Riders of the High Way

 In Aging, SHIFT

Have you ever caught the view from the cab of a two-ton pickup? It is quite exhilarating to bump along the highways and the byways catching the glint of the tops of passing cars as they glide below this special world.

There is an attitude that goes with the altitude of these riders of the valley floor. All up and down our part of this state, we can find these modern cowboys and cow gals. What makes them so unique? The truck says it all.

They don’t build that kind of vehicle to be just transportation. Sure, they can haul wood and hay or pull horses or cattle. But it is much more than that. It’s a cry in the wilderness; it’s a sigh at the end of a dusty trail. It’s a symbol of a breed that refuses to die.

Even the revving of its diesel engine is reminiscent of times past. It has the cadence of a horse on the run, heaving with every breath. And when that motor is warmed up, the rider can believe he is sitting on a chugging tractor working its way down a field.

The truck, like its owner, is only comfortable pulling a lot of weight. When those long beds are empty, even the smoothest highway can ride like a bumpy riverbed. But load that back end with a half tone of alfalfa and it glides over any kind of road. Like the person behind the wheel of these combustion-driven equines, the bigger the load, the better they feel. Give them ten acres to furrow before sundown or cattle to rescue from the mud and our remnant of a hearty people suck in the brisk air, expanding those chests to capacity and seem to grow taller for the task.

They’ve got chores to do that will not be put to another day. Try to make any excuse to a cow that you just can’t milk her that evening. Try to bargain with a thirsty crop for watering it tomorrow. Tell a ripe plum that you won’t have time to pluck it this week. Or sink into that couch at the end of a hard day instead of putting away those muddy tools in the field. It just does not work that way.

These riders of the high way still know something that most of us lost generations ago. When they see those contented cows, the lush green of their fields or their crops harvested and safely stored away, there is a feeling of contentment that is hard to get from other work. They don’t have to question the value of what they do; they get daily feedback on the impact of their energy expended. They work at the most basic level of existence. They work to provide sustenance for us all.

And what is so remarkable is that they live in only two realms, two places of the greatest contrast, but with the most in common. They are either right down in the muck of the earth or they are riding high with their eyes above the crowd. When they are not tilling the earth, they are looking up to the tranquility of that powerful sky. When the earth below is in sync with what is happening in the heavenlies, all is well in their world. They are at peace for another day.

There are very few folks at eye level as they barrel along in these hard-working trucks. If they had a mind to nod to a fellow traveler, the only ones on that level are the other pickup drivers. But they don’t need acknowledgement, because they know where they are heading. That road they are on is just a way to get to where they have got to be. Whether they are hauling a load or bumping along empty, that stretch of blacktop is far below their field of focus.

The next time we look up and see these cowboys of the Eucalyptus slip past in their silver chariots, we won’t fault them for having turned up noses. It is not that they think they are better than the rest of us. They are not slighting everyone by not glancing down and catching the eyes of those passing by. They are just so busy pushing on down the trail that they don’t notice us. Everything depends on what they can get done before sundown…and they know it.

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