Sunday Column: Highway 2 Ghosts

Driving a familiar highway a few week’s back I was reminded of my former life.

Between the white lines that led me on a straight, flat stretch east across the state and back again in mid-November, I was greeted by passing pickups with blaze orange caps resting on the dash.

Suddenly I was five years old sitting on the passenger’s side of my dad’s pickup, back when pickups didn’t have back seats, barely tall enough to see that landscape as it stretched out before me, bringing us closer and closer to the ranch for hunting season.

When I sat down to write this column that ran today in a couple newspapers in my home state, one out east, one here in the west, it was going to be about the time in my life my family didn’t live on the ranch and how I used to take every chance I got to be my dad’s sidekick, to crawl in the passenger’s side and take that five hour drive to gramma’s.

For harvest.

For cattle shipping day.

For hunting season.

I was going to tell you all about the time when I was five or six when that pickup broke down on a lonely stretch of that highway in the middle of a nasty blizzard, before cell phones and gadgets that connect us and make us safer.

It was the first time I remember staying in a hotel. I called it an “apawtment”

I couldn’t say my “R’s.”

I didn’t know the difference between an apartment and a hotel.

I didn’t know the level of my dad’s anxiety, having a kid out on a stretch of highway, broke down, no heater, no help, in sub-freezing temperatures.

And I didn’t know that it was likely my parent’s couldn’t afford a breakdown, let alone an impromptu hotel stay.

All I knew was that I was on an adventure.

But as I sat down to recall what it was like to climb in the passenger’s seat as a happy little girl and attempt to measure time in miles, the story I wanted to tell transformed from my recollection of a breakdown on Highway 2 to the realization that the sum of my life is made up of a string of memories, stretching long and straight between tall grass in the ditches and appearing before me like that highway moving off toward the setting sun.

Coming Home: Childhood homes bring back ghosts no matter how long we’re away
by Jessie Veeder
12-24-13
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