Special Feature

These pages are from a story I wrote and each month I will add another chapter from it, hopefully for your enjoyment.

One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
(the truckers Waltz)

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14

Chapter 1

Steve James wasn’t to pleased when he reached the terminal early that morning, ‘Why the hell did they have to change tractors on me, I was just getting my old tractor cleaned up and running good?’ he was asking himself as he walked into the dispatch office around 12:30AM.

Roy, the night dispatcher was sitting at his desk as Steve walked in and greeted him, “Morning Steve, you just about ready to go?”

“No I’m not; why the hell did they pull me off number 67. I was just getting the old truck in shape?”

“Beats me, I guess it was just starting to look to good. Dave pulled seniority and decided that he wanted to drive it. You know how it goes.”

“You know Roy, this outfit is starting to put me off, I worked my butt off to get that outfit looking good and in shape, so I knew I could take it on a trip with out having some things go haywire and that lazy so-and so comes along and bumps me off it.”

“I know, Steve and I sympathize with you, but what can you do.”

“I know what I can do, I can quite, and buy my own truck and this out fit can kiss my ass goodbye. I have been talking it over with Rose; we have enough put away for a down payment and enough to get rolling. Owning my own truck is starting to look pretty damn good about this time.”

“Well you had better think about it really hard, do you think it’s a good time to be buying?”

“Sure why not? I’ve been looking around and there is any number of companies I could put a truck on with, with my experience.”

“Well look hard and long before you jump into it, it can be a tricky business and it can take you down hard and fast, if you don’t watch it. You’ll be taking 71 out to night. Dave’s been on it for the last month; he said he hadn’t checked the oil in it for the last couple of trips, so you might want to take a jug of oil out with you.”

“I wonder what else he hasn’t checked.” Steve said as he went to get some oil, the keys and left. Number 71 was a Kenworth, T600 with a 60’’ high raise sleeper and a N14, 500 hp Cummins engine and at one time had been a nice truck, but being a company truck that had more drivers on it than a 30-year-old hooker, it looked a lot older than its 5 years.

When Steve opened the hood and checked the oil in the engine he swore to himself, ‘My god this thing is going to take at least 8 liters of oil to bring it up to the full mark.’ He checked the fan belt and the alternator belts, the alternator belts were a little loose, but they would be ok for this trip. He checked the expansion tank for the engine coolant, it was down a little, but when the truck warmed up it would be ok.

After he put the jug of oil in, he left the hood open, because he knew he would have to put another jug of oil in it before he left. He walked around to the driver’s door, unlocked it, opened the door, stepped up on the step and looked in, “What a bloody mess,” he said to nobody as he looked on the floor and seen candy bar wrappers, gum wrappers and dirt all over the floor. There was enough dust on the dashboard to write his name. He reached back over his shoulder for the switch and turned on the sleeper lights, the sleeper wasn’t any better, it to was a mess.

He turned off the sleeper lights off, in disgust, “It’s a good thing I don’t have to sleep in there this trip.” He said out loud to himself, “They are going to have to pay me to clean this pig sty up, before I take it out again.

He put the key in the ignition and turned it on and watched as the dash came alive with lights and warning buzzers, then he hit the starter button. The starter labored to turn the big, cold diesel engine over, it fired up, running roughly until it started to get some heat in it and then smoothed out. Steve watched the oil pressure gauge slowly rise, until it was up to pressure.

He switched on the lights and was surprised to find that all the dash lights worked, as the engine started to get some heat in it and smooth out, he turned on the fast idle switch, turned on the heater and defrost fan to warm up the cab.

He then got out of the seat, turned, walked back into the sleeper and although he wouldn’t be sleeping back there this trip, with a little heat in the big sleeper, the cab heater wouldn’t have to work so hard, keeping the cab and the sleeper warm, the outside temperature was hovering around -10 and he knew it would be dropping at least another 10 degrees the farther north he went.

Steve got out of the cab and found a flashlight and a hammer in the jockey box under the sleeper, “Surprise, surprise the damn thing works,” he said out loud to himself as he turned the light on. He walked back to check the tires and the tire chains, “Dave must have had them on, tore them up and never fixed them before he hung them back up,” he said to himself in discus as he seen the chains in the rack on the drivers side had a few broken cross links.

He walked around the back of the truck, pounding the tires as he went, checked the tail lights, license plate light and the turn signals, then pounded the tire on the other side, “Well at least he never left me with any flat tires, but he certainly left me with a lot of broken cross links. Oh well at this temperature the traction should be good and I’m not going to fix them at this time of night.”

He laughed to himself as he thought, ‘the law only says that we have to carry them, not that they have to be in good shape,’ as he put the light and hammer back in the jockey box, checking to make sure there were some spare cross links and a set of chain pliers, then closed the door. When he got back into the cab, he checked all his gauges to make sure everything was normal, the heater was starting to throw a bit of heat, so he marked down the mileage in his log book and with log book in hand he headed back into the dispatch office.

“Is everything ok?” Roy asked, Steve as he walked into the office, stomping the snow from his boots,“Yeah, everything is alright as long as you don’t count the fact that the cab and sleeper are pig pens, the engine is down 8 liters of oil and the tire chains are in shreds, I guess you could say everything is alright.” “Oh yeah, not to mention the he never fueled it up after his last trip and the fifth wheel is as dry as a bone, everything is all right. I’ll need another jug of oil and some grease for the wheel”

“Sorry about that Steve, just grab another jug of oil and a tube of grease out of the locker. I will log this in my night report and e-mail it to head office in the morning. Your trailer is out in the yard, here is your paper work, your schedule gives you lots of time, so why don’t you pour yourself a cup of coffee and get warmed up while you do up your paperwork. I just made a fresh pot.”

Steve put his paper work on the desk and called back over his shoulder on his way over to the coffee pot and then to the locker to get the oil and grease. “I will tell you one thing Roy, if that switch driver left me with a trailer with a flat, or a bunch of lights that isn’t working; you had better start phoning for a spare driver, because I’ll be going home.”

“Please don’t do that to me Steve, I’ve got enough problems to-night.”

Steve did up his paper work. Washed out his coffee cup, picked up his rigging and headed for the door, saying good night to Roy, he left.

When he got to the truck he put his rigging in the cab and was pleased to feel the heat in it. He put the jug of oil in the engine, closed the hood, put the grease on the fifth wheel and went to get his trailer. He backed into the trailer until he heard the pin lock in the fifth wheel, then got out and hooked up his airlines and light cord, climbed back into the cab and loaded the trailer air.

Then he went back and cranked up the landing gear, he got out his flashlight and hammer again and started to check out the trailer. He was almost disappointed that every thing checked out, he had imagined going home and cuddling up to his wife Rose, instead of having to drive north tonight.

Steve got into the cab and took off his winter jacket, hung it up and did another check of his gauges, he then released his tractor parking brakes and made 3 full brake application on the foot valve, making sure his brakes where set up. On the last application he held the pedal down for a few minutes to make sure he wasn’t losing any air, indicating an air leak in the system. He then applied the trailer brakes and put the truck in low gear, let out the clutch just enough to put a strain on the fifth wheel, performing a tug test, to double check that his fifth wheel was indeed locked.

After fueling up, he rolled out of the city and hit the highway, he was thinking to him self, this is the time of day to be trucking, no traffic.

There was a light snow falling, the sky was overcast, but with his big driving lights, the visibility was good. There was a small acumination of snow on the highway, not enough to dust up when you met another vehicle and he could hear the snow crunching under his wheels so he knew the traction was good.

The big red headed Cummins, under the hood was running like a fine tuned Swish watch, ‘at least something on this truck is still good,’ he thought to him self as he settled in for, what he hoped would be a good trip.

The miles rolled easily under his wheels, there were some good tunes on the AM, FM and the odd logging truck driver to talk to on the two way radio.

After a hundred miles he stopped and checked the refrigeration unit on the trailer and his tires. Got rid of some of Roy’s coffee, climbed back into the cab, logged the stop in his log book and headed into the mountains.

As he went farther into the mountains and closer to the Pass, the snow started to get heaver, but still it wasn’t a problem. He was starting to think, this isn’t a bad truck, with a little tender love and care, and it could be a good truck, as his mind started to think of the things he could do with it, if it were his.

He had visions of a clean carpet, polished dashboard and the sleeper cleaned up with clean sheets and a down filled quilt on the bunk. I could polish the aluminum wheels and fuel tanks, the chrome exhaust pipes and maybe change the color, letting his mind wander. ‘Yes, it could be a nice truck.’ He thought.

Steve’s little pipe dream came to an end when he seen lights from another truck coming south towards him, around a corner, they met and then his two way radio came to life. “How about that north bound, have you got a copy on this two way.”

Steve picked up his mic, “You betcah, how’s it going to- night, what’s the trail like on your back door?”

“What you see is what you get until you get past the ski hill, on top of the mountain, then it clears up and you have clear trucking, but watch it in the mountains, you have a super train load of lumber spun out, just after the over pass. You have lots of room in the passing lane, he was chaining up so he might be moving by the time you get there, if you weren’t watching for him, it might give you a little fright.”

“Thanks for the info, what you see is what you get right back to the city, so take care and we just might talk to you another time.” And with a squawk on the two-way 4radio, he was gone. ‘I hope the hell he got that super train moving, I wouldn’t want to get caught up behind him and have to stop. If I did, I just might have to chain up, but first I would have to fix those chains,’ hr thought to himself.

He was taking a run at the bottom of the mountain when he seen the taillights of the super train, just passed the overpass. It seemed to be moving, so he put his foot in it and flip the switch on the dash, locking up the differentials, just in case.

As he started to climb, he started losing momentum and as his rpm’s started to drop, he geared down. Eight direct, then seventh over, then seventh direct until he was in sixth direct and his rpm’s held steady as the big red-head dug in. “What the hell, she’s pulling this hill a full gear higher than old 67,” he said to him self, as he rapidly over took and passed the super train that was laboring up the hill with his chain rattling on the pavement as they dug through the snow.

“You are going to be alright there super train?” He asked on his two-way as he passed the train.

“Yeah we almost got her beat; I’ll take off the Iron when I get to the end of the three lanes or what’s left of them. These trailers are pulling like some one forgot to put tires on them. Thanks for asking and have a good trip.”

“You betcha, you too, I think it is supposed to get better up ahead so take care and have a good one the rest of the way.” He said as he hung up his mic. ‘I don’t think I would want to pull a set of those double jointed trailers, especially in the winter time,’ he thought to himself as he cruised passed the ski hill entrance and down the mountain, kicking out his diff locks, ‘didn’t need them to- night, did we,’ He mentally said to the truck.

He rolled easy through the rest of the Pass; he was starting to notice some fresh moose sign in the snow banks and on the road. He could see where they had come over the snow banks; some just wandered down the highway a bit and headed back to the bush. Others had crossed the highway. ‘I had better start paying a little more attention, don’t want to be tangling with one of them tonight,’ he thought to himself.

He had just rolled out of the mountains into the foothills and the highway straightened out. He cranked his speed up to 100 clicks and set his cruise. “I’m running right on time,” as he looked down at the clock on the dash and sat back and relaxed,”Great life!” he said out loud to himself.

He was just about to start thinking about owning his own truck again when his big lights pick up some thing down the road, on the shoulder, on his side. “Swamp-donkeys” he said to him self as he kicked off the cruise control and started to let the truck slow down on the ‘Jake brake.’ He knew from experience that you didn’t want to be jumping on the brakes at this time of year and jackknife your outfit, unless you really had to.

As he got closer he could see there were two of them, one standing in the ditch pointed up towards the highway and the other one standing on the shoulder pointed east giving him a good look of it’s west end.

Steve had learned one thing about Moose over the years, they are predictably, unpredictable and there is no such thing as logic as far as a moose is concerned. Steve was watching them intensely, thinking to himself ‘Okay girls, which way are we going to-night.’

He just started to pull over to the left hand side of the highway and pull the outfit down with the brakes when the one in the ditch turned and ran back into the bush, then the other one followed, “Smart move ladies,” Steve said to them out loud, as he started gearing up.

Half hours later he pulled into a little town where he checked his outfit over, clean the snow that had accumulated on his taillights and went in for a nature call and to fill his coffee cup. This would be his last stop before he made his destination and get unloaded, two and a half hours from now. “How are you doing this morning, Steve?” asked the lady behind the counter.

“Just fine, Jan, although I almost had encounter with a couple of Swamp Donkeys, back down the trail other than that great trucking.” He went to the washroom, came back out and was just filling his coffee cup when a freight truck, south bound pulled in, another regular. The driver came in with his coffee cup in his hand.

“Hey Steve, good to see you, I see your running on time this morning.”

“Yeah you bet Bruce, I got my switch on time, the only thing is they switch tractors on me and this one is a pig pen.”

“Don’t you just hate that?” said Bruce.

“The thing that really bugs me is there is gum, candy wrappers and dirt all over the cab, but there are no-smoking stickers stuck every where.”

“Oh well that’s trucking, just another scruffy non-smoker.” and they laughed as they headed out to their respective trucks,

Steve called over his shoulder. “By the way Bruce, there was lots of moose sign in the pass and there were a couple of them on my side of the road around Fisher Creek. They headed back to the bush when I got to them, but where they went from there, I don’t know.”

When Steve got to his destination he pulled up to the store and rang the bell to get the receiver, when she came out he gave her the paper work, she watched as he cut the security seal and opened the doors. Then he backed into the loading dock and would have to wait while they unloaded him, usually an hour and a half to two hours. There was no way Steve was going to lay down and have his usual nap in the sleeper considering the condition of it, so he decided to clean it up a bit.

He found a tee shirt and a work shirt in the bottom of the clothes closet that he used as dusters and a wish broom to do the floors. By the time they finished unloading and came out with his paper work, the inside wasn’t as clean as Steve would have liked, but it was at least presentable.

The trip home was routine and as he pulled into the terminal, the manager came out. “I’m sorry Steve, about you getting bounced around like that, between trucks. If you think you would like to stay on #71, we will still have to use it when you’re on days off, but I’ll try to keep it around town. What do you think?”

“Well Don, if you will give me a couple of hours work time to clean it up and straightened it out, you‘ve got yourself a deal, but if I do and get bumped off it, I’m out of here.”

When Steve got home that evening, Rose was just putting dinner on the table. Steve told her about the shuffle with the tractors at work, he told her he was getting fed up with the whole situation. “You know dear, I think it’s almost time for me to get my own tractor. I know a retired guy who had been on the road for over 20 years as a lease operator. I think I will get a hold of him and see what he thinks, he probably has a better idea than any one about it.”

“Okay Steve, but I want you to promise me one thing and that is you will think it over really good, I want you to talk it over with me before you jump into anything.”

“You know I will Babe, it will be our decision, because our lively hood and future will at stake.”

Go to Chapter 2