When we moved out to the country, one thing I did not expect was the kind of traffic that we would experience on these country roads. You see, there are really only two kinds of traffic out here 1) well traffic 2) farm traffic. You are either behind a well trucker or behind the tractor moving 5 mph getting ready to bale hale. The farm traffic was to be expected, it sort of came with the territory. But, the well traffic was something I had not considered. Out here, in the middle of nowhere, fracking is part of the culture just as much as farming. It has become part of the industry just as much as agriculture. In fact, almost all of the farms in this county have a well sitting somewhere on the property. These wells bring in a lot of money, a lot of trucks, and a lot of truck drivers. Every time a new well is drilled, it is weeks of trucks bringing in water to inject at high pressures to aide in the whole “fracking” process. There is truck after truck at all hours of the night until the well is finally up and running. When we first moved in, I used to lay in bed awake at night just cursing the noise. We moved out to the country and every night all I could hear were the well truckers driving down the road. It would stop for a duration and then start back up again a few weeks later. My mood seemed to ride on these trucks, until a random January snow day.
It was the dead of winter and you were all outside sled riding down the back field after one of the first big snow falls. It’s a hill of epic proportions, and you had just become brave enough to take your sleds to the upper most parts. I had bundled myself up in my barn jacket and plaid scarf and rabbit fur hat. I was sitting on the logs by the fire pit watching you all speed down the hill with such contagious joy. I sat there smiling to myself when I heard the loud and very deep “honk! Honk! Hoooonk!” and as I looked up I caught the arm of what was a well truck driver passing by waving at us all. The roads were icy and he was driving a slow and steady 10 mph. But he was surely smiling, you kids flying down that big steep hill most definitely bringing him some happiness in his most likely monotonous day.
I waved back and yelled at you all to do the same. He blew his big horn three more times and you all yelled excitedly. Something about the honking horn brightened up my day and made the noise of his big well truck less deafening.
I continued to run into these truckers. It was common for me to pass them on our road, I was always surprised that they would be going the speed limit (this is a rare occurrence as most people take advantage of these country roads and the fact that there is no police to enforce the speed limit) and would often times slow down when they saw my big suburban coming. But my first glimpse of the actual person behind the truck came at the gas station down at the end of our road. I hesitate to call it a gas station as it’s hard to accurately describe what this place looks like. If I say “gas station” you might be inclined to think “sheetz” and the visual picture I’m trying to paint is more like an abandoned store front from 1920 that has been through a hurricane, and then a fire, and then was used on set of “The Walking Dead.” From 6-8am, getting gas is like trying to pull off at a Nascar pit stop. It’s the only option for anything between home and town. It has gas. It has coffee. It has drinks and candy. It has no bathrooms. If you have to pee, you can use the port-a-johns in the parking lot. I’ve never seen anything like it. And every time we pass it, I say to your Dad, “one day I’d love to buy this place.”
And he just kinda laughs and says “I know, you tell me all the time.”
It’s bare none, absolutely, hands down the worst gas station in the entire world and it might be the only place that chivalry isn’t dead.
Every time I would get gas, I would run into the well truckers, alongside the farmers and the locals. They would always tip their hats to me, sometimes their baseball caps with company logo printed on the side, sometimes their straw cowboy hats. They would always call me Ma’am. If I had to run in the store for cash or a cold drink, they would always graciously hold the door for me. They would always step aside and let me go first in the check out line. When they talked, there was just enough southern country twang in their inflections to make you remember that you are not in the suburbs anymore. Everyone is wearing boots. Everyone has a hat on. Everyone’s hands are just a little bit dirty, and so are their jeans. They are all polite. They are all courteous. And slowly I grew to appreciate the truckers, their presence was now just a familiar part of home, their noise no longer bothersome.
Some of the well truckers can’t be more than 18, some of them must be close to 60. These truckers are hustlers, working all hours of the day and night while the work is there, they take it. I see them walking into the gas station with their Chris Stapelton beards and I’m wondering where they are from, who are they leaving behind, who are they working for, who do they love. And when they come out of the gas station with their bag of potato chips and bottle of pop, my mind is running a million miles an hour, and I’m thinking about my powerball dreams, and this gas station, and these well trucks, and these farmers, and this community.
And so kids, let it be known, if I ever win the power ball, this is your mother’s game plan:
- Pay off the farmhouse
- Buy the gas station
In my wildest dreams, I am not some famous author. I am not living on some island in the middle of nowhere. In my wildest dreams, I am buying the gas station a few short miles from our home and I am turning it into a place that serves the well truckers and farmers with the best food they have ever eaten in their entire mother- trucking lives. I figure I will keep it simple so every morning will be the same thing: strong coffee, bagel sandwiches with fresh eggs I bring down from the farmhouse, and homemade cinnamon rolls. Lunch will always be fresh sandwiches made to order from REAL lunch meat at the best deli counter you can imagine. Lots of homemade bread, none of it gluten free. I figure I’ll settle on a few staples for the week. Meatballs, homemade pizza, pot roast and dripped beef in the winter, chicken noodle soup, wedding soup, homemade mac and cheese. Big Greek salads in the summer, lots of grilled hamburgers and chicken topped with bacon and good cheese, and homemade pepperoni rolls .You know, just all the good comfort food that feeds the soul, all of it easily put on a big hoagie bun. There will be no menu. Just every day is one big good meal, come and get it. Eat it on the road, in the shop, or take it home.
I would also have a big counter and fill it with all kind of penny candy for the kids, one penny to fill your bag. The penny is really just for the novelty of putting a penny in the jar and getting a bag to fill with all the goods. S0 much brightly colored sugar right at their fingertips. And right beside the candy would be the homemade ice cream. I’d have a local teenager or two working this. A big red counter, lots of bar stools, so many choices of ice cream. There are no sizes, everyone just gets three big scoops in one giant waffle cone. In the back corner there will a few tables and chairs. This is where the locals will sit in the morning with their coffee. They come early, read the paper and complain about the weather, politics, and their wives.
And sometimes they say, “Shy, what did you do with the coffee?? Its off this morning, tastes like mud” to which I just laugh and shove another piece of cinnamon roll in front of their face.
I’d make a fresh dessert every day, yesterday’s dessert would be offered for breakfast alongside the cinnamon rolls, the coffee would always be extra strong, and there would always be fresh beers in the fridge (and maybe some mojitos too). I’d have big galvanized tins sitting next to the register full of fresh flowers, cut straight from my farmhouse that morning. There would be no price tag. They would be free for the taking. While I was talking with the farmer down the road I would tell him to take a bunch of hydrangeas home to his wife, “just because.” College kid in town working at the deli counter for the summer telling me all about that girl. I’d be shoving a peony in one hand and a milkshake in another- get over yourself-tell her how you feel. Why the ice cream? Because girls like ice cream, that’s why. Don’t wait another minute, life moves fast.
I’d have a rack of really nice flannel shirts and well-fitting baseball caps for sale. I’d leave the floors old and uneven. I’d put a bell above the door so I could hear people walking in while I was busy behind the counter. There would always be really good music playing. Lots of Amos Lee and Ray LaMontagne. I would call it “The Gas Station.” It would be as homey as you can imagine. There would be a Tv in the corner so people had a place to watch the game when they were on the road. There would be a shop cat and a shop dog. Everything would be a little bit dusty, because, truckers. It would be my hope to hear everyone’s story. I’d want to drink a million Dr. Pepper’s with a million different people. People would want to come as much for the conversation as for the food. I’d want to hand out a thousand peonies in hopes to mend a thousand broken hearts. People passing through on a vacation would want to stop again next year for the chocolate cake. Maybe I’d run into someone I had not seen in forever as they were just passing by, looking for a bathroom. I’d hear the belle ring, turn around while sipping on a Dr. Pepper and just smile at the sight of that old familiar face.
There would always be a light on. There would always be leftovers.
These are my dreams. At the end of the day, I just want to share all my fresh flowers, make all the good food, put all the smiles on all the faces , fix all the broken hearts of the world, and talk to all the people.
One day I’m going to buy me a gas station.
You kids can run the candy counter.
Song of the day: “A Case Of You” Joni Mitchell
There are very few songs I have loved my entire life. I’ve loved a lot a songs for a lot of different reasons. Some for the person or moment they remind me of, some for the lyrics, some for the chords, some for a reason I can’t even explain. This song hits all the bullet points and then some. It’s been a constant on my playlist for my entire life. I first had this song on mixed Cd download from something we called Napster in a time before I-tunes. It played it my white jeep liberty from the time I got my license until I lost it years later. If you were lucky enough to have a car full of mix cds, you were lucky enough. There are so many covers of this song and I still love the Joni Mitchell version although James Wolpert’s cover from The Voice is pretty amazing as well.