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the ramblings of the girl and the truck driver, trip 4 #1

The truck driver:

We are racing east across the west, heading into Nebraska. Thinkin about jobs.  Good jobs, hard jobs, jobs we’ve had, jobs we’d like to have.

She asked can you imagine yourself being a cowboy riding across this range.

I said yeah.  Kinda.  You know, what’s a cowboy doing but riding fences, doing stuff with windmills and water tanks.  Maybe pushing cattle from one place to another.

For me, driving, you go in these empty spaces, goin along fences, cattle.  It’s all just moving by.

I see cowboys, riding. Cattlemen.  Sheep herders. They drive pick up trucks that pull a short stock trailer and a lot of them I see have 2 or 3 saddled horses driving down the highway.  What does a cowboy drive?  What horse does he ride?

His task may be to ride 5 miles across one section or several to check on fence or locate cattle.  What’s he thinkin about?  How far do his daydreams take him?  How fast does his horse go? Plodding along dry stubble, sagebrush, flies, dust.  I wonder if he dreams about air conditioning.

It’s gotta be hardwork but it sounds like the perfect job.  What kind of relationship would you have with your horse or horses?  How much would you talk to your horse?  Would the horse initiate the conversation?  Probably.  I can see that.

Last week, driving south, from Rotan in New Mexico, a massive thunderstorm developed in front of me.  I drove into it and the hard rain turned to hard hail.  There were no cowboys out that day.  I could see the cows, hundreds of them, lined up along the fence driven to the extreme end of their fields.  The hail driving into their backsides.  They faced away from the onslaught of wind and hail.  It looked pretty bad.

Outside jobs, I think, are the best.  Truck drivers and cowboys work a solitary life and I think that’s good.  Workin in a factory or shop or oil field where there’s lots of other men around…that’s not for me.  Too much.  Too much what?  Too much testosterone. Too many personalities, competitiveness.  The smack talk, the oneupsmanship.  My thoughts on men are not a one size fits all kind of thing.  When I see a guy at work, being a big shot…aggressive, condescending to others…the bully…I see this man behave and I think the first impulse is to  be afraid of this guy, he’s powerful.  When I look at his behavior with more consideration, drawing upon my own personal experience, I realize this guy could be emotionally no older than 12.  Not strong.  A child.

Somewhere in here, categorizing jobs, I want to insert the drifter as being related to the type of lone life.  Solo operator.  They don’t want to be apart of any of that competitive BS.  When I see a drifter on the road, I don’t think they are all just lazy or degenerate or mental cases.  They have just dropped out of what “normal” is.  Sure, they may be thirsty, dirty, hungry and at times in real danger but they don’t want any part of the game.  To compete.  They don’t want any part of your retirement plan, your insurance benefits, ownership.  I think they find those things deeply troubling.

The truck driver, the cowboy, the drifter, the soldier, the preacher, the teacher, the father, the son, the lover, the thief, the politician, the victim, the persecutor and the rescuer.  How are the men emotionally, that I encounter each day?  How old am I?

The girl: 

He moves through the forest like a man who has grown up playing in the woods.  Graceful.  Aware. Alive in this magic.  I am lucky to learn from him.  He is my teacher.

Day 1.  We left early on Sunday so we can have a few hours to stop and go for a hike.  We started this trip heading west, into the Rockies. We stop at Vail pass and start walking away from the truck up the side of mountain.  It’s a beautiful place, a beautiful day.  He hikes ahead and I see him…a speck walking across the top of the horizon where the mountain touches the sky.

We drive into the sunset toward Gypsum, Colorado to drop off and pick up drywall.  Drywall plants I know now are here, in Gypsum, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the middle of Wyoming and someplace in Texas.  It’s early morning, dawn actually, he kisses me and tells me to go back to sleep then climbs out of the truck in his yellow vest and hard hat.  I roll up my shade, open the window…which opens just a little crack.  He untarps and unstraps.  I hear the squeaky wheel for rolling up the straps outside of my window.  I watch the sunrise.  There’s something very comforting about listening to that squeaking.  I know he’s right outside.

Next to a train track, the forklifts are beginning to move about.  The “yard dog” is hauling empty trailers inside and full trailers outside.  Another big truck pulls in, one that I think I saw on the side of the road yesterday.  It’s hauling paper.  I know this because he told me.  I guess it must be paper that covers the back of drywall.  Now there are 2 trucks lined up over there.  I’m fascinated as I look out at these 2 different trucks, carrying exactly the same load…from different places, to here.  All the parts and pieces, the back stories, of every single thing we use in this country.  I watch each driver jump out of his truck like he did and go inside the office to check in.  As I write this, truck after truck pulls in carrying paper loads.  “tootsie rolls” is what he calls them.

We are heading to Nebraska.  11 hours ahead of us.  Up and out of the mountains going east , top speed 23 miles per hour up gives a real good opportunity for seeing the landscape.

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