by Janet Williams
I was in Texas in December of 1982, 29, newly divorced and far from my California family. I wanted to go home. I hooked our car to a huge rented van, loaded up my 9-year-old daughter, two cats, a guinea pig, and four hermit crabs, and started across the country.
They provided a stick-shift truck, not my request, as I’d never driven a truck. Intense rain poured as we left Austin. I was in a 20-foot truck, car in tow, with a 9-year-old asking if we were there yet. It was extremely nerve-wracking driving over mountains, through cities and down long highways.
The rain turned to light snow, yet at dark I saw no headlights. I pulled over and turned the truck off — all the lights came on. I started the engine and the lights went off. I wanted to cry, but didn’t want to scare my daughter.
With just an occasional 18-wheeler on the road, I started driving five miles an hour in the dark, letting the right tire ride the road’s edge like Braille. Soon a big truck came up behind, went by fast, hit his brakes, then sped off. I said my thanks and edged back onto the shoulder.
Soon another truck came up fast, nearly stopped right beside me, laid on his horn, then moved into the left lane, so I moved into the right lane.
He drove alongside letting me use his headlights to see, then suddenly honked three times and sped off. As I crept back to the shoulder, another truck came up behind me. When near he honked three times and moved over.
Incredible! Truck after truck, one stayed beside me until another was close enough to take over. They took me all the way to Fort Stockton, hours and hours of truckers slowing down enough to pull me along.
At Fort Stockton the last truck honked goodbye and I drove into the outskirts of town. Then a Highway patrol flashed his lights at me. I didn’t know how to get the truck fixed, it was 3:00 a.m., I was cold and tired, and now I had a ticket for no lights.
The officer said, “I’ve been waiting for you.” Why, I asked. His beautiful Texas accent replied, “Aren’t you the truck with no lights? We’ve heard about you for hours.” I burst into tears. He told me, “Don’t worry, we called the guy who repairs these trucks and told him to arrive early for you,” and he escorted me to a nearby motel.
We broke down in every state. Austin to Los Angeles took three and a half days, and we only stayed in a motel that night. But I never got scared again like I had been that first part of the trip, because each of those truckers gave me courage and strength for the rest of the trip.