The twists and turns of a person’s life can be really awesome, especially for someone like me who can find something interesting in almost anything. I like traveling, seeing new things and things I have seen and haven’t gotten enough of yet. A rolling stone, my mother once said of me. I guess she was right. There’s a part of me that just wants to see what’s over the rise, behind the next mountain, or just down the road a piece. We live in a beautiful country.
Here’s a little vignette
After I became divorced, I wanted to do something new. Like the sign at the end of the road that says road closed, I knew I could go no further with my job. I lived in an apartment complex, a faux townhouse with beds and bath upstairs, with the living room, dining room and kitchen below. My life had become unexciting. I was no longer married. My daughter, along with my ex’s three kids from her first marriage, would come over every weekend and we’d play and we’d go to Opryland and eat out a lot and go to movies, but I was completely bored. Workdays were long and my weekends were busy with the kids. It didn’t seem as if I had a life. My ex announced that she was going to get married again.
After she had come and picked up the kids on one particular Sunday afternoon, I sat back in my easy chair and piled the Sunday Nashville Tennesean on my lap and looked at the employment section, as I had been doing for several months. I noticed an ad for a Truck driving school in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
My Dad had been a truck driver, in fact he had owned his own truck, in fact he had owned several trucks and at one time he ran a pretty good business with several drivers, I traveled with him a lot when I was out of school. At twelve years old, when he had taken me with him to New Jersey from our home in Miami, Florida during the Christmas holidays, I saw my first snow. I loved traveling.
My Dad hauled produce, tomatoes, watermelons, strawberries, oranges, grapefruit, and bananas from Central America. From south Florida to the east coast and midwest, then fron Boston or New York, or Michigan, or Minnesota, wherever, he would pick up their produce and haul it to another place, off load it, and look for another load going some place else. By the time I reached fourteen, I had been in almost every state east of the Mississippi and in Texas and Oklahoma. There was a drawback, though.
When I was in school my Dad would be gone sometimes for months on end. He’d show up every two or three months for a week or two off and then he’d be gone again. As I grew older, I considered myself the leader of the pack being that I was the oldest of three kids, and I assumed a lot of the resonsibility of seeing that things got done. My mother worked at a child’s nursery a few blocks away. When she was gone and with my Dad not being there I was in charge.
This caused a problem when my Dad would come home. As our Dad, he wanted certain things done while he was home and would tell us what to do. I grew to not liking this because I had been the one in charge while he was gone and because of that he ought to have talked only to me. I would have then directed the other kids as to their responsibilities. Nope, that didn’t go over well. My mother took his side, as she should have, but I fumed and resented him anyway. Selfish kid, I was. Who was he, I thought, to come and tell us what to do. Who did he think he was. I made a promise to myself that if I ever had a family, I’d never drive a truck where I had to be away from them.
And yet, here I was looking at an ad for a truck driving school. I reasoned that now that I was divorced I had no family for which I was responsible. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do. With my ex remarrying there was no chance that our marriage might get somehow fixed. I had been set free.
The ad said that if I completed the course and passed the final driving test, a trucking company, J.B.Hunt Trucking, Inc., would hire me and pay for my school. All I had to do was to apply and, if accepted, get there and pay for my lodging and food for the six weeks the course lasted. I applied, was accepted, started raising the money I needed which was about a thousand dollars. My ex had a fit and asked what was she going to do with them in the weekends.
I sold everything I had until everything I had was on the back of a Suzuki motorcycle. I rode that bike to Bowling Green and paid for my lodging up front for the next six weeks and set enough aside for food and gas.
The six weeks passed quickly. The instructors said I was a natural.
The final test was a written test of all we had learned. I aced it and was finished long before anyone else. I asked about the actual driving test. That, I learned, would be conducted by J.B. Hunt Trucking at their terminal in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had to be there the next Monday. Today was Friday. My room was paid up only to this day. I had to find a place to live for the weekend so I rode back to Nashville, diploma in hand. I was low on money.
I had given up my apartment when I had left for Bowling Green so I called someone I knew when I got to Nashville. He put me up for the night and the next morning I was on the road to Little Rock. I spent Saturday night in Little Rock at a well-worn, but cheap, motel. It was clean, I guess, unless you called reeking of cigarette smoke clean. (I had stopped a few years before.)
The next day I piddled and rode about wondering what I was going to do with my bike once I got assigned to a truck and had to leave on a trip. Drivers I had met at the motel had briefed me on what was going to happen after I passed the driving test the next day. They said I would be assigned to a driver trainer and would drive with him as a team for a few weeks and he would teach me about the skill and the art of being a long distance truck driver.
In the employee parking lot that the drivers used I did not see any motorcycles parked there when I rode up to the entrance of the terminal the next day. There had to be three hundred parking spaces in the fenced in lot. but not a one was a motorcycle. I asked someone why there were no motorcycles left there and was told that the parking lot was only for the convenience of those that wanted to leave their vehicles there and that the company was not responsible for them. That meant that if the vehicles got dented, or broken into, or whatever, the company was absolved of any responsibilty. Yes, there were several motorcycle riders, but no one left their motorcycle there for that reason.
I passed the driving test and was told that I would be assigned a driver trainer the next morning and that I should be prepared to leave out for an extended period on that same day. I had to be back at seven the next morning. I returned to the motel.
Perhaps a storage facility. I called around and priced them, but it was going to be expensive and I had to pay a kmonth in advance. Many would not allow me to leave a motorcycle in storage there at all.
As it was, I didn’t have much money left. After selling all my stuff, I had netted enough to pay for the food and lodging at the truck driving school in Bowling Green and for gas and incidentals. There was not much left when I reached Little Rock. I also learned that it could be about two to three weeks before I could expect a pay day from J.B. Hunt Trucking and that I had to buy my own food until then.
Creative thinking was needed. I had noticed a pawn shop down the road from the motel where I stayed on one of my rides I had taken to pass time until I could actually go to work. It was a huge blue painted concrete building with flags and streamers hung everywhere. The was a fenced-in area next to it with razor wire on top and a mean looking German shepherd running around inside.
I rode over, set the motorcycle on it’s swing-out side stand, and went inside. The pawn shop had been there a long time and was crammed with pawned stuff for sale: tools, lawn mowers, bicycles, furniture, stoves , refrigerators. On the right was a long glass counter with dozens upon dozens of pistols and knives from end to end inside it. I was asked if they could help me and I told them I had a motorcycle that I might want to pawn and asked them if they took bikes. They answered that they took anything as long as it didn’t eat. The only thing was that I had to sign the title and leave it with them so that, if I didn’t pick the motorcycle up, they could sell it. I asked how long could leave it was they said as long as I paid the interest charge every month they’d hold it as long as I wanted.
The guy asked me how much I wanted to pawn it for. I told him two hundred dollars. He went outside and checked the bike, started it and shut it off and wheeled it around to the side chain-link gate and pushed it to the back. He told the helper inside to pick up the tag he was going to fill out at the counter. He did that, I the signed papers, showed my drivers license, signed the title I had brought with me, and put the two hundred dollars in my wallet. The interest was going to be less that $5.00 a month, due in thirty days. I was good to go. Cheap storage. My truck driving career was about to start.