Go West, Old Man

Tim Barton
Equipment Editor
[email protected]

Dear Pa,
You always said if you could just get you a W9 or some large car, why you’d take one final ride – go off to drive the West Coast with no hurry on the load. I guess you figured out how to do it, what with you going off to Oregon sudden like that.

What a fine how-dee-do for all us folks at home who were hoping to keep living like we have been – you know, watching the sky for the blue spots and whatever else moves a trucker’s life. Rain, snow, and the black ice on the mountain that finally finds you, finds all of us, and we go off the road into the sky. Can’t say that I blame you for wanting to keep on spinning, Pa.

The wind in this old valley has kicked up now, and it’s blowing like that time you came up over the top of the mountain in that old Diamond Reo, and that old boy who passed you in the snow and laid his 18-wheeler over like a fat log across the big road. How you missed him you’ll never know.

Yep, that same wind is blowing now with Ma gone and the Wild West calling and that old ice just waiting for you next time. I was thinking about that wind just yesterday at breakfast. Your friend Carl told this tale that old steel haulers tell, about how he would load a coil and leave the plant, take it off with a forklift and then go back with another set of bills and get another coil for the ride to the Windy. Double loaded, grossing a hundred grand across the Buckeye, and this same wind kicks up out there real good sometimes, and the road can disappear and it can feel like you are floating all of a sudden and then you see God and He is laughing. That’s how Carl put it.

All I know for sure is that Ma, wherever she is, sees you still here on this spinning ball and wishes you life however you want to live it. And so do I. Still, I’ll miss you. Not in the way I missed you in the old days when you were in the Navy or when you drove old 78 and sometimes on the way through you pulled on the horn so we’d know.

No, I will miss you more because it’s the last time. Look at me now and tell me I’m not your son, running up and down the road and maybe pulling on the horn on the way through saying hello to the folks and the friends at home and them never going anywhere – content just to live here and see the one place.

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Like Carl says, “If you’re a truck driver you learn to pray,” or at least hope, for a blue spot and a dry road. We can tell you where is Ozona, Texas or Pigeon Forge in the Volunteer or Blue Ball in the Keystone and sometimes they’re all the same place. Then you get to the end and the fear that kept you moving becomes the fear that makes you stop.

You’re a good driver and if there’s a flip-flop, I’ll see you again. Pa, you’re not stopping, you’re starting again at the other end of the land. I wish I could say it really is all one place so that you wouldn’t seem so far away, but all I see is the empty chair where you sat and the room empty and the house empty. But I see you smiling too, and wanting to go. Going is all you ever wanted.

So I have to let you go like it was just a two-day run and you’ll be right back. But you won’t be back. You won’t be back and all I have is what you made me into and thinking about you out there, happy and smiling, and that we are together on the same ball of dirt rolling around the sun. So anyway, Daddy-o, keep the shiny side up and watch the back of your mirror for that ice, and when it comes just slow down a little so you can stay on this ball of dirt a little longer.

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