sometimes I wish…

tractor in yard

Originally uploaded by jayfherron

How many times I’ve thought back about the old Jimco truck stop in Ripon (CA) there in the midst of the walnut groves. It was like its own little small world there-away from the big highway and nested in between old farm homes and the groves.
When I was on the highway the Jimco was one of the last real Ma and Pa truck stops…why they called them that I do not know.
There was another I can recall-it was just west of Billings on 94-all you could see behind it was open prairie and the wagons of sheep herders lined the parking lot as if we were in some kind of wagon train.
I used to think a lot about the shepards job-having an old mule pull your quarters across the grasslands following how ever many sheep it is they lead across the range…and old sheep dog as a companion-and those stars in the sky as evidence as why Montana is ‘big sky’ country.
I would fit in right well calling my mule ‘Clicky’ and making that sound with my tongue as we rode along behind the feeding sheep-my mules ears winged backwards towards the sound-click click click…waiting for the one the that comes that means we get to stop.
The old truck stop there had a sitting room on the second floor. It was just like being in someones living room-woven lace coverlets on the large stuffed chairs-just like the ones at grandmothers house. There was an old television and odds and ends of small furniture to make it feel like home.
Interstate 94 going through Montana is  one of those interstates that they close during those snows that block the highway. This old truck stop was one those we were glad to be stuck at during a highway closing.
They had this crazy motel-it looked lke a long long mobile home. The whole place for some reason made you feel like you were way up away from anyone-somewhere on those ice roads in Canada. I guess it was because of how open Montana is…the big sky country.

Back once upon a time many highway truckers had no place to sleep. To offer accomodations many of the old Ma and Pa’s had a bunk house-or bunk room…these were usually up above where you paid for the fuel. You’d give the kid at the fuel counter a few bucks and he’d give you a card with your name and time to be waken and up the stairs you’d go to find a place to nap…rows of bunks.
Up in Mars Hill Maine was a truck stop that had the neatest bunk room in the country-I never saw  little beds made so neatly since I left boot camp many years before.
I remember once it snowed so bad all of the trucks on US 1 in Mars Hill were stuck-snow drifted up over the windshield of many trucks,mine included…and this man came out from the truck stop wearing snow shoes and bringing the drivers sacks of donuts and thermous jugs full of hot coffee. The county highway department later came and cleared the way for us to move out and down through the wilderness…we were ordered to travel in convoys.

I miss the highway.
There was this kind of honor in being a trucker…once upon a time. I remember as a kid when Jimmys dad would go out and crank his rig. Back in the old days the trucks had an air starter that would scare the living daylights out of death itself…me and Jimmy would wake when his dad cranked that truck-whooooop,the sound would go-but loud enough to echo through the hills of West Virginia.
Jimmys dad would make a pot of coffee in an old percolator and we’d lay there in slumber smelling that coffee brew and listening to Jimmys dad play hymns on his steel guitar….he’d sing softly as not to wake us,but we were already awake and and stayed awake long enough to hear him gear that truck through the hillsides as he worked his way towards the big highway.
Jimmys dad had this hat-it had badges of awards for safety pinned to it…the old hats truckers wore those days were like that of police officers-a hat with a shining brim. When ever Jimmys dad was home I can remember looking at those awards and how many miles his dad safely drove. I was always in awe.

I needed the solitude trucking offered me…it was a way to earn a living and not get attached at the same time. There many favorite places to end the day at-places with smiles and good people…but the next day alway comes and the truck has to move with the day-so the freedom is as huge as you want it,and yet the safety of the confines of the cab are comforting and home.
Yup….I do believe I could follow old Clicky across the grasslands.

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