The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Still Truckin' Along

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1996

Issue: Summer, 1996

I got to be going (Caleb). Bye now (Henry). I'll see you (Caleb). You be good now, y'hear? (Henry) Have a good one (Caleb). Later (Henry). Not too much later (Caleb).

"Oh for heavens sake, Caleb, would you just shut your trap and get out of here!" Henry grumbled.

It was a game they had played ever since they were young boys. Each of them tried to have the last word every time they parted. People at The Forks General Store used to count how many replies they could come up with.

The two men were winding up a spring visit to The Forks General Store to get their annual load of fertilizer. As each word or goodbye phrase was said each one took one more step away from the other and toward their beat up old trucks. Caleb's was old and beat up that is. Henry finally said the last rites over his old clunker and turned loose of enough money to buy a brand new one last fall. Not only was it brand new, but bright red.

Caleb eyed Henry's truck enviously. "Bet you don't get ten miles to a gallon."

"Get a right smart more than that." Replied Henry, not giving out a word more than he had to about his new truck. If Caleb wanted to know about it, he would have to pull every word of information out of him, a position Henry was enjoying considerably.

The two old friends knew each other through and through. Their friendship has started when they were small boys on adjoining farms and lasted through teen age courting, marriages, children of their own, and widowhood. Their children shook their heads in amazement that the two old men could argue constantly, never have a good word to say to each other and always remain the closest of friends, hardly letting a day go by without seeing each other. The current point of contention between them now was the new truck.

Caleb refused to give Henry the satisfaction of asking anything else. He hefted himself up in the pickup seat, slammed the door and turned the starter. The engine coughed a couple of times and backfired, emitting a large cloud of black smoke. Caleb glanced in the rear view mirror, and saw Henry just about bent double, holding his stomach, laughing.

"Hrump," muttered Caleb with all the dignity he could muster and easing the old truck into gear, drove off. "That Henry thinks he's so smug with his brand new truck. Why, I wouldn't trade this one in for a dozen like his. They don't make the new ones to last, not like this one. A couple of years and his will be on the junk pile and I'll still be driving this one." As positive as Caleb tried to be, the truck emitted another puff of black smoke as he changed gears, and he silently held his breath, hoping it wouldn't break down before he could get home. "Just need to blow the dust out of the carburetor. Haven't had it up to speed all winter," rationalized Caleb.

About that time Caleb heard a horn honk and Henry passed him on the straight stretch just before the Oak Junction cut off. Henry waved as he passed, a smile as big as all outdoors across his leathery, wrinkled face. That honk and smile added insult to injury as far as Caleb was concerned. It was bad enough Henry was showing off in passing him. "Old fool, just get a new truck and he thinks he's a teenager again, driving like one at least," growled Caleb out loud as he watched the new red truck disappear over the hill.

As Caleb topped the hill, he spotted the new red truck again, but it wasn't zooming along in the distance. It was stopped beside the road, the hood up and steam pouring out of it. Caleb slowed down as he approached, relishing the situation tremendously. He was tempted to drive on by - after honking and smiling, of course, but Henry was his oldest friend and that slightly tipped the scales in his favor of stopping against the glory of revenge.

Caleb pulled his old beat up truck right beside Henry and stopped, not cutting off the engine for two reasons - one reason being that Caleb wasn't entirely sure it would restart, the other reason being that it was a reminder to Henry that this truck, battered as it might be, was still running!

"Need some help?" Caleb purred, butter wouldn't melt in his mouth he was so cool. Henry was red in the face from embarrassment, and probably from an elevated blood pressure because he knew how much Caleb was going to rub this in.

Henry couldn't let himself look Caleb in the eye, but continued staring under the hood. "A hose must of come loose. Brand new truck like this, that's all it could be."

"If you say so, Henry. Come on. Get in. I'll drop you off at your house. It's on my way. You can call that fancy dealership to come out and get it. For all that money, they ought to do that much for you." Caleb said, hand draped casually across his steering wheel, still not offering to get out. He couldn't help adding, "They just don't make them like they used to."

Henry knew when he was beat. He slammed the hood and walked around to the passenger side of Caleb's truck and without a word, got in. They rode in silence to Henry's house and just as silently, Henry slid out of the truck.

I got to be going (Caleb). Bye now (Henry). I'll see you (Caleb). You be good now, y'hear? (Henry) Have a good one (Caleb). Later (Henry). Not too much later (Caleb).

"Oh for heavens sake, Caleb, would you just shut your trap and get out of here!" Henry grumbled. Things were back to normal again.