Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I usually don't have the time to write in this blog more than once a week or so, but this week has given me more opportunities. Like now. I'm sitting in an independent truck stop in Mt Vernon, IL. I left St Louis this morning, about 3 1/2 hours ago, and was headed to Louisville with two, count them, two bay window frames to drop off and then the plan was to head home from there. This means that my trailer is nearly empty, which means no weight, which means lousy traction in bad weather and strong winds. Well, best laid plans of mice and men and all that. It looks as though I will not be going to Louisville after all. You see, I love to drive, and I don't mind driving in bad weather. But I WILL NOT DRIVE ON ICE!! Nope, Ain't gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent. If I wanted to drive on ice I would move to Yellowknife. As a matter of fact, I won't even skate on ice. That wouldn't be prudent either, but for different reasons. The last 20 miles, before I reached Mt Vernon, I saw about 10 cars off in the ditch in various states of orientation. Meaning some were on their tops and others were on their side and a couple even were still on their wheels. I was doing about 25 or 30 that last 20 miles and had one fool lose it right in front of me.

Now help me out here. You're driving down the highway and all the traffic, this means everyone, is in the right lane doing about 25 or 30. The road just looks a little wet. But wait, what's this? There is no spray coming off of anyones tires. It must just be a temporary suspension of one of the rules of physics for my benefit. Great. This will allow me to travel at a high speed in this light misty rain without getting my windshield all gunky from those mean old trucks throwing up spray. It couldn't be ice though. Everyone knows that the freezing temperature of water gets much lower if I'm driving down the road. This will allow me to travel faster than everyone else.

But the sad thing with this scenario is when you suspend one law of physics, another one usually gets suspended as well. Like the one concerning friction. Friction is that mysterious law that keeps your tires from going off the road whenever you turn the wheel. Did you know that on a dry road your car will actually lose speed if you turn the wheel? Friction, force, thrust; they all play together in there. But some folks skipped physics class. Like that fool who thought everyone was just driving slow to watch the deer on the side of the road and that 60 was a good speed for him, cause he had places to see and people to be. That same fool that lost it about 50 feet in front of me and spent the next half a minute trying to get control back, put his Blackberry back in it's case, set his coffee down in the cup holder, and fill his shorts, all at the same time. Did you also know that the wake-up or rumble strip on the shoulder will help you maintain traction, a little bit?

Well, God was merciful to that fellow today because he was somehow able to get his car straightened out and continued on his merry way, albeit at a much lower speed. Me? I knew Mt Vernon was close and figured enough was enough. I'm done til the temp goes up. The only problem with that is that by then I will probably not have time to get to Louisville before the customer closes and they will not be open the rest of the week.

The boss says to be safe and he'll reschedule the delivery for January 6th, which is when I'm due back on this run anyway. I've got a good boss.

So here I sit, fooling around on the laptop. Good news though. Another boss wants me back tomorrow at a decent hour so they can load my truck for next week so everyone can take off on Friday. That I can do. And on top of that, the weather for my run next week to Grand Rapids, Chicago and Milwaukee looks good. A little cool, but sunny. That'll work.

Well, ya'll have fun and if I don't see you again before Thursday, Have a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Just wanted to post this photo of our Living Christmas Tree from church. We're all done with the program and as I write this, the tree has already been dismantled and put away til next year.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Jesus is...

Just like Mom, I sing in a choir. Although one not quite as large as hers, and yet we have fun with it. This being the season for choirs to show their stuff, we have been rather busy. One thing out director asked of us this year was that we memorize the music. I've only done that for a whole choir performance a couple of times since college. But our director, ever vigilante, made it much easier for us by providing each part with a practice CD. Now with all the time that I have on the road, you would think that I would have it down pat.

But alas, I was not quite as successful in the memorization as I had hoped. I did have most of it down, but there were still a few spots that kept throwing me off.

During one of the songs we sing a line that says "He is King of Kings" and we sing another line that says "He is born in Bethlehem".

There is a term for it but I do not remember what it is, but it pertains to when you begin to say one word and switch to another word right in the middle of said word. This happened to me during practice on Wednesday and I was unable to continue since I was about wetting myself with laughter.

I started out sing "He is born..." and in the middle of "born" realized that I should be singing "He is King..." and so I switched. What came out was "He is Bong". It was here that I lost it. All sacriligousness aside, just the idea, Jesus as a bong, sent me over the edge.

It's a good thing our fine and skilled director is also so patient with us.

By the way, the performance was last night and again tonight, with about half the performance again on Sunday morning. We are performing in a "Living Christmas Tree". It's a huge contraption where we all look like ornaments in a tree. Looks good from the audience, but I get a little nervous up there. Good thing they didn't put me in the top. Maybe I'll send you a picture later, if I remember to take one.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Ghost in the Red Scarf

I'm laying in bed (yes, at home) the other night, and Preston hollers at me.



"Can you come here for a minute?"

"Sure. Be right there." I climb out of bed, and shuffle over to his bed, he's in the same room anyway, and ask him what's going on.

"Are ghosts real?"

"What do you mean 'Are ghosts real?' Do you mean are there really ghosts or do you mean are ghosts real people?" Not that this distinction matters to an 8 year old at 11 o'clock at night.

"Are there really ghosts, I mean?" he says.

"Yes," I respond and head back to bed.


"What, Preston?"

"How do you know there are really ghosts?"

"Cause I've met one," I answer.

At this he rolls over in his bunk and looks straight at me. "Really!"

"Really," I say.


"Wanna hear about it," I ask.

"Yeah," he says and I tell him this story.

I was driving across Indiana about 3 years ago and I had been through Indianapolis already and I was on my way to St Louis. I was running behind because I was having some mechanical problems with the truck and it was already night time. It had snowed the day before and there was still snow on the ground, but the roads were clear and dry.

I was hoping to get to Effingham where there was a garage that might be able to look at my truck and see if they could fix the problem. See, she would just shut down for no apparent reason. If I let it sit for about 2 minutes it would start back up again and run fine for another 30 minutes or so and then do the same thing all over again. I had checked my cables, my batteries, my alternator, the air in the tires, the milk in the fridge, and everything I could think of, but I was unable to find the problem.

So here I am, between Cloverdale and Brazil, and it happens again. Off to the shoulder I go, flashers flashing, tires rumbling on the rumbler strip, and soon I am sitting parked once again. I shut the key off and wait for 2 minutes to go by. After that, I turn the key again and voila! Nothing. What? Nothing! Nothing. Zip. Nada. This time it won't even crank. So I get out of the truck, pull up the hood and start looking again for anything that looks out of place. A mechanic, I am not. Everything looks just like it ought to, except the MOTOR IS NOT RUNNING!! Now I'm getting frustrated. After several attempts at starting it, and several smacks with a hammer, I realize that I am stuck.

But I think, there must be something I'm missing, and so I step out again to look. As I am leaning into the engine compartment on the passenger side, trying to warm my hands over the rapidly cooling motor, I hear a voice behind me. "Looks like you're having some problems."

I nearly jump out of my skin because I never heard her approach. Never saw a car come up behind me or pull over in front of me. I even glance towards the back of the truck and there's no car back there. Just the intermittent flow of traffic that is passing me on this cold lonely night.

"Yeah," I said. "It keeps shutting down for some reason and I can't figure it out."

The woman who spoke to me looks to be between 40 and 50, is dressed warmly for the weather and is wearing a red scarf around her neck. Also, in her gloved hands, is a large, green Stanley Thermos.

"There's a garage about 4 miles off the next exit. They might be able to come help you out," she says and hand me a slip of paper with a phone number on it.

"Thanks," I say and took out my cell phone and made the call. It was indeed a garage and they said that they would have someone out there in about 30 minutes. I said thanks and hung up.

I turned back to the woman and told her what was what and she just smiled and said that she had always heard they did good work. "Have you eaten yet? I've got some good hot stew here," she says as she holds out the thermos.

"Well, I have eaten but it's been a while. Hot stew sounds like it would be great right now," answer and she quickly unscrews the top and pours me a bowlful. It smells wonderful and the steam is rising off the bowl in the cold night air. She pulls a plastic spoon from her coat pocket and hands the dish to me.

"I hope you enjoy it. It was my husbands favorite recipe," she says. I dig into the stew and it is delicious. Just what I needed after a cold frustrating day. I have been wondering all this time though, exactly where did this lady come from and I ask her that question.

"From back there," she says, and points here thumb over her shoulder towards the woods. I glance over her shoulder and I can just make out a house about a hundred yards into the woods. She says "I saw you sitting here and I thought this was a bad night for a driver to be broke down. My husband used to drive a truck so I tend to keep my eyes open for you guys."

"Well," I say. "That's very nice of you. Again, the stew is great. I don't want to be forward or anything, but would you like to sit inside where it's at least a little warmer?"

"That's ok," she says. "Looks like your help is here anyway." With this she points to the back of the truck. I look back and see a wrecker pulling up in front of me, it's yellow flashers bouncing off the trees and the fresh snow around me.

I turn back to her, handing her back her empty bowl, and say, "Thanks again. I better go check in with him. I'll be right back." I walk up to the tow truck and the mechanic who is stepping out of the wrecker, and I fill him in on what's going on. He grabs a few tools and heads back to the front of the truck. When we get back to my open hood, I notice that the lady with the red scarf is nowhere to be seen. It appears as though she has gone back home now that my help has arrived. I shrug my shoulders and wait patiently while the mechanic starts going over the motor.

Soon he decides that the repairs are beyond his capacity and the truck needs to be towed in to their garage. He quickly hooks up and we are soon off to his garage.

As we arrive at his garage, he pulls through one of the open bays, drops my truck there in the warm building, and unhooks his wrecker. I go inside and check in with the head mechanic and the work soon begins. He tells me there's a restaurant next door if I want to go get something to eat. I told him I wasn't hungry but I might go get some coffee. I then told him about the lady who came to me on the side of the road and brought me some stew.

At this news, his head pops up and he looks me square in the eyes. Then he asks me, "Was she wearing a red scarf?"

"Yeah," I said. "Do you know her?"

"Most people around here know of her, but only a few have ever met her." Then he asks me if I ate any of the stew.

"Yes," I said. "And it was excellent."

"I've heard that she makes a very tasty stew. But if I were you I wouldn't stray too far from the bathroom."

It was at that very moment that I felt an unsettling rumbling in my stomach. Sometimes, when you start to feel as though a restroom will soon be your best friend, you get some warning. Sometimes that warning is long with several rumblings, and sometimes it's short with a couple of quick cramps. This one smacked me in my gut and yelled at me in a loud voice, "NOW!!" And I was off in a run. I made it but barely.

I will not go into any details here as I am trying to keep this a family story, but let's just say...well...it was bad. Quite bad.

After I came back from the restroom, I started to ask the head mechanic about this lady but I was interrupted by another stomach doubling cramp and I was off for another dash. Twenty minutes later I was back. The head man, Billy, said, "At this rate, we'll have your truck done before you are." Very funny. Very funny.

"So tell me about this lady," I said and he started in on her story.

"Her name is Marcia Stillwater and her husband was a truck driver."

"She told me that," I said. "Did he pass away?"

"Yes," he said. "One month after she did."

"What?! You mean this lady is dead?"

"Yep. You are one of about two dozen truck drivers who have come face to face with the ghost of Marcia Stillwater."

Seems Marcia's husband, Tom, was a driver for a local company and he loved his job, almost as much as he loved Marcia. Marcia, on the other hand, hated his job because it took him away from her far more than she wanted. It was about two weeks before Christmas and Tom was on a run to California. He had left the night before and he and Marcia had had a bad fight. She was pregnant with their first child and was due to deliver in about a week. Tom figured he could get back home before the baby came but she didn't want him to chance getting caught out there or the baby coming early. She begged him to stay home but he felt they needed the money and so he went anyway.

Her worst fears were confirmed the next night when she started going into labor. It was cold and snowing and she could not get a hold of her doctor. She called her sister and she soon showed up with a friend who was a midwife. The labor was a bad one and the midwife was soon dealing with an issue well beyond her capabilities. Neither Marcia nor the baby would survive the birthing process.

This happened in the 1965 and her husband was beyond reach. He tried several times to call her over the next few days and grew increasingly concerned when he received no answer. He came home as fast as he could only to find his wife and child already gone. He was so distraught that he never left his house again. One month later he was gone too. The doctors say he died of guilt, thinking that if only he had been home he would have been able to do something to save his wife and baby.

So this was the story of Tom and Marcia, told to me between about 7 trips to the restroom and much laughter from the mechanics. By now I was sore, irritated, and totally worn out. I knew that even if my truck were finished, there was no way I would make to St Louis that night. But there were still some holes in the story that I needed filled.

"So what's the deal with the stew?" I asked. "Why would she do this to broken down truck drivers?"

And Billy told me. "The story is that her last words, spoken to her sister that night, just before she died, were 'Tom will pay for this. And so will every other driver out there.' Ever since then there have been about two dozen drivers or so, who have met up with Marcia Stillwater. Always at night, always near Christmas, and all but one spent several hours regretting eating her stew. And they all say she was wearing a red scarf."

"What about the one who didn't regret eating her stew," I asked.

"He didn't eat it," Billy said.

"And so, Preston," I said. "That's the story of the night I met the Ghost in the Red Scarf. What'd you think?"

"Cool," he said.

Yeah, I thought. Real cool.

I love stew. But some nights around Christmas... I just can't eat it.