Before this, I had never traveled out west, and I was enjoying the majesty of Big Sky country. The sunsets out here looked as if they had been painted directly from the hand of God. As we traveled along I-80, the vast open spaces of Wyoming would be suddenly interrupted by a series of multi-colored buttes. Bearing witness to this kind of breathtaking beauty made me feel that I had finally discovered what trucking was supposed to be like. I didn’t know it at the time, but this feeling would plant the seeds for a future decision. I had also never seen a tumbleweed blow across the interstate, but I not only saw one, I succeeded in getting a piece of it lodged in the grill.
We made our delivery to Green River and then got a load that we T-called (split) in Ottawa, Illinois. From there, we got a load going to Kansas City. This meant that we would be going to Merlin’s house in Cross Timbers, Missouri for a 34-hour restart.
Cross Timbers is a tiny rural town in Hickory County, Missouri that boasts a population of 185, but it does have its own Post Office. Merlin joked that the only thing you can buy in Cross Timbers is a stamp. After seeing Cross Timbers, I saw that he wasn’t far from being right.
I met Merlin’s family, his wife, Rita, his two daughters, Amy and Melissa, and his son, Ronny. His other son was away serving in the Air Force. All of his children were young adults, so everyone spent the first night playing poker and consuming various beverages. It was my first time playing Texas Hold ‘em, but I wasn’t fortunate enough to have beginner’s luck—I was the first one busted.
The next morning, I got up and walked to the town square where the Cross Timbers auction was being held. A fast-talking auctioneer was attempting to sell what looked like a horde of junk to me so; it didn’t take long for my interest to wane. Merlin had wanted to be home for the auction to bid on a piece of land to park his truck on. I returned to Merlin’s house and left him to his business.
When I returned, I encountered an unfortunate situation, and I’m certain that it gave Amy, Melissa, and Rita something to laugh at and to remember me by. I exited the restroom and coyly entered the living room where the three ladies were sitting. I turned to Rita and said, “There are certain questions that one hates to ask when they are a guest in someone else’s house, but I find myself in a position where I am forced to ask one of them. And that question is: ‘Do you have a plunger?’”