember missing it very much) one could lie in bed and through open windows hear traffic rolling down that interstate. In those years we didn't live in a 24-7 world and the only vehicles running up and down that road in the wee hours were trucks. Lots and lots of trucks. I can remember lying there in bed and thinking that the men driving those trucks were the luckiest people in the world. There was nobody making them feed the dogs, nobody reminding them to brush their teeth and wash behind their ears and, most importantly, nobody telling them when to go to bed. In fact they got to stay up all night and drive those big, fast, strong trucks all over the place! I spent a lot of time imagining where a truck was going and what it was carrying. I liked those huge ones that had sleepers on them so that, when the need struck, a driver could pull over and take a nap. Yep, they had to be the luckiest and coolest people alive those truck drivers.
We moved out to the suburbs when I was 9 years old. I missed the sound of that highway and those thundering trucks. But my fascination with these diesel monsters stayed with me. There was soon a television show about truck drivers called "Movin' On." Had a cool theme song that got played on the radio a lot. Claude Aikens and some young blond-haired guy drove this huge, dark green Kenworth Conventional and had all sorts of adventures. This was all simultaneous with the CB craze that swept the country (remember the song "Convoy" that also became a movie with Kris Kristofferson?) It all fueled my fascination with trucks...but more specifically with folks that got to spend their life wandering.
I became so obsessed with all of this that the following became my favorite childhood game (listen closely....): I had a stool that was about the height of a bar stool in my bedroom. I would saddle it up next to the bed and get out my mama's biggest laundry basket which became a steering wheel. I had several models that I'd assembled of various models and sizes of trucks. I would sit one within sight of my perch by the bed. That would be the truck I was driving on any given Saturday night (it was always Saturday night by the way.) It was most often my model of that beautiful green Kenworth from that t.v. show! I would turn on the radio in my room and turn the dial until I found WSM out of Nasvhille. Every Saturday night - all the way from Nasvhille to Stone Mountain, Georgia - came the sounds of the greatest country and bluegrass stars performing at the Grand Ol' Opry....always brought to you by "GOO-GOO CLUSTERS!" (which I now know were born in Nashville and, during the depression, advertised themselves as "a nourishing lunch for a nickel!") I would sit on that perch driving my laundry basket for hours, usually after I knew my parents had gone to bed under the assumption that I was also in bed. Or maybe they knew that I wasn't asleep and that there were worse things for a boy to be fascinated with than trucks and out of town radio stations.
I'm still rather fascinated with huge trucks. My heart still skips a beat when I pass one on the freeway. I've always said that one day if I have enough disposable income I'm going to buy one just to work on and drive around (dear God...I AM a redneck.) But I really think the fascination goes beyond large vehicles. I think it's more about those open highways and the horizon towards which those white lines race. Surely there are adventures of unimaginable proportions awaiting there..and even if there's just more of the same my mind can't believe it's so. See, this cranium still holds the mind of a little boy. Try as I may I can't force it to match the newly sprouted gray hairs and crow's feet that are living on the outside of this body.
For too long, though, I lost that little boy's mind and grew a sad, boring mind. My years of bad health and morbid obesity were like being in a prison for me. There were no opportunities or possibilities. There wasn't a chance that things could change or improve. I wasn't going to wander and see new places and meet new people. I was stuck, the woman I love was stuck and nothing would change. Now, I've woken up in Oz and everything is in color. I can rush into this new year thinking that there are new stories yet to be told. In fact, in this new year, I'm earnestly going to begin work on a story I've been wanting to tell for longer than I can remember. It might land with a big thud at my feet and go nowhere and be read by no one. But at least I will have tried and therein will lie a great adventure. The road's wide open...I just gotta decide which truck to drive!
(as a footnote - I think it's sad when I wander through the housewares department of a store and note that the majority of laundry baskets are now square. They would make awful steering wheels.)