By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 6/24/2018
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 1018
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Saturday, August 16, 2003

When I was home, last, I picked up several small things I had forgotten to bring with me when I first got into my truck, the Richard Gear. For example, a cap. Also, sunglasses. And my Gay Pride flag.

The Pride flag, the six stripes of color, is actually a combination bumper sticker and postcard. The bumper sticker part is glued to the post card part. So, you can mail it to someone or stick it on your bumper. Gay people are nothing if not cleverly efficient.

I, of course, neither mailed nor glued it. I know how tenacious those bumper stickers can be; and since I do not own the trucks I drive, it would not be appropriate for me to attach a permanent Gay Pride flag to it (any more than I feel it was appropriate for Pat, the previous driver of my last truck, to cover it with Confederate flag decals). What I've done, instead, is simply tape the post card part to my inner window. That way, when I move from one truck to another, it's easy to bring the flag along.

Except, I'd forgotten to bring it the last time, my injury, surgery and recovery having rather obscured the issues of needing caps, sunglasses, and declarations of pride in one's gender orientation.

Being proud of one's gender orientation is silly. It's much like being proud of having brown eyes, or a kidney or, for that matter, gall stones. Everyone has a gender orientation; and if it wasn't for the fact that our laws and culture celebrate and support only one—heterosexuality—I would never have to advertise mine. Nothing would make me happier. But, the way things are now, I feel it is important to not be invisible.

Nevertheless, as of today, I have not yet bothered to peel off a couple of pieces of fresh tape to fasten the increasingly well-worn flag to the window. I've already proven the point: other truckers do not seem to care one way or the other. So, as a political gesture, it doesn't quite have the oomph of burning one's bra or joining a sweat lodge.


I made my delivery in Idaho Falls in early morning, then dropped the empty trailer less than thirty miles from there. The young man at the potato flake plant's security shack was stunning, easily good-looking enough to carry his own sitcom. Now, I was sorry I didn't have the Pride flag up; I suspected he might be "family" and, if so, would have appreciated the sign of solidarity. But it certainly wouldn't have had the same effect if I had to frantically locate it, and the Scotch tape, and try to mount it on the glass in a fairly level fashion, all the while listening to his directions on where to find the other empty trailers behind the dehydration plant. It would have looked, well, forced.

I dropped the loaded trailer, which left me bobtailed and bound for Ogden, Utah, where my next load wouldn't be ready until tomorrow. That meant I would be able to visit Ogden Canyon Hot Springs. Yay!

The drive through southern Idaho was beautiful, past those great farms with their enormous sprinklers scattering tons of water over the growing rows of potatoes. As I entered northern Utah, the landscape became drier and hotter. I fueled up, both truck and myself, at the Pilot truck stop at Exit 347, then continued east on that road into Ogden Canyon. I had to pass the springs to find a place in the road wide enough to turn around, as I wanted to be facing the direction I would be going to pick up my load. Soon, though, I was parked next to a beautiful waterfall I hoped would lull me to sleep that night.

I took a nap and did some writing, then slipped on a bathing suit and sandals and walked the trail to the springs. It isn't far at all. There are two concrete-and-stone tubs, constructed by some anonymous bather in the misty past. Both are fed by rubber hoses that come from the spring. The upper tub was 'way too hot; I removed the hose from it to give it a chance to cool down. The lower tub was perfect.

People came and went while I soaked. There was a guy with his five-year-old girl, a precocious little thing who told me all about her house on the mountaintop, and the deer and wild turkeys and her dog.

"What kind of dog is it?" I asked.

"It's a Frisbee dog," she replied. Her father explained that it was actually a mutt, but liked to catch Frisbees.

They left and were soon replaced by seven Japanese students from the local University of Utah. They explained that Japan has many hot springs, and Japanese love to soak in them. "So do I!" I agreed.

Then they left, and an older guy named John appeared. Moments later, another fellow came down the trail. The two knew each other. John, it turned out, was gay; while the newcomer, a man with a rich Irish brogue, identified himself as bisexual. They got into a lively argument, apparently a long-running one, about whether there is, in fact, any such thing as bisexuality. John maintained that all male, so-called bisexuals are actually just gay men who haven't been able to face the fact of their orientation and ease the sting of it by pretending to be attracted to women as well as men.

"Who do you sneak out to see?" he asked. "If you leave a loving wife and family to sneak out and have sex with men, that's your orientation."

Gar, the Irish immigrant, insisted that wasn't the case with him. Oh, he agreed that some gay men may call themselves bisexual; but he insisted that he didn't "sneak out" to see anyone. He dated women and men, openly, and preferably at the same time.

He then mentioned that he was a truck driver, so he and I started sharing truck driving stories. He told of his pit bull, who, he said, had saved his life. "The first time I brought her with me, it was an accident," he said. "I hadn't planned to bring her at all; she just jumped into my truck and I let her stay. I was with the May company at the time, and they sent me to deliver to a place in Watts without telling me the dockworkers there were on strike, don't you know. I was asleep in my bunk when I heard a pounding on my door. This was before I knew not to open the door just because someone is knockin' at it! So I opened the door, and the next thing I knew, someone had grabbed me by the collar and pulled me out of the cab. There were three men standin' there, with baseball bats and big guys, too—they must've had four hundred pounds on me, all together."

"What did you do?" I asked, dismayed. This could have happened to me.

"I didn't do nothin'. When they pulled me from the cab, my pit bull came with me. She tore into 'em like a starvin' man into a steak. The two men on the sides, they ran in opposite directions. The guy in the middle took off, with Hooker—that's her name—chasin' after him. After a few minutes, she came back with a big wad of the guy's jeans in her mouth—includin' his wallet!

"There was $650 cash in that wallet. I kept it, I figured he owed me for the trouble. It also had his credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, everything a good union worker should have, don't you know. Well, I tore out of there, drove away without dropping the load. As I passed some guys on a corner, I tossed 'em the wallet with the credit cards. 'Here's a freebie!' I said. And I quit May that very day."

Obviously, he'd received a very valuable gift that day: A dog who knew when to ride along. Gar agreed that a dog's intuition was often more on-target than a man's.

So, it was a nice, long soak, with interesting people and lively conversation.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

This morning was quite different.

I awoke about ten and decided a short soak and maybe a rinse in the adjacent river would be smart before running to Kimberly Clark for the load of toilet paper or diapers or whatever they had for me. There was one other vehicle parked in the turnoff, an older car that had clearly seen better days. It was now rusted out, with more primer visible than paint, and chips and a crack in the windshield.

When I got to the tubs, I saw the cars' owners: A big, fat guy and a younger, thinner man. "You don't wanna be here," the fat guy said.

"Oh?" I replied, one eyebrow raised.

"The upper tub is too hot," he said, "and this one is full of bleach."

"Bleach?" I thought he was trying to kill the algae that grows on the inner sides. Not worrying about the color fastness of my bathing suit, I got in anyway.

"Yeah. Faggots have sex in this tub, and I don't like soaking in other people's shit."

I wondered if that was before or after I'd been here? —A shame I'd missed it.

"I hate faggots," the kid chimed in.

I sighed, closed my eyes, and sank into the water. This would be a very short soak, I promised myself.

The two of them seemed to ignore me, then, and to continue a conversation they'd been having before I arrived. It was all about who they hated; and by "who" I mean what groups, as no individuals were mentioned.

"Those fuckin' Jews," the fat guy said, "I hate 'em the most. Thieves, all of 'em."

"The niggers are worse," the kid argued. "We should never have brought 'em over here."

"But faggots…they're just disgusting!" The fat guy spat, over me, into the river. "They're all going to hell, just like the Bible says."

"When I was in jail," the kid confessed, "I was so fuckin' scared a faggot would try something with me, I couldn't sleep at night."

"When I was in jail," the fat guy replied, "one did. He was in the bunk under mine, and after lights out one night, he whispers, 'Can I blow you?' So I'm like, yeah, and I let him. And it felt good, ya know? And after I blew my nut down his throat, I beat the living shit out of him. He never tried that crap with me again."

"Someone should just take that John chapter 3 verse whatever and ram it up every faggot's ass," the kid said.

"I'd wipe my ass with one of their rainbow flags," the fat guy agreed. "If I ever find myself alone with a faggot, I'll mess him up good."

I was almost overcome with the irony that these guys felt the need to bleach someoneelse's shit from the tub.There isn't enough bleach in the world to clean your souls, I thought, sadly. When the two of them decided to try the upper tub, even if it was too hot, I got out of the tub we'd shared, grabbed my towel and left.

I was really impressed with myself. I wasn't infuriated, or frightened. I had endured this polluting of the majesty of Ogden Canyon, the hot springs, the river and the waterfall, with remarkable good grace. On the other hand, I thought, as I made my way up the trail, I had been given the gift of listening to this diatribe for a reason. If it was simply a test of my endurance, I had passed it easily. But, maybe it was more. Maybe I was supposed to help enlighten these troglodytes in some way.

There was nothing I could have said to them that would have had any effect, I knew. And I found myself uncharacteristically thinking that maybe the most appropriate action would be to simply flatten all their tires. But, no, I talked myself out of it. The two had spent at least twenty minutes in one of God's most beautiful places, talking about nothing but their hatreds and (I knew but they wouldn't have admitted), their fears. They were already as miserable as it was possible to be; letting the air out of their tires would just be redundant.

Then, I was attacked by a flash of brilliance. Just before I left in my truck, I left them a little gift. I left it on their front bumper, where they wouldn't see it when walking up from the trail. It was my rainbow flag, plainly and proudly displayed next to the license plate. Oh, sure, one of their white supremacist friends would notice it sooner or later and tell them about it.

I just hoped it would be later.

And I cackled about it for the rest of the day, while I picked up my load, and headed south through Utah with it.

The gift, you see, wasn't for them (though I could always hope it would trigger in them some new insight).

The gift was for me.