So, here I am. The man of the hour. All I have to do is not drive into a ditch and this might become a regular thing. The road is just a bit bumpy and the dust behind us is blown almost ninety degrees off our port side. My father, relaxed and unfazed by the imperfect driving of his 10 year old son, sat there on the passenger side, right arm planted in the window, staring off into the distance as though he were just another passenger.
The ’85 F-150 was pretty bare bones, as you could see the inner workings of the console after the dashboard itself somehow disintegrated due to prolonged exposure to the sun.
The bench seat was now covered in a Native American print seat cover made from some type of burlap and was just about as comfortable to sit on. I remember watching my father talk down a used car salesman on a sunburned lot somewhere in Texas just a few months or so prior. But, it had a few things I really liked. A big bed, where my black lab and rescued gold-colored terrier sat, and two fuel tanks. I imagined that with the flip of the tank switch, my dad and I could drive for days, just driving and eating Fina Station ice cream cones.
It didn’t really even cross my mind that the miles and miles of road I had been driving were still unpaved. They would re-rock them every year or so, but only the main highway was important enough to get asphalt. I enjoyed the idea that anyone watching from miles around knew where I was from the golden dust cloud I left in my wake. To me, I was the most privileged kid in America. To my father, I’m sure, this was the easiest way to entertain his son on the way back from the store while living in southern Oklahoma.
It was summer of ’95, and the world was very different in middle America. To be honest, it was different every where. I’m sure as my thirty year old father sat there (same age I am today), the world had changed far too drastically. The year before, my brother and I coincidentally were staying with our aunt Inger in Chino while my parents – driving a white white Ford Bronco – went off to Palm Springs. There was a good 10 to 15 minute period when I thought ‘mommy and daddy’ were getting chased by the police on television. Inger assured my brother and I it was a different white Bronco, and we ran off to swim in the pool.
Now, as my father and I bounced down the bumpy road nearing our home, something else rocked our world. A few months prior to my drive, and just 90 miles north…I never knew the name Timothy McVeigh. It didn’t make a lot of sense to me, but the world was now dangerous. Bad guys weren’t just TV characters on an episode of Walker Texas Ranger (my brother and I’s favorite show).
It wasn’t exactly philosophical and thought-out, but I did think more about my future after that.
In these moments, I got a picture. A small glimpse into what my life was meant to look like when I grew up. Someday, I’d have my own truck. My own dog. My own dirt road journey to take. Someday this would be all I needed.
Now at age 30 (okay, 29 until November) and the father of three sons, I wonder how they see the world. For now, it’s pretty apparent their world is as vast as their eyesight and the thought of Oma’s house. The extent of their planning is what we talk about at bed time when Some Boy expectantly asks about tomorrow’s activities. “In the morning?” he inquires. My only hope and desire now is that I make their little years last longer than mine. That their world, even though we try to explore it all, stays vast, expansive and colorful. That all they notice, no matter what happens elsewhere, is the golden dust trailing behind us and the world rolling by in our window.