CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - 18 Wheels and a Little Reefer Madness

By Jack Cawthon 2006

I first read the story in the Wall Street Journal, where I get most of my left-wing, pinko-Commie views, that the long-haul trucking companies were having difficulties finding enough drivers for their big over-the-road rigs. So, they turned to a logical recruitment source: AARP.

Yes, that same organization that browbeats Congress on behalf of the aged and offers low-cost burial insurance so that one won't be a burden on one's loved ones when going to the big Senior Center in the sky.

The thought was that if many old folks retire and buy those monstrous motor homes so that they can set out to see the country, then offer them a monstrous truck, pay good wages, and let them see the country from the cab of an 18-wheeler.

I suppose as some thoughts go, this one should have gone, but I sensed a good story for all my Herald readers, including the three in key demographic states.

Having spent years in journalistic pursuits, the longest running one in pursuit of the Paycheck while on The Payroll, I knew where to find this developing story.

At the Busted Lug Nut Truck Stop at the foot of Big Puf Mountain, where truckers congregate with coffee and greasy food, guaranteed to supply enough gastrointestinal pain to keep them awake until the reach to relatively flat ground on the other side of the mountain, I knew I had found that source, as we like to attribute in journalism when we make up most of the story.

I spied a silver-haired driver high in his cab, well, rather seemingly getting high in his cab, chug-a-lugging a bottle of Geritol. Sitting beside him was either a co-driver, or one of those women of the night, and, in her case, the darker the night the better, who I have heard frequent truck stops.

I introduced myself as a featured national columnist for the Hur Herald and modestly mentioned that he had probably heard of me. No, he reckoned he hadn't, he replied, and I told him that was OK as I had encountered the same problem on the streets of Morgantown and even in my hometown of Glenville.

"Hershel Bogguns, this here's my wife, Bessie May," he extended a hand which to grasp I needed to climb up on the cab step. I explained my mission, which I hoped to complete (Where have I heard this line before?), and that I wanted to interview, I almost said over-the-hill, but caught myself and stuttered over-the-road drivers of a certain senior age.

"Senior, my smoke stack," he snorted, "I'm an old f-," and Bessie hurriedly added for him "folk." They invited me up into the cab to look around, and I noticed right away instead of cup holders, a little rack that held multiple pill bottles. He caught my look, and explained that he and Bessie were in excellent health, but that their doctor had a chart issued by the drug companies that specified that when a person reaches a certain age, he or she should be on 10, or preferably 12 or more medications. Who was he to argue with a man who had spent many years of his life studying medicine?

I asked if they were leading an exciting life on the road. "Sure beats serving as a Wal-Mart greeter," Hershel guffawed. "Well, there was plenty of excitement in the beginning," Bessie piped in, "when Hershel drove 500 miles without the trailer." "Just a senior moment that lasted a couple of days," he replied. "But I sure made good time on that run," he proudly boasted.

"Then," Bessie continued, "there was the time we drug that VW Beetle 50 miles down the Interstate." "Thought the transmission was going out," Hershel explained sheepishly. He explained that in the beginning he refused to haul a "reefer," as he thought that was a load of "maragowanna," as he called it. "Didn't know that was what they called a refrigerator trailer," he explained.

I was curious as to how one stayed awake on those long, monotonous Interstate runs. "Oh, I doze off every once in a while," Hershel said. Bessie chimed in, "When I feel us weaving a little from side to side, I just lay down my knitting and grab the steering wheel until two or three minutes Hershel perks up, generally as good as new."

They wanted to show me the sleeper part of the cab, and all I had heard about luxury on those big trucks held true. There was a queen-sized bed, full cooking facilities, and a huge bath.

I had pretty well got my story, and I decided to have a cup of coffee and a doughnut at the diner. When I came back out, I heard singing and giggling coming from the Bogguns' truck. It was a the old Kathy Mattea song, "18 Wheels and a Dozen Roses," only the lyrics had been changed to "18 Pills and a Pint of Vodka." I decided right then and there to hurry over Big Puf Mountain before overcome by diesel fumes.

As I was getting into my old Dodge Dakota pickup, pretending it was an 18-wheeler and that I was heading to market with a load of goods made in China, two ladies of an advanced age in a Cadillac Escalade pulled up beside me. "Want to have some fun, sonny?, the silver-haired driver with gold-capped teeth inquired with a lilt in her eyes. I had heard of such women at truck stops who might try to waylay naïve men like me.

"Sure do," I replied. "Guess that's why we both chose similar professions!" And with that I pretended to double-clutch my automatic transmission as I gunned out of the parking lot.