A trucker journeys through nooks of America and his own pondering mind.
As a grade schooler, Mayfield spent summers alone, “riding to ends of city bus lines just to see what was there; watching ships unload at old wooden piers; reading in musty libraries.” These seemingly innate propensities for travel, fantasy and solitary contemplation formed the bedrock of the author’s character, ensuring that in middle age, upon discovering an occupation that necessitated them all, he eagerly hoisted his life into the cab of an 18-wheeler. Trucks captivated the young Mayfield in their “mechanical dance…the sinuous dependent movements of tractors and trailers.” Now, as a trucker cum memoirist, he captivates in his retelling of years on the road via routes that covered this country “like scribbles on a blackboard.” From training school to a touching apprenticeship with a seasoned veteran, the narrative follows Mayfield as he learns his trade. The trucking life has its own language, and Mayfield deftly weaves together the highway dialect that crackles over CB radios, often in striking lyricism. He doesn’t shy away from the elemental poetry of solitary life, the cumulative meaning and symbolism of experience: wind, weight, and the mutable passage of time and land. There’s also an inside look at a business that frequently boasts an annual 100 percent employee turnover rate. Often, the narrative takes on the floating, meditative quality of the trucker’s long-haul assignments, yet Mayfield also wrestles with myriad interrupting forces: literal bumps in the road, cantankerous shipping clients, absentminded “four-wheeler” drivers with death wishes and his own frustrated wife, whose mantra—“You’re gone. You’re always gone”—grows more insistent the longer he’s away. Trucking can be a kind of running, Mayfield suggests, alternately running from and running toward. Time on the road is time to “rub the veneer from the lies I’d been telling myself for years,” and ultimately, the road leads him to a truer sense of self.
An engaging perspective from a man of the road with the heart of a poet.