By T.W. Burger
In a recent ZOOM meeting of a book club I belong to, someone remarked that we all think of ourselves as cowboys, free riders of the open range, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Matt Dillon, all rolled up into one whiskery, squinting, independent ball.
Whoever made the remark was dead right and dead wrong.
Right, because that is the self- image many of us have.
Wrong, because we do not know beans about cowboys.
For that matter, we do not know a whole lot more about truckers, who are sort of the modern descendants of cowboys.
With very few exceptions, what we know about cowboys and all they stood for, we learned from TV westerns and movies. Made-up. Invented. Dreamt.
Truckers we know a bit better because more of us have been truckers than have been cowboys. In my own past I spent years slamming around in various diesel rigs, whereas I have no earthly idea how to drive a horse.
I considered a career in long-haul driving. Back in those days truck drivers were the knights of the road, and it was a terrific way to make a good living.
I went down another path. A good thing, too.
Truckers, as a group, are being ground to a pulp. Shorted pay for miles they have driven, not paid at all for long waits at docks; there is an extensive list of ways the industry has committed a long, slow rape of the people they pretend are their greatest asset.
The recent “truckers’ convoy” protests are only the froth at the surface of a very deep pool of frustration. Personally, I think the parades and commotion did little more than irritate other motorists and waste fuel. A trucker friend commented that would have made sense if all the drivers simply parked their rigs for a week and refused to haul anything.
They are right, you know. Darned near everything we eat, and wear and use come to us by truck. I think the people who pilot those monster vehicles over the world’s highways should be treated with more care and respect from all of us, but especially from the people who profit directly from their labors.
The trucking industry is working hard to automate the trucks themselves, reducing the cost of moving our stuff from A to B. That is gratitude for you.
T.W. Burger was raised in Athens. He graduated from Athens High School in 1967. He worked as a driver of everything from fork trucks to garbage trucks and concrete mixers, has been an apprentice mortician and ambulance attendant.
Semi-retired and residing in Pennsylvania, Burger is still working as a contributing writer for Classic City News and various other publications, and lives on the banks of Marsh Creek, just outside of Gettysburg.