Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Yesterday Shawn Goodall told me, "No pressure, but you're passing your test. I don't have any drivers lined up for Vancouver tomorrow night, so you're gonna pass."

"I'll rise to the occasion," I assured him. I didn't feel so confident, however.

Today he called me minutes after I'd passed the test and asked, with a hint of trepidation, "Did you get 'er done?"

"Yep," I said. "Got 'er done."

I could almost hear his mental air tanks release about 120 pounds of pressure per square inch. His voice cracked slightly when he finally said, "Good deal. Congratulations."

And let me say--the test was even harder than I expected. The last two students failed, so I'm feeling very thankful to a lot of people and to God for helping me survive this. Getting a Class A CDL has been the mother of all challenges. Now, at last, I'm a certified tractor-trailer operator.

I'm genuinely relieved.

Shawn will pick me up at 3 a.m. (six hours from now) in Dickinson, and we'll haul 12,000 pounds of live tilapia to Vancouver, British Columbia. I'd better sleep a bit.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Funky Bangarella

Last night, chirping sounds in the tank.

Hibernation, or . . . withdrawal of something . . . grief at the loss of a pet.

If a hermit loses its legs, one by one, isolate it from others & attempt to keep it as comfortable as possible until death.

Morality hammers the shell. Morality puts the hammer down. Morality drops the shell & then floats the shell.

Jesus loved Lazarus, but I love, only, a crab.

I think I'll name her . . .

Funky Bangarella

Friday, November 23, 2007

South Dakota Thanksgiving 2007 was just right. Lots of family, food, and fun. My aunt & uncle, Josh and Coral Sand, have a ranch outside of Spearfish that is perfect for housing family guests. In fact, it doubles as Sand Creek Bed & Breakfast during the rest of the year.

A few highlights from my stay there (not counting culinary delights) include, 1) sledding with my sweet little cousins Hannah & Liljiana, 2) watching Grandpa play a waltz on his harmonica while waltzing with Grandma on the evening of their 65th wedding anniversary party, 3) viewing the wonderful 25-minute digitized slide show that my cousin Jenny created by scanning hundreds of photos of Grandma & Grandpa--and their offspring--throughout the years.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanks, gracias, tuk, domo, danke, grazie, merci . . .

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I'm off to Spearfish, SD, with my parents and grandparents. We'll be celebrating Thanksgiving with uncles, aunts, and cousins. We'll also be celebrating Grandpa & Grandma's 65th wedding anniversary and a slew of birthdays.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I'm back in Killdeer. I painted ol' Williston town red last night, and I have a headache to show for it. The last day of trucking school was uneventful. I've learned to back up, finally. In fact, I've almost backed myself into a steady rollin' job as a fish hauler with Goodall Trucking. All I need to do now is pass the driving test on November 27th, and I'll have my first Commercial Drivers License. Life is fixin' to be radically different very soon.
The picture above is courtesy of Mark McGinley, the feller I stayed with in Williston. He put me up for two weeks, washed my clothes, fed me, and regaled me with multifarious stories about sundry West Dakota characters. He's a good guy, yes sir, and a Norwegian Irishman to boot! Thanks for all, Mark.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Last day of trucking school update: shifting is good, knowledge of tractor-trailer components is good, backing has greatly improved.

Groovy, man.

Miracles can happen.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I'm ready to be done with trucking school. Williston's an alright town, but I miss Dunn County.

My crotchety old instructor asked me today what a "spy in the sky" is. I told him I didn't know. He said, "It's a bear in the air."

When I told him that his cigarette smoke was giving me a pain in the brain, he grunted like a pig in the rig and blew smoke down my throat.

Two more days, and I'm outta here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Sunday, November 11, 2007

I bought a toy tractor-trailer assembly yesterday in order to practice backing. I spent my Sunday morning doing what I should've been doing 30 years ago--playing with trucks in my pajamas on the carpet.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer died today at age 84.

I really know next to nothing about Mr. Mailer, yet he's always fascinated me. He seemed brilliant yet nuts, radical yet conservative, life-affirming yet lost, and a bunch more scary contradictions.

To me, he resonated equal parts Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Sean Penn, and O.J. Simpson.

He wasn't a saint (he stabbed somebody once), but to borrow a couple of Yiddish words, he was more or less a mensch and he had chutzpah. He was also, obviously, a good writer.

Here's to Norman Mailer and his complicated life.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Trucking school update: Five days down, seven to go. I drove a lot today and yesterday. Trucks are a whole different beast when it comes to shifting. I'm starting to get the hang of it, finally. Backing up is tricky business, too, but I'm pretty sure I'll have that down before long. The thing that kills me, as I mentioned a couple days ago, is what's called the "pre-trip inspection," where you're required to know what every part on the tractor and trailer is and what it does and if it's damaged or not.

This amounts to hundreds of items: s cams, glad hands, sand pads, slack adjusters, wet tanks, bulkheads, torque rods, lock jaws, leaf springs, the pitman arm, the drag link, the kingpin, all the gauges on the instrument panel, all the filters, hoses, clamps, wheels, fan belts, all parts of the engine and drive line and braking system, all the steering components, the light circuitry, and also every last cotter pin, castle nut, and type of lubrication used to keep the thing rolling safely down the highway.

I hate that part very much.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Day two. Done. I'm bad at anatomy, and I'm a lousy mechanic. Having to memorize all the parts of a tractor-trailer and how they link together is tough. I'm the dumb guy in class, for the second time.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Day 1 is complete. Class went well. There are only three other students in the class.

Our teacher, Mr. H, is a character. When reading from his many powerpoint presentations, he often replaces phrases with more colorful concoctions. For example, instead of "biological clock," he'd say, "a bottle of pop." Instead of "sobriety," he'd say, "soberality." "Stop light" was always "stop sight."

I'm being sincere when I say that listening to Mr. H gives me new insight into the English language.

Nov. 6th additions--and I didn't make any of these up: atmosphere = "atlas-sphere"; "pallbearer" = "pallburier"; "axle halves" + "axle shafts" = "axle shalves."

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Grandma whupped me & Gramps good at three-handed Pinochle tonight. My luck ran muddy all evening. I just sat there, like an Egyptian bullfrog waiting for rain.

Now I understand a little more about the Great Depression that Grandpa & Grandma lived through.

As for the Queen of Diamonds, she was purrin' like a kitten in a creamery.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This was Grandpa & Grandma's old ranch cat, Blacky McGee. Bobcat got 'im ten 'alloweens ago. They 'eard an 'air-raising shriek at midnight, and found 'im skinn'd alive the next day near the corral. 'Twas a bloody, gruesome November morn.

'Ere's to the ghost of ol' Blacky McGee
'E paid the price for cur-i-os-o-tee
Prowlin' around & actin' shady
Gittin' fur balls from Mr. Bobcat's lady

Poor ol' Blacky, yer ramblin' days are done...