Early in the morning, on the second day of our drive the truck broke down. It wasn’t a minor issue, and we really had no warning. We were coming out of the reservation in Montana and the lights started coming on and bells started dinging. It was loud and obnoxious. We weren’t really too stressed because we could see a truck stop a mile down the interstate, so we drove with our flashers on and into the truck stop.
I was going to tell you all about the breakdown, but as the days pass, I am getting a little tired of telling the story. I will say after several calls to Budget, a 50 mile tow to Billings when I got to sit in the back of one of those large tow trucks, we learned that we had complete engine failure. After several more calls, Budget decided that we were going to be towed to Bozeman where we would get another truck. We waited a couple of hours for our second tow truck to arrive. I was expecting another large truck like the last one that picked us up, but we didn’t get one like that. We got Mater. You know, Tow Mater from Cars. That is who picked us up.
It took the driver almost an hour to hook the truck up. When it was time to go, he wanted to know how we were going to get to Bozeman. Riding with you, we thought. Well, that was going to be interesting since Mater really didn’t have room for us or seatbealts, but now there was no choice. We hopped in and said a little prayer. The truck was very clean, and the driver moved all of his things outside of the cab so I would be able to sit comfortably. The driver politely introduced himself to us. He was wearing a cowboy hat and was a little rough-looking. I didn’t think anything of his attire because we were in Montana. Everyone wears cowboy hats in Montana, right? I was more concerned that our cowboy didn’t know where we were going and the windshield wipers didn’t work.Seriously. And it was raining. I asked God what we were getting into. It is Ok, the driver told us. He just has to fiddle with them a little and they work. It is a game he plays with them. Oh, heaven. He informed us we were riding in a 1968 Ford beast. It was loud and had no air conditioning. It was soon obvious that we were going to be screaming over the engine the entire ride, but I didn’t know then how entertaining it was going to be.
About 30 minutes into the ride while we were exchanging niceties, we learned that our driver used to live in the mountains. My husband and I looked at each other because we weren’t sure what that was supposed to mean. He went on to explain that he is one of the last, true American cowboys. There are only 224 (or something like that) of them left and he was one of them. He drives truck because it is getting harder to find work for them. I missed exactly why, but it had something to do with different people coming in and undercutting them even though they don’t know how to do it right. (his words)
Before I go any further, I think you should see a picture of our cowboy. Go on over now. I will wait. There are a bunch of him over there.
For the next three hours while I was sitting next to him in a very cramp tow truck cabin, I heard some amazing stories. I learned all about his horse. His horse does sound like an amazing creature. He said that he would rather to talk to his horse than city folk, but if the ride in the truck was any indication, I don’t really believe him. He told us some off color jokes (but asked for permission to tell them first) that will never, ever be repeated and even made my husband blush. At the time, the hard laugh was just what my husband needed. (He had been dealing with lousy customer service for 6 hours.)
Once as we were climbing Bozeman pass, he made an exclamation that he was out of fuel. He started going on about how no one ever remembers to fill the truck and gosh nabbit, doesn’t anyone want to take care of each other anymore? I looked over at the fuel gauge and it did indeed read on empty. I looked at him and asked him if he was going to pull off and get some gas. “I suppose I should”, he said. Then we drove right by the exit. Come to find out the fuel gage didn’t work. He was laughing at my naivite’ . I was beginning to wonder what I could believe from this guy. An hour later, he calmly remarks that he is starting to overheat. Remember we are in an old Mater pulling a fully loaded Buget truck. It could happen. I didn’t fall for this one, though, but my husband did. Our friend was slapping his leg all pround of himself. We are now about half way through the trip.
We learned a lot more about our new friend. I learned that he had the most beautiful blue eyes. My husband learned that there really is something about cowboys and women. We were able to learn about the fences that line the interstate. We learned he isn’t going to tell you how many acres he has worked. We learned that yes, people call them drifters, but he doesn’t like the term. We learned that he has never cooked over an electric stove. We learned that he can not turn a tow truck hauling a truck and talk on the cell phone at the same time. We learned that we would have let him drive us all the way home if he could have.
He will probably go down as the most interesting person that my husband and I will ever meet. He was also sent from God. We had had one heck of a day until we met him. He made the day entertaining, fun, and memorable. Also a little scary, but we can overlook that now. He refused to leave us when we arrived at the destination and there was no on there. He was being told to leave, but didn’t until he knew someone was coming to take care of us. I gave him a big hug before he climbed back into his truck. As he left, he gave a long blast of his horn. That will probably be the last we ever see of our American Cowboy. Is he really one of the last? We don’t know and don’t care. We won’t forget him.