Truck Stops and CB Radio

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015I was headed toward Charleston on I-57 working on my Bootheel project when I spotted this abandoned truck stop at the Bertrand exit. As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.

I’ve always had a soft spot for truck stops, going back to the old CB radio days when you’d while away hundreds of miles giving and receiving Smokey reports and sharing road stories. Eventually, somebody would say they were going to stop for fuel, food or facilities, and all of us with time to spare would peel off to put faces with handles.

“Hey, Sweet Thang, got your ears on?”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015Long before Facebook came along, you’d develop rolling friendships with the men and women who fought sleep and boredom by reaching for their microphones. In the dark of the night, somewhere in the Carolinas, I’d been chewing the fat with my front door, an 18-wheeler whose name I’ve long since forgotten, when he said, “Watch out for that four-wheeler. He’s weaving all over the road. Don’t know if he’s drunk or sleepy. Whoa! It ain’t a ‘he,’ it’s a couple girls. ‘Hey, sweet thang, you got your ears on?'”

He quickly established that it was a couple of college girls coming back from break and they were, indeed sleepy, and they had their ears on.

“Sweet thang, pull that vehicle over on the shoulder. I’m going to drive for awhile before you kill yourself or somebody else. I’d let my partner do it, but he’s young and horny, and I’m a grandfather.”

Sure enough, the car pulled over, the driver hopped in, and we went back to rolling for another hour or so until we all wheeled into a truck stop for a cup of 100-weight and a slab of pie.

“Beware of rattlesnakes”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015I thought I had told this story before, but I couldn’t find it in the archives. In 1990, we took the Great Family Vacation Out West. We were driving though the part of Texas where the rest areas had warnings, “Beware of Rattlesnakes,” and signs saying, “Next Services – 120 Miles.” We fought the nighttime boredom by talking to Crazy Eights, the 18-wheeler in front of us, and having the Sons Matt and Adam count the deer eyes shining back at us along the sides of the road (they spotted more than 200 – deer, not eyes).

Finally, Wife Lila said, “I’ve had it. Stop at the next place that has lights.”

I spotted the only break in the darkness, a small motel that had seen much better days (assuming it had EVER had better days), said our goodbyes to Crazy Eights, and let my headlights sweep the motel. Wife Lila said, “Don’t even slow down, Keep on going.”

“Them boys ever been in a big truck?”

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015About two miles up the road, Crazy Eights was idling on the shoulder. “I knew you’d be coming along shortly. Have them boys ever been in a big truck?”

After we allowed as how there had been a gap in their education, he offered to let him ride with him.

Wife Lila hesitated, but I argued that this might be the high point of their vacation, and that one of two things would happen: (a) when we got to civilization, he’d give ’em back, or (b) he wouldn’t. At that point in the trip, either would work for me.

I miss the old truck stops

Bertrand truck stop 12-03-2015In the old days, the legend was that you could find a good place to eat by seeing how many trucks were parked around it. That wasn’t necessarily true; they might be there because there was plenty of parking for the big rigs; the fuel could be cheaper than up the road, the waitresses could be friendly and pretty, or the food could actually be good, plentiful and cheap.

Nowadays, alas, you are just as likely to see a national chain restaurant like Popeye’s, McDonalds, or the like serving up the same old food you can get anywhere. (I loved the strawberry pie at the 76 truck stop at Wildwood.)

I bet even Mavis at the Old Home Filler Up and Keep On Truckin’ Cafe is riding a rocking chair in an old folks home.

My Truck Book

2015-08-03 My Truck Book 01For the record, I was meticulous in caring for my books and comics. I normally would blame any damage to printed materials on my destructive younger brothers.

I’m going to have to fall on the sword when it comes to My Truck Book, though. THEY may have torn the cover off and dogeared the pages, but I plead guilty to scrawling on the pages, producing graphic images far superior to anything I did in Art 101 in college.

If I (OK, Google) translated the MCMXLVIII Roman numerals correctly, this book dates back to 1948.

The Milk Truck

2015-08-03 My Truck Book 02Most of the trucks in the book are still with us in some form or another, but they are a lot smaller than today’s behemoths. The “trailer truck” had but 10 wheels instead of 18, for example.

Because of changing life styles, though, some have disappeared forever. When was the last time you saw a guy in a white jacket show up at your house carrying a bunch of glass bottles of milk?

(Any guy who shows up in a white coat at my house is more likely to be hiding a straitjacket behind his back.)

The Coal Truck

2015-08-03 My Truck Book 03How many homes still have active coal bins?

Interestingly enough, the next page shows what we would recognize as a garbage truck today, but “The Ash Trucktakes away ashes and garbage.” If he can’t park his truck close enough to the garbage can,” it continues, “the ashman carries the tub on his shoulder or even on his head.”

I wonder if that’s where the expression “heaping hot coals upon his head” came from? (Yes, I know the phrase shows up in the Bible in Proverbs and Romans, but it’s still something to contemplate.)

The Laundry Truck

2015-08-03 My Truck Book 04This was clearly before the days of washing machines in the home. Trucks like this one would drive all over town picking up dirty laundry and taking them to places like Rigdon’s Laundry.

Note the boy in the foreground putting on his skates. Wonder if he got yelled at by his mother for skating while wearing his good school pants?

Street-Car Emergency Truck

2015-08-03 My Truck Book 05Cape had street cars at one time, but I don’t recall ever seeing anything this fancy to making repairs.

The Heavy Machinery Truck

2015-08-03 My Truck Book 06They call it a “heavy machinery truck.” We always called it a “lowboy.” New ones have more wheels and fancy hydraulic lifts, but look essentially the same.

Dad’s lowboy

Steinhoff, Kirkwood & Joiner dragline and lowboy on broken bridgeDad was pretty proud of his lowboy, but it had a tendency to get into trouble. I’m not sure who was driving the truck this day, but I’m pretty sure he missed a zero or two when he read the weight limit sign on the bridge.

That mishap has photographic proof that it occurred. Dad came home crankier than usual one night, but I’m not sure if the following story is completely true.

Ran out of air

Seems like they were hauling a piece of heavy equipment across the Missouri Ozarks to a job when the air brakes went out on a steep downhill run. Much like the boys going down Wolf Creek Pass in C.W. McCall’s song by the same name, “from there on down it just wasn’t real purdy: it was hairpin county and switchback city. One of ’em looked like a can full’a worms; another one looked like malaria germs.”

In the song, the hapless truck “Went down and around and around and down ’til we run outta ground at the edge of town. Bashed into the side of the feed store… in downtown Pagosa Springs.”

In Dad’s version, told a good 20 years before McCall’s song was written, the driver plowed into the front porch of a general store in some small town. There wasn’t much damage to the truck or the building, but Dad said there was an old man sitting there at the time of the crash who dashed into the store, grabbed a roll of toilet paper and shouted, “Charge it!” before disappearing.


Ducking the Question

Geese at Shadow Rest Ministeries 04-29-2014After being taken to task for calling some web-footed honkers “ducks” the other day, I’m going to hedge my bets and say that I was just a little bit out of position when I shot these water fowl headed to a pond.

I saw them climbing up an embankment, but they were badly backlit. By the time they got into a little bit better angle, they were just about to disappear over the top. I barely had time to pop off a couple not-too-sharp frames.

You can click on the photo to make it larger, but that’ll just make it fuzzier.

“We got us a convoy”

Geese at Shadow Rest Ministeries 04-29-2014Looks like a good place to go back to 1976 and C.W. McCall:

Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck. You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon? Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer shure, fer shure. By golly, it’s clean clear to Flag Town, c’mon. Yeah, that’s a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen, yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy. Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy.