Drivers' Corner - Knight of the Highway
Chapter XXII: Should I Stay or Should I Go?
Once again I took the passenger side. We turned back toward civilization for a short time until our next turn toward the reservoir. I was in no hurry to return to civilization. I wanted the lake, Kathy and me. I didn't care about anything else for the time being.
We bounced across the washboard roads, watching the dust trail behind and the birds fly away. A squirrel scurried away into a nearby tree and watched suspiciously as we drove by.
We climbed higher and higher as if we were going to the top of the world. The mountains unfolded before us and the lake slowly revealed itself. Just a few more miles and we would be there. The mountains had always called me home. I traveled from coast to coast and thought many times of moving to one place or the other. No matter how hard I tried to move away for good, it was the mountains that cried out for my return. They would never leave me alone. Now, being on the higher parts and looking down at the earth's lower valleys, I could tell why the calling was so strong.
The fish were jumping as we found a spot to park. I watched as one jumped and the circle in the water waved outward then lost intensity until it faded back into the smoothness of the surface. I was anxious to cast out and catch my lunch, making my ancestors of ancient times proud. There was something about returning to the primitive way of life. Supermarkets had seemed to take away from the sanctity of life. Some people probably think that's where food comes from--a grocery store--never thinking of the animals, farmers, truckers and the processes that made the goods available for them.
I sure knew, at least the trucking part of the process. The hours waiting in line to load the farmers yield when sometimes the wait took longer than the driving time. Then at the destination, once again the hurry up and wait process that seemed ever too familiar with me. I thought about the time on the road. How could Kathy go on the road with me? She had children. Was I ready to toss out my traveling shoes? What would I do? I knew it wouldn't be hard to find something that kept me home. But did I really want to?
The road is sometimes harsh and rude. But it was nice traveling down the highways not knowing where you would head next. There were hassles. Yes, plenty of hassles. Fatigue seemed to be the ruling factor of the life on the road. Yet, just like the mountains that call me home, the road has its calling too. At the moment, the thought of wanting to be behind the wheel with the trailer in my mirror and the highway before me was strong. Was I ready to go back? Could I get a medical release? Was I ready to be with my fellow gypsies out on the blacktop bouncing from state to state?
I had the rest I needed and the road seemed ready to have me back. My thoughts conflicted with the thoughts of just a few short hours ago. We had caught and eaten our lunch and Kathy was still napping as I sat on the lake's edge fishing. After lunch I didn't even bother baiting the hook. I didn't want to catch anything. I just wanted the enjoyment of the fishing process. Sitting there watching and thinking and dreaming. Day dreaming about days ahead. Ready to climb up the running boards of a Freightliner. Waving to Kathy and the kids as I geared down the highway. Wishing I was home and yet happy to be on the road trucking again.
It was as if two separate lives were fighting each other, with me as the victim caught in the middle. Trucking was in my blood and I didn't want any other work. I wanted to feel the power of the motor as it pulled me up the hills. The echo and thrust of the jake brake as it held me back from screaming down the passes. The thrump-thrump-thrump of some of the highways as I scooted along from shipper to receiver. The CB talk, holding conversations of the engineers of the highway. It was my life...up until now. Where would my future go?
The song came into my mind, "Should I stay or should I go now?" I sang it quietly as I reeled my pole in. I went over to the cooler and grabbed a couple of beers and walked the trails, thinking and singing my song, forgetting about time, forgetting about the place. Just walking and thinking and drinking.
It was getting dark when Kathy found me. She was a little annoyed from worrying about where I was. I apologized for wandering off.
"Just getting exercise," I explained. "Forgot all about the time."
"No problem," she said. "Just didn't know what was going on. Thought maybe you fell in the lake or something."
I laughed. She laughed. And we walked, talking and laughing. I forgot about the road once again. I was with my angel floating through the forest. Ready for another night of fire reflecting upon my angel's skin. And my record skipping, singing only, "Stay, stay, stay," with a jump every once in awhile of, "...or should I go?"