The hidden years in Canada 44, the test

Door San-Daniel gepubliceerd op Saturday 30 May 08:36


The test

The days followed each other and we drove by sequence of the orders through the province. After a few days you knew where you could stop for some bacon and eggs with free coffee and you knew where the service was trucker targeted. Those were ‘stops’ where there were always a few tables reserved for truckers. It worked both ways you went there because you did not have to wait, you were as it were a regular customer and you were served with priority. It was also attractive to the owners of such outlets, because truckers eat solid meals and did not lose too much time waiting for service. Thus a new world revealed itself,  a world of codes and practices.

You had days with different routes, you had the Red Deer run, which was about 150 kilometers from our home base and went pure North, there you had the villages of Cross Fields, Bowden and Penhold. You drove through prairie and if you had done your 300 kilometers back and forth and had unloaded  your cargo in the meantime, at contractors in the bush, then it was simply full throttle back. If you were driving back empty, by the time you got home you had recovered again from the loading and unloading and packing drywall over rough sites to the flats under construction. If you were lucky then you could come up with the truck right next to the apartment building and then from the loading deck pass on to your co-driver materials, that saved you climbing stairs.


Often the terrain was loose and and rutted by heavy machinery, littered with potholes and you had to walk a meter or 50 with the materials and those were the tedious unloadings. There were two trucks for out of town routes and Kiwi, which was the regular driver, could only do one route per day, there were three destinations. If the Lethbridge run was driven and at the same time materials were needed in Red Deer, then Fuzzy had always turned up because it was in a totally different direction and the distance to Lethbridge was about 200 kilometers. But Fuzzy had literally left us.

The girls in the office who collected orders put them in one of three trays. labeled Red Deer or Lethbridge run as farthest destination Medicine Hat, someone from the warehouse with a forklift, then prepared a truck  and when the driver came in the morning with his co-driver, who were really swampers, then the truck was  ready to leave.

Lethbridge was closer than Medicine Hat but the road was worse and you were gone about the same amount of time. Though Medicine Hat, lay 300 kilometers away. Most roads were a disaster, with winters of below 40 degrees,  roads would freeze up each year and go busted and cracked in the spring and there were road workers who did nothing else their whole life but restore the same stretch of road right up to retirement. Those roads were repaired in the spring and summer to be badly damaged again by the coming winter. The route was always plagued in the summer by the road works and in winter by the harsh conditions.

On the way to Lethbridge were two large contractors, one in High River and one in Clare Home and bad roads were not a problem there. It was a ‘backwaters’. The moment you left the highway, you came on a network of dirt roads, a few times per year these were sprayed with waste oil to subdue ‘sand torms’. The municipalities, would sent once in a while, a big scraper over such a road making it fairly passable. If the scraper had been, the road was fairly smooth, devoid of bumps and potholes, which after a few weeks yet again won the battle of civilization behind you, and send you bouncing about and making your teeth chatter.


After the first week I was familiar with the three routes and Kiwi one day let me drive when the truck was unloaded. He observed me sharply and at one point he said, ‘you are steering that is wrong, it will tire you out, you must let the truck find it’s own way and adjust a bit whenever necessary, a little correction where needed and look far ahead of you. Otherwise, you’ll be fighting the whole day with your steeringwheel and the 10 ton load in the bucket ‘ He was right, as in many things that week. I focused on a point far for ahead of the truck and corrected the course just a little, immediately the truck  went smoothly over the road. ‘Ah,’ said Kiwi, ‘you should never fight with machines, you have to let them help you.’

‘Tomorrow,’ he said, ‘it's Friday and you will not come with me.’ 'Oh,' I said? ‘Tomorrow, you will take the blue Bedford and take your test and if you pass it, then you get your own truck. If you do not pass they’ll fire you, so I would do my utmost if I were you. Tonight in the Queen's do not touch ‘the happy happy water' too much and turn in early. ‘

'Okay,' Kiwi, I said, ‘and  ...’. ‘Yes,’ said Kiwi Baily, 'What?' 'Kiwi thank you for teaching me something new. ‘ That big rough Kiwi looked a little shy, ‘you know.’ he said, ‘if you pass it then you should be very careful, because then you still know nothing, trucks kill people, you need to be really hundred percent alert, you understand that?’ ‘I think so,’ I said earnestly. ‘That was the last lesson, said Kiwi, ‘don’t ever forget that and now you can offer me a coke.’

San Daniel  2015

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