Written in 1975
by Jane Stern
, over the course of three years. Stern gathered the material from the fables
of truckdrivers, straight from their own mouths, gathered in truck stop
s and while riding shotgun
with them. Trucker
would appear at first glance to be little more than an obscure coffeetable book
, enhanced photojournalism
It's not, though. You want a book that will induce a mindfuck
? If you're American
, with any sense of what it's like to need to go
, you'll find in reading this that there's a long trail of not-so-archaic mythology
responsible for that common desire in all of us, at least a little bit. In a country whose idols are loner
s and anti-hero
es, it's no wonder we give a certain prima facia respect to the solitary individual
, alone with the land (or the road).
Sociology aside, this book is beautiful in its romanticizing of the trucker
and his lifestyle (forgive the gender-specific pronouns; remember this was written in the early 70's). If you've taken a road trip
or ridden the Greyhound
, you know how this feels. Watching towns you have no connection to roll by, driving through flat midwestern darkness
, seeing nothing but the patch of road before you illuminated by your headlights. The aching desire to stop for an hour, to stretch your legs
, and the accompanying determination that you will
reach X location within Y length of time. The difference between a car you use only for a short commute, that you keep free of trash and wash every other week, and the car you've lived in for a week or more, sputtering into its final destination thick with road dirt
, floor obscured by crumpled packaging. There's an accompanying pride
. After a while motion becomes an addiction
and comfort claustrophobic. That's what this book's about.
, and other concepts garnered from Trucker
- If you think about it, there are an awful lot of similarities between cowboys - real cowboys - and old truckdrivers. Stern makes her point well.
- Men in truckstops talked about their trucks, or the road. They didn't bring up personal problems, least of all a longing for home. A truckstop is not a bar, and truckers didn't go there to find solace in mutual suffering. They went to eat and get some coffee, to get out of the truck and to see a human face in the days before CB radios.
- Some truckers work nine-to-five for a company, and though they may do it as well as anyone else on the road, the long-haul truckdrivers are the real cowboys. Many owned their own trucks and were in constant debt maintaining them. When they got a little bit ahead, the surplus money went into their truck. Trucks have pet names and nicknames and personalities, in the eyes of people who can tell the difference. In such a large vehicle, a trucker's life depended on the quality of his truck, thus the most seemingly unimportant of traits would be a long-considered feature in any investment.
- Ironically, 'cowboy' was an insult, meaning someone who spent too much time grooming himself or his truck.
- "The history of our country is a saga of motion. It is the story of a nation infatuated with pulling up stakes and moving on. We are a people who wash off past failures along with the dust of the road, people who believe the best surroundings are the ones that change, the best home is one that moves, and the best friends are the ones we'll meet tomorrow."
- Sleeping compartments have been located all over the truck, even underneath, equipped with emergency brakes. The sleeper cab was the result of the bitching of a single Seattle truckdriver.
- Truckers began using amphetamines in the 50's, called west-coast turnarounds, black mollies, bennies, or mini-thins.
- There used to be a whole class of establishments catered specifically to truckers. Segregating against whomever they chose. Not just truck stops, but brothels and casinos. There was a truck stop called Naked City where all the employees (including Miss Nude America) worked naked. Some truck stops had signs in the window reading, "Money spent here by black drivers will go to the KKK."
- At the time this book was written, bigotry was nothing many white American males were ashamed of. There is much harsh language directed at women, 'blacks', hippies, and 'homos'. But it was not uncommon for truckers to become lovers. Partners who drove a truck together would once in a while end up 'buddy fuckin' '. Men who professed their heterosexuality would develop a stringent set of standards to be met by any man they'd sleep with. Most truckers, apparently, cheated on their wives.
- California drivers considered themselves the best (not suprising, as regional pride abounded), and were more or less looked down on by other truckers. They decorated their trucks more than other cliques, but claimed they had the most dangerous road to drive - the California Grapevine.
- Jerry, exhibitionist truckdriver. Liked to ride around empty roads in nylon briefs and cowboy boots.
- Truck stop waitresses with huge bouffant hairdos in cheap nylon uniforms, serving thick, hot, black coffee and overdone mystery meat. Selling pills from a stash in the ladies' room, tempting all the God-fearin' truckers.
- Roland who rode bulls in the rodeo, starred in Lil' Abner for extra cash, sold makeup to hookers, and drank fresh blood. "I'd rather die on the road than live off it."
- Jean Sawyer, founder of the National Woman's Trucking Association, who collected blond wigs. Had two Cadillacs and three kids headed for juvie. Did time in jail, preferred the color red.
Coming soon! Poems from 'Trucker'