Mystique of the Long Haul Trucker
What happened to the bull whacker of old? With the evolution of the automobile and the truck, the “freighters” (Conestoga wagons) of Santa Fe and Oregon trail days, pulled by teams of oxen and urged on by the bull whackers, evolved into today’s eighteen wheelers. Interstate highways gradually replaced the bull whacker’s muddy, rutted trails. But that drover spirit has never died; it lives on, in the heart of today’s trucker and any kid that yanks his arm up and down coaxing a blast from the air horn of a passing big truck.
What is it that makes you abandon some hum-drum factory job…or a job flipping burgers that’s insidiously sealing you into a greasy cloud of desperation? It’s the same thing that drew the bull whacker to the trail – a simple, pulsing call of adventure – the call of new places; the “Call of The Wild,” the WEST! Ah, the West…
Until you have experienced the sights and scents of the vast prairie, the endless midwest cornfields, soybeans, and, further west, sorghums and wheat…the fields of southern cotton…you haven’t sensed what America is all about! Then there are the Rockies, appearing first as a thin purple ridge line in the distance – gigantic as you reach the base of each front range. The high prairie of Wyoming; the great basin, Salt Lake, Nevada; and then another climb over the Sierras and down into California. No, you haven’t lived until you’ve covered each and every route back and forth — time and time again.
Most of us at home are too busy to bother thinking about trucks and truckers. They are simply there, jamming up our roads; threatening us with their speed and bulk. Deliver your goods we demand! But don’t block our path to the mall; don’t you kiss my car with that truck of yours and tear the “Born to shop!…” sticker off my bumper.
For one minute, totally put away your desire for more “things.” Lean back in that Barka-lounger of yours and dream…just what would it be like to close up the house, kiss the kids good-bye (maybe shuffling them off to the grandparents) to settle in (with your old lady) behind the wheel of a big rig. For a year or so, imagine the both of you…miles flying behind you in your California flat mirrors, endless Interstate ahead–beckoning you on and onward…
Boring..? Never! On each trip, watching the light fall differently over the same countryside, changing each remembered scene to something never before viewed; moonlight…sunlight…dawn to dusk, every time a different mood.
And the easy comradery of the CB – voices out of the blue (some you recognize, but mostly new) jocular banter – good-natured America on the move. A lot like army humor; repeated jokes, catch-phrases; sometimes lines stolen from TV shows and ads; yet much of it original — invented humor — the active mind of the trucker conjuring up anything to get a response out of the CB and make the miles fly even faster. Yes, and sometimes grim: warnings of a “bear” on the prowl; or some “local-yokel taking pictures” (a county cop with a hand-held radar gun); and even grimmer, the occasional accident (they can be bloody). It’s all laid out for you…weather too. Awesome at times.
Truck stops: oases that would make the old timer blush — and not from shame: they’re no longer “Grapes of Wrath” vintage. Truck stop managers have struck gold with the drover of today. We, all of us — like it or not — are trained consumers; not even the modern bull whacker is immune.
Inside a typical truck stop “store,” a pricey array of merchandise seems doomed to sit on the shelf. But hang around for a while: watch an inquiring hand poke through a pile of something or other; and watch it shrink (the pile of goods, not the hand). CBs; cell phones and accessories; maps and books of all imaginable kinds; tire-billies; boxes of snack food; electric coolers; chrome gew-gaws to dress up the truck; outsize, rubber mud flaps; all kind of clothing.
Okay, while we’re on the subject of clothing…let me get something off my chest. You know that guy you’ve seen leaning against a down-at-the ears fleet truck that’s taking up nine car spaces and part of one lane in your local mall — the guy dressed to the nines in a spotless Zorro outfit and an outlandish floppy western hat? Right…that guy. Well he’s on my list, bud! Just out of trucking school, and he’s yet to make his first delivery on time (and if it’s not trucking school, make it the State funny farm).
Now the jerk is standing on his truck steps admiring himself in the flat mirror, with not the slightest desire to slip behind the wheel and do some real driving. I give that bobble-head one more week with the stupid outfit that hired him and he’s down the road–hoofing it.
Let’s go back inside, where we’ll probably find a lavish buffet. The food is likely to be healthy, not the greasy slop the film studio fed to Clint Eastwood and his monkey co-driver. In fact, in most truck stop restaurants you have to make a special point of ordering up unhealthy stuff like biscuits and gravy. Some habits die hard.
Then there’s the always pinging, banging, binging electronic game room; and after that big meal of steak and ‘taters and salad and berry pie ala mode, there’s hot showers and a quiet, protected truck lot in which to sleep it all off. The truck stop of today is the modern bull whacker’s anticipated bit of heaven at the end of a long day’s rig wrangling.
All this and more, hand… America awaits you!