Saturday, September 23, 2023

Chapter 14: A Trip To Edmonton With The Old Man And Jerry Reed


When The Boy was about 12 or maybe 13 he went on a long haul delivery with The Old Man.  It was summer time and The Mom thought it would be a good idea for The Boy to spend the summer with The Old Man, and The Old Man agreed. And why not. This time The Dad was chuckling.  All he would say is, "Good luck fellas, and have a good drive."

The Boy helped The Old Man load up the rig and checked all the fluids in the truck.  The oil was good, the coolant was good, the fuel tanks were topped off, and the tires all had proper air pressure.  All was good.  The Old Man said goodbye to The Grandma, and The Boy Hugged The Mom.  The Dad just smiled at the two as they crawled into the cab of the truck and started her up.  A puff of black smoke, then boom the engine was purring like a tame tiger.  "We're going to Cut Bank to pick up a trailer, then off to Edmonton to make our delivery." said The Old Man.

The road to Cut Bank traveled west on Highway 2 for about 2 or 3 hours depending on your speed and if you stop to view the river.  The highway winds around the front of the Milk River in that spot, the very top of the Missouri, and has a pull off that makes viewing pleasant and a convenient place to stretch the legs.  The Old Man always made an excuse to pull off here.  The Boy enjoyed watching him stand facing the rising sun quietly talking to himself.  At the end of his self speech he always raised his arms high and said an out loud, "HO."  

"What was that for?" The Boy asked.  

"Oh, I promised Your Grandmother I wouldn't forget the Pelicans."  

"Huh?" The Boy pictured Pelicans over the ocean, not in the middle of a desert.

The Old Man explained that as far as he could remember back, and that was a long time since The Old Man was, Old. As far back as he could remember the American White Pelican has been  migrating to this section of the river and nesting in the middle of spring, and by this time of year, early summer the parent birds were teaching the young how to fly.  As he said that The Old Man pointed high over the river and The Boy saw a couple huge white birds with black and red markings at the mid point of a very long wing.  "These fellas are responsible for much of The Peoples Lore and Mythology." The Old Man explained. They became messengers from afar."  Which made perfect sense to The Boy as Pelicans fly all the way from the Ocean to get here.  As it turns out, these birds come from Lake Superior.  The Old Man knew the migratory habits. "Interesting", thought The Boy.

 After a short bite to eat The Old Man and The Boy climbed back into the rig and headed west for Cut Bank which was about 45 minutes away from the pull out.  "An empty semi tractor is the most dangerous vehicle on the road." explained The Old Man, "Driving one of these things is taking the responsibility of the whole road into your hands.  You are the king of the road." The Old Man then popped a cassette into the stereo on the dash and Jerry Reed started singing, "King Of The Road."  The two laughed all the way into Cut Bank.  The Old Man had impeccable timing. 

Cut Bank is not a very big place.  Then again nothing in Northern Montana is big, just spread out.  The Old Man turned the Truck down a street that said, 2nd Ave. NE on the sign.  He muttered something about hiding things in out of the way places then pulled up to a grain elevator sitting outside a small apartment complex called, Buffalo Grass Apartments.  Parked in front of the elevator was a trailer that had a yellow and blue stripe painted down it's side.  He backed the tractor up to the front of the trailer until the hitch clunked into place.  Then he pulled forward just a couple feet to set the pin.  The Boy and The Old Man got out and The Old Man showed The Boy how to set up the airlines for the brakes and the final setting of the trailer.  After walking the trailer and thumping the tires with a ballpeen hammer The Old Man checked the brakes, all was good.  He checked a list on his travel tablet and said, "Ok, Let's go."  

The Old Man turned the truck north on 213 toward Medicine Hat in Alberta Canada.  The Old Man said, "It'll take about 3 hours to get to Medicine Hat then we'll get some dinner.  Then He plugged in some more Jerry Reed and they sang stupid songs all the way to Medicine Hat.  Songs like, "When You're Hot Your Hot, East Bound and Down, Amos Moses, and the Bandit.  Jerry Reed was one of the preferred musicians of the long haul trucker, according to The Old Man.   The Boy just thought he was eccentric.  After all he's been known to do the weirdest things just for kicks.  The Grandma would tell The Boy that he was just like The Old Man.  "When You're Hot You're Hot, When You're Not You're Not."  The Boy heard The Old Man sing, then laugh.  He knew what The Boy was thinking. 

For the next two and a half hours Jerry Reed became the tool The Old Man used to torcher The Boy.  The two where laughing so hard at one point He had to pull the truck over to regain his composure.  After he started driving again in the distance a low building could be see with a light going across it that was shining red.   The Old Man stopped the rig and got out.  The Boy followed him out of curiosity.  This was The Wild Horse Border crossing into Canada. The customs officer came out of the building and checked The Old Man's books.  They traveled to the back of the truck and opened the doors.  The Officer looked in and said, "Ok".  He gave the books back to The Old Man and took a set of metal seals out of his pocket and wove them around the door lock and the ring holder at the bottom of the door.  He stamped The Old Man's book with a red stamp and said, "You're all set."  

The Old Man said, "Thank you sir." and they got back into the truck.  Off again,  Medicine Hat was just on the horizon.  The Old Man took a left on The Canadian transcontinental route 1 and the Truck steered toward Calgary in the west.  3 hours to drive and they will arrive at the Home of the Calgary Stampede, one of the worlds largest rodeos.  Which is more like a national fair than just a rodeo.  It attracts over a million visitors every July with it's 10 days of rodeo, festivities, concerts, stage shows, agricultural exhibits, and cultural exhibitions of the First Nations People.  A good time had by all.

 The Old Man drove through Calgary and headed out on Canadian Route 2 north heading towards Edmonton, "3 more hours and we'll be there." he said.  The Boy wondered how he manages to drive so long without stopping.  They've been on the road for a good 9 hours so far.  The Boy crawled into the sleeper of the truck to take a nap.  He was tired.

The Boy woke and found that the truck was parked outside a truck stop cafĂ©, The Old Man was no where to be seen.  The Boy crawled out of the cab of the truck in search of a bathroom and found a row of porta pottys lining the outside curb of the parking lot  relief was at hand.  He then went in search of The Old Man, who he found in the restaurant sitting at a table talking to a waitress drinking coffee.  The Boy walked to the table and The Old Man introduced him to the waitress, "I'd like you to meet your cousin Thelma." He said.  The Boy was astonished not knowing there were relatives north of the boarder.  But, of course it makes sense The People didn't just stay in Montana or the northern reaches of The US, they traveled to Grandmother's Land, the nick name of Canada coined by Sitting Bull in the late 1700's.  He called Canada grandmother's land because that's what he referred to Queen Victoria.  "Nice to meet you." The Boy said.  The family is getting bigger.

"Tonight we stay here at the rest stop.  Tomorrow we'll drive into Edmonton and deliver the trailer then head back into Montana.  Maybe we'll see some sights on the way.  What do you think?" asked The Old Man.  

"Cool" was the all The Boy could muster.  He was reaching the age of non conversation.  All Boy's go through this stage.  This is the Ugh, and nod stage of development, adult conversation hasn't evolved yet.  So he Ugh'd and nodded.  The rest just sort of fell into place.

The Boy stayed in the sleeper, and The Old Man stayed in the Rest Stop.  There were tiny sleeping rooms there for over night truckers that the restaurant rented for cheap.  The Boy actually slept very well in the rig.  The Old Man locked him in when the sun began dropping and showed him how to use the small black and white TV in the sleeper cab.  The Boy was in heaven.  He slept like a rock.  

The Boy woke with a start after The Old Man unlocked the cab door and crawled into the truck.  He handed The Boy his bag and pointed at the Truck Stop, "In there you'll find showers and a bathroom.  Clean up and we'll get some breakfast and head out."  

The Boy took the bag and headed to the shower.  His newly found cousin met him at the door and led him to the bathrooms and left him to his business. The showers were cold, the floors concrete, and the toilets clean.  The Boy woke up quickly and headed back out to the truck.  About half the way there he was met by an ugly looking rather unsavory fellow that spoke to him in an American accent.  He was from Washington State heading East.  The Boy's instincts were telling him to get away from this person as fast as he could, but the ugly guy wouldn't let him pass.  The Boy ducked and ran around him toward the truck.  The ugly guy was following him.  The Boy managed to get to the passenger side of the rig, but the unsavory fellow had beaten him there.  The Boy was beginning to panic, just a bit, when he heard a familiar clearing throat behind him.  The Old Man had moved like a Big Cat and pounced on the ugly guy in an instant.  He had the guy by the front of his jacket with his left hand and his right hand was lodged under the fellows throat holding onto the lapel of his coat.  The Old Man had his right thumb forced under the ugly guy's adam's apple and the guy could not talk.  The Old Man was whispering to him very close and The Boy noticed that the unsavory fellow was dangling feet in the air.  The Old Man had him in a position where his mortality was in question.  After talking to him The Old Man let him go and he dropped to the pavement.  The ugly guy got to his feet and ran as fast as he could away from The Boy and The Old Man.  The Old Man said, "Ready to eat?"  And they went to the restaurant to get some breakfast.  

The road to Edmonton was a very nice ride.  The Old Man and The Boy didn't talk about what had happened at the truck stop at all.  When they arrived at Edmonton they delivered the trailer to a housing complex on the outskirts of the city.  The Old Man backed the truck into a long driveway, unhooked the hoses, wacked the locking plate a couple times with a sledge and pulled away from the trailer.  He spoke to the customer who cut the seals off and signed The Old Man's book.  They crawled back into the cab of the tractor and started the journey back.  The Boy looked at The Old Man and said, "Thank You."  

 The Old Man put a hand on his shoulder, smiled and said, "That guy was a real creep. It was my pleasure."  

They played Jerry Reed on the way back and sang stupid songs..  The Old Man had saved The Boy's life...

Peace and Balance,





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