Uppermost House: Yo gramps, hoedown 1.21.16


PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

They’re working on the road I drive on each day, widening it and straightening out some of the kinks. Logging the edges well back and opening new vistas. When finished, I expect to be able to get to work about two minutes earlier, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Last week, on one of the only snowy mornings so far this winter, a light snowy skein was blowing sideways across one of the new vistas on my road, and as the rising sun in my eyes caused me to shade my eyes, for a moment I thought it was 1999 and I was far out west…

That long-ago afternoon, my son Jeremiah and I grabbed shovels, heaved the last of our junk into the back of the big yellow rental truck, hopped in and then gunned the truck as far as Cheyenne, Wyoming. At dusk, we pulled into the driveway of a disheveled little hotel just off the interstate. We were towing my old beater car (1988 Nissan Sentra, a minor classic, of sorts) and had to take it off the trailer and then detach the trailer in order to turn the truck around in the hotel parking lot — cold fingers struggling with cold steel on a cold night.

We got up in the dark, hooked the trailer back up, pulled the car on, and headed east. A hard January dawn cracked the eastern crust of the Wyoming horizon and sent orange darts our way. Powdery snow skidded sideways across I-80 and hissed into the dry grass. This was our first full day on the road and I shoved my right foot hard against the floor. The gas pedal on the rented engine was jammed wide open, but we only reached a disappointing 55 m.p.h. At least we were heading into the rising sun. We were heading home (to Maine).

A big rig passed us slowly on the left and the driver yelled something to me out his passenger-side window. With my window up, I didn’t catch it; he shrugged and plowed on by. A couple of minutes later, another truck pulled up along side and matched our speed. His right window slowly drew down and he made a circular motion with his right index finger and so I rolled down my window.

“Yo gramps hoedown!” he seemed to shout across the whistling void.

I wasn’t sure if this was just long-haul trucker jargon or an invitation to some redneck festival.


He leaned to his right and shouted louder against the wind, enunciating each word individually.

“YOUR...RAMPS...ARE...DOWN. You’re spittin’ sparks, mister.”

Usually, I blow opportunities for snappy comebacks, but not this time.

“Yeah, I know,” I yelled back giving him a big thumbs-up.

I turned to my son and gave him a wry smile and waggled my eyebrows up and down a couple of times. I didn’t actually say, “teachable moment,” because that would spoil it, but he got the idea.

The trucker stared at me for at least a quarter of a mile before his window slowly rose and his engine whined up and he pulled ahead. I waited until he was over the next rise and then eased our truck into the breakdown lane. Jeremiah and I got out and slid the ramps on the trailer. We’d forgotten to put them up after we’d loaded the car. The trailing edges jagged and were hot.

The reason that story ever happened, of course, is because of my insistence in lugging my old junk Sentra from Maine to Colorado, and then back to Maine five years later.

A few months after we’d returned, the water pump blew in the Sentra and I limped it home in a clanking cloud of steam and called my old mechanic, who made a house call.

“You took this old thing all the way out west and then brought it back?” he said, seeming a bit astonished.

I said that yes, in fact we had, and rocked back on my heels a bit proudly.

“Which was the bigger mistake?” he asked, smiling wryly and waggling his eyebrows up and down.

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