The wives we leave behind
Like my father before me, I was a traveling man. He drove a long haul Kenworth and I drove an Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra, in fact, I wore out five of them. I guess you could say I inherited my father’s itch to roam and the road agent gene.
I can remember like it was yesterday my mom making a bed out of the backseat of our Oldsmobile Delta 88, (ours was a loyal Oldsmobile family), and driving 30 miles one way in the middle of the night to meet my dad as he stopped at a truck stop to fill up with diesel. We’d say our “hellos” and “goodbyes,” give him a fresh Thermos of coffee and some sandwiches and he’d be off down the road again. We might repeat the same conjugal visit a week later. These visits weren’t sad occasions for my mom and three kids because my father was a meanie and we were glad he was gone. Later my parents would divorce but they always told us they tried to stay together for the kids! What a laugh.
My father was a long haul trucker for the first 10 years of my life and then he became a heavy equipment operator, probably because being an alcoholic and a trucker weren’t all that compatible. By punching a clock (when there was work) he could satisfy his habit of getting drunk every night and all weekend. We had to tiptoe around him lest he unleash one of his violent rampages.
The man of the house in our home was definitely a woman. My mother cleaned the house, weeded the garden, raised the kids and worked 14 hours a day as a stay-at-home seamstress so someone would be there when we got home from school. She was our Cub Scout den mother, PTA president, Sunday school teacher and honorary FFA Chapter Farmer. She kept the score at Little League games and fed our FFA chapter and the Lions club every year following our roadside cleanup. She pulled our splinters, served as our taxi driver, shingled the barn, changed our dirty diapers, tried to protect us from our father, and raised three good kids pretty much by herself. I can honestly say that my father never saw one baseball, basketball or cross country meet I ever participated in. He never saw one of my graduations, or saw me sell one of my Grand Champion steers. In fact, I can’t ever remember him attending a single function I participated in.
So I too hit the road only instead of hauling spuds or lemons, I racked up the miles going to cattle sales. I even worked one on our honeymoon. Because my wife worked as a cashier in a grocery store for 30 years she couldn’t travel with me but it was just as well because someone had to stay home to feed the cows, lamb the ewes, corral the livestock that got out on the road, and take delivery of the cheap cattle I bought at sales all over the west. It was all part of our multi-revenue stream that we thought we needed to achieve our goals in life. It was just as well we couldn’t have kids because I’d have never been home for our kid’s games and FFA speeches either. Besides, I always wondered what kind of father I’d have been, not exactly having the greatest role model as to how to be a good husband and father.
Through it all my wife only complained one time, it was the February day we had nine sets of triplet lambs and I was a thousand miles away so I couldn’t help sort out the mess. That was the final straw and we got rid of all the sheep that summer.
When an old man loses his spouse he struggles and its not long before he remarries, while widow women do just fine without a man in their life. It seems without the wives we leave behind we men folk turn into a bunch of helpless babies.
I’m always amazed when I read history at how resilient and hard-working the American woman has always been. Did you know that of the Donner Party all the women survived while eight of the 10 men died?
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