Life on the backroads
Ever have to yield to a guy trying to clear a giant tumbleweed in full motion out of a parking lot by way of running it down with his pickup? Ever see him fail the first time and then feel guilty that you didn’t just let it hit your car when it was coming for you, you know, to be helpful?
Ever been in line at a drive-thru and have the man in front of you get out of his vehicle to say that he can guess where you’re from by the amount of dirt on your car?
Ever hauled a live goat home in the plush back seat of your best friend’s dad’s car before you even had a proper license?
Ever been 17 sleeping in the gooseneck of a horse trailer at a rodeo to save money on hotels?
Ever stopped to take a photo of your shortest friend in funny glasses next to the highway sign for Gnome, N.D.?
Or what about grabbing a photo with a roadside smiling stack of hay bales? Or the ones that look like jack-o’-lanterns in the fall and snowmen in the winter?
Ever rush to the aid of the people certainly dead or badly mangled in the car you just witnessed fly off the highway in the Badlands and crash directly into a tree, only to find the passengers completely unharmed and in the middle of an argument that no near-lethal car accident was going to end? Ever stand in the middle of that highway and demand that the driver let you give him a ride instead of walking the 10 miles home?
Ever swear you saw a man run across that same highway in the dark dead of night, only to have your search turn up nothing but the memories of a ghost?
Ever take your little sister to her orthodontist appointment in the big town and drive through parking lots and back alleys to avoid stoplights because you learned to drive on a gravel road and weren’t quite ready for that sort of traffic?
Did your friends ever make you drive the pickup and gooseneck trailer full of rodeo horses through a new town just to laugh at you when you stalled out because they knew you sucked at driving stick?
Ever been 8 or 9 with your best friend, weaving your bikes with playing cards pinned to the spokes through the dotted centerlines of the highway?
Ever have to put oil in the tank of your 1982 Ford LTD every morning before you drove it to school and every afternoon in the parking lot after if you had any hope of starting the thing?
Ever go in the ditch three or four times the first day you got to drive that car to school by yourself, because you missed the lesson about icy roads and rear-wheel drive?
Does anyone even know about rear-wheel drive anymore? Or three-wheelers that twice cracked his ribs, and then his collarbone and then his shoulder blade?
Ever sit in the back seat of his Thunderbird on a hot summer day with the windows rolled up and the heat blaring, driving too fast on your way to the shores of the big lake just so you could be sweaty and desperate enough to strip down and jump in its barely thawed waters when you arrived?
Ever wore the red mud to town on the front of your dress pants? Hauled a couple square bales or deer heads for the taxidermy in your SUV on the way to Thanksgiving? Drove a pickup with no back seat and napped in its shade in a hayfield? Pulled up to a job with a fully intact pheasant stuck to your grill?
Ever cruised the three blocks of Main Street over and over in a car with a name your friends gave it, pushing curfew under the big, black sky just to move because you were young and restless in a small town?
Every once in a while, do you get behind the wheel on the back roads of North Dakota and feel that way again, and so you take the long way home?