My first ride in a logging truck
As my Indian host had promised, there was a steady stream of logging trucks passing by and, in no time at all, one of
them pulled over. It was an ancient long-nosed model from the early fifties or late forties by the looks of it,
with divided grill, divided windscreen and detached headlamps, running without a load. Crawling up into the narrow
cab, with bare metal and sharp edges pressing from every side, hard ribbed-leather seats and a dashboard of small round
dials, it was a lot like squeezing into the cockpit of a forties-era plane. I settled into my seat, seabag between my
The driver, as lean and angular as his truck and wearing a heavy flannel shirt, looked to be in his late thirties.
A small boy, maybe four or five and dressed in bib overalls, stood between the seats with his back against the cab
window and his hand on his father's shoulder. He paid me no mind at all but kept his eye on the road ahead, riding
each bump and swerve with the practiced ease of a seasoned equestrian. I was reminded of myself at that age, standing
on a tractor-axle beside my father as we drove out to the fields.
"Where you headed?" the driver asked. "Due west till I hit the ocean, then north," I answered.
"I'm looking for work." "Well, you're headed in the right direction, for sure," he said. "Things are really boomin'
up there on the Peninsula."
I settled back and immersed myself in the deeply forested country we were passing through, with
stretches of whitewater rivers and dark green interiors glimpsed and gone. We passed through small seedy towns
of one or two stoplights, gas stations and grocery stores and pickups parked in yards, and I watched the driver
shifting up or down as he accelerated or slowed in and out of the small towns, smoothly working the clutch and two gearsticks in incomprehensible combinations, sometimes using both in a single shift and sometimes just one,
in accordance with no logic that I could make out, but with all the finesse of a concert violinist, coaxing or nudging
the great gears into place with gently cupped fingers or heel of his palm.
When he learned that I had never seen the Pacific Ocean, he said he would drive me over to the coast
himself, though it was somewhat out of his way. And so he did, rolling all the way to Highway 101 where he turned
and drove north until
he spotted a pull-over on the coastal side of the highway. He and his boy got out with me and stood for a short time
watching the waves come in. Then they piled back into the cab of the old truck with a wave and “Good Luck!” and the
truck pulled out onto the highway, heading back the way they had come.
I filled my lungs with the clean salt air for a time, looking norhwards at forest as far as I could
see, and knew I had arrived in the true north country at last. My spirits were high, and I was eager to keep moving.
I walked over to the highway, crossed to the northbound lane, lowered my seabag to the ground and stuck out my thumb.