The first 10-mile stretch of road was hilly and straight.
Fluid, forward motion and the school day; he was growing and the warm cab, and his father's voice, and the truck tires revolving along polished asphalt relaxed the boy so that between the tenth and twelfth mile, his head drew slowly to the bench seat-like a bee to a node of mayonnaise-and landed just behind the shifter knob near where the fleshy heal of his father's hand had come to rest. The transmission lever was in fourth.
The boy was tall and wiry and fit nicely curled on the red vinyl seat. He was content. Warm drool found it's way to his cheekbone, congregating in the divots the seat pressed into his cheek. He was 14.
Tire moan, engine moan, steady rhythm; off fuel into the turn, back on fuel in the middle of the turn, steady increase of fuel uphill, feathering off fuel down hill; the father talking to himself at normal, between-two-people, conversational decibels; the boy's half-dream cast his favorite school girls with him as the hero-the one who gets the girls.
His father knew how to drive like nobody's business; it had been his business. His driving was a gift to his son. The silky ride, like a lullaby rocking the boy to sleep.
Six o'clock: on-time arrival. Paste-ups delivered to the newspaper camera room. The press, with lots of luck, won't break and the paper will print; father and son will be on their way home by ten.
At the Fairlee Diner, cook Pat Roberts walks with a limp. For the father a hamburg steak, homemade applesauce, mashed potato, and wax beans. For the boy, Mrs. Roberts serves two grilled franks, the kind that don't snap like a tic, homemade applesauce, hand-cut well-done French-fried potatos, a thick heaping load of baked beans, melded with perfect amounts of molasses, maple syrup, and bacon, served piping hot. Brown as a Sherpa, perfectly shaped yet ductile, it seemed each bean had been baked individually to the boys taste.
A milkshake for the boy, a coupla cups of coffee for the dad, and pie for both. The father alternated between apple and custard. The boy always ordered banana cream. "Pie is a desert men eat," he thought to himself.
After dinner, back at the printer's, sitting in the truck waiting to hear the ring of the press bell that might barely cut through tonight's humidity-which alerts the pressmen to mind their fingers and shirtsleeves because the press is about to roll-the boy listens carefully to his father's stories about growing up on a Pennsylvania farm, now a municipal golf course, in the Philadelphia area.
About the father's uncles, Stanley and Artie (Artie, the blind street-lamp lighter), and how Artie scored the distance between lamps by counting his steps aloud and how his father and buddies would creep up behind Artie and blow out the wick of Artie's lighter.
About the German mechanic who taught his father not to give up on a faulty engine "It vent before. If you've got eet back right, eet's gotta go."
About planting, harvesting, and Harry the Horse which was his father's favorite horse.
"This is what will happen, see? You have friends, guys you work for. It's fun. You get a good job, one with benefits. Then you meet a girl and get married and have a place of your own with your wife. And you have kids. There ain't much more than that to life."
The boy found the lessons interesting and entertaining. His favorite? The first time his father drove.
"One day, I was little, my Pop caught me sitting behind the wheel of his Model T truck daydreaming. He got in the other seat, and said 'Okay, see if you can drive this thing.' It had a foot lever choke. I started it, put it in gear and took right off. He was surprised, he said, 'Billy, how did you know how to do that?'"
"I been watching you, Pop."
They departed for home at midnight, the boy behind the wheel and the father instructing.
"This guy in front of you, he's local-should be pulling off soon. If he doesn't, take him, or he'll drag you all the way to Barre. You know the route?"
The boy shifted in his seat.
"There's a hill up ahead. It's straight, good to pass."
He pressed the accelerator and picked up speed.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com