9:00 A.M. ... This morning finds me with a cup of coffee staring out the windshield, thinking about Cody, Wyoming, and the great American West. The shop reverberates to the tune of the Detroit and I wait for the air buzzer to shut down, so that I might leave. My pig iron pony is chomping at the bit and he is ready to roll.
The American Economy and my spending habits may have relegated me to a life of quiet desperation here lately, but it cannot close the borders of my mind. Today I have time to contemplate the finer things, and dream big, which I seem to be pretty good at. I don’t have a pressing agenda, and there is nothing on my plate, just me and this old bus.
In my mind, there are trips yet untold.
In my mind, I can go all I want, and it doesn't cost one thin dime to head on down that road. The diesel is free, the roads are good and mostly empty, ... I am the captain of my ship. Everything coming together for a short period of time, the buzzer stops and I head out the front gate to our rural country road that leads to the highway.
I am truly a fortunate pilgrim. On the average I make 10-12 trips per year, not all are of considerable miles, some are like today, one hundred miles perhaps a little more, depending on my mood. It is not good to let a bus sit, just like all of us, we sit, we get tired, we get lazy, things that used to work, shut down. So every now and then, we slink out to the open road for a short respite from the daily grind.
Every month or so, I take Daddy’s Hobby out and stretch his legs, lube up his joints and put down a hundred or so miles. Fifty miles out and fifty back to the shop is usually the drill. Today I am driving north on Highway Seventy-Four, up that old torn, well driven, rutted two lane highway which harbors those old white wheat elevators in Crescent, Oklahoma.
How they stand like ships upon the plain. I am remembering how it was, when I was ten years old, back then I thought they were truly the biggest things I had ever seen. That was before, Chicago & San Francisco, Aircraft Carriers and Viet Nam. All the mysteries of life, a young heart yearned to discover. Stealing off and skinny-dippin down at the Cimarron River, if mama ever knew, the lickin I would have received.
Special days and times, now so precious to me.
Old tin roof, leaves in the gutter. Yellow jackets on the watermelon, honey-suckle in the air, Daddy turning on the sprinkler, letting us run thru it in our underwear. Falling asleep in my Grandpa's chair, to the sound of his grandfather clock ticking on his wall. Angel Food Cake on the counter and a silver fork in my hand.
Learning to drive in a wheat-field full of stubble, shifting gears and using a clutch. Ice cold Grapettes at the Co-Op at the north end of town, beside the railroad depot, now long gone. Fried chicken dinners, ice tea, and fresh picked strawberries for lunch.
Riding an old popper, a John Deere to city folks. Keeping an eye on the furrow and plowing straight and narrow, long after the sun has set and into the night. Burning drip-gas in the old pickup, laying a strip of rubber on the asphalt. Secretly stealing a kiss from Mary Dawson in the balcony on Saturday night.
The noise of an old Santa Fe freight rattling thru town, the sound the train whistle made late in the night. Years later, after decades of time, it would be my hand on that whistle cord, making a living out on the branch line. It would be me riding thru town in the late hours with a string of empties and a little red hack on the end.
Working Oklahoma hot summers, in air so thick you could almost walk on it, long barefoot days that seemed to go on and on forever, seemingly to never end. Perhaps I am remembering this all wrong, but, life seemed to be better way back then.
Early morning … the Detroit purrs like a big kitten and sings my song.
Brand new CD in the tuner, cruise set at sixty-five, my kind of music and my little slice of time. Big boy in the smart aleck lane, rushes past and gives me a friendly wave, another high-miler eastbound and on his way.
The old hoopie she sways a little in the wind, and then gently comes back towards the center-line again. We have come a long ways down the beaten path this old bus and me. Almost noon, me and the big dog, trying to work it all out all alone.
One more short day on the road, only to end much too soon.
I suppose bus people need a place like Quartzite, Az, or Cody, Wyo or Palmento Cove, secret hideaways for bus nuts. Perhaps I am developing the mental mindset of an “Old Tymer”(sp) and do not know it. Life has it seasons, it has it reasons, we are all but unwilling participants in The Grand Ride of A Lifetime.
Often the boredom of wintertime drives a man crazy. It almost has a tendency to warp the soul. So does being squeezed geographically, politically and culturally between these ever so fun Hillbillies in the north and Texas-Mexicans in the south, on a liminal border where one culture haphazardly blends with the other, twenty four hours per day. This might be why we yearn for a new place, sights, sounds and people.
I need a change of pace, a new locale, something to stimulate and at the same time amuse me. If and when those fossil fuels eventually run out, and I am still alive, I may have to move to some place and start a new life. The Gobi Desert strikes me as interesting, not a whole lot of traffic, don’t have to dress to stir and amaze. No Circuit City-Best Buy mail out circulars in the mailbox every other day.
That might work.
Open up some little unadorned watering hole beside the trail, name it “Smitty’s”” or something catchy like that. Give it a nostalgic Doggy-Diner flair. Serve up some home-made distilled brew, with the consistency of Blue Velvet aftershave, perhaps a distinct odor of Pine Tar. Decorate the place with reindeer antlers and serve up warm Yak Milk for the non drinkers, those who do not care to imbibe.
Checking the mirrors, I slip the old bus into reverse and back it so every cautiously into the shop, to sit but another thirty days or so. Almost as quickly as the morning starts, the jaunt is over, and it is back to the shop. So it goes ….. First your money and then your clothes … Just as well, I am too old and it is too cold. Presently it is 43* at the airport, which is really silly, because I don’t know anyone who lives at the airport! I wonder, it is hot in the Gobi?
Let us hope so.
I have fed the beast a sumptious meal but one more time. Plugging the power chord of Daddy’s Hobby into the wall, I walk over and hit the light switch, the overhead door starts rattling and cranking, like a huge snake it uncoils and it heads slowly down to the shop floor ... One more short run logged into some obscure record book ... much too short ... but on some days you take what it is that you can get.
Walking into the kitchen I fetch a cup of coffee, toss it in the mircrowave. The wife smiles, she knows where I have been and she knows that I have once more blown the cobwebs out of my head, life is good, things make sense again.
Sitting down at the kitchen table, the warmth of the cup feels good in my hands and I stare out the window, and contemplate this day. All those days, now part of my faded past, a treasure in my minds eye. If life was a classroom and love was just a lesson, I would like to have to stay there, until I finally got it right.
Saturday morning ... The winds of March ... Rollin’ north on Highway Seventy-four. There's a blacktop road, with a faded yellow center-line. It can take you back to the place, but it can't take you back in time.
Life is short ... Enjoy the ride.