CHAPTER 5

I became a great mouser. Once, in Texas, I caught a sizable mouse, enough for both of them, and released it when I jumped into the truck. I was certain Jim would praise me and be eternally grateful for the dinner morsel. Well, he must have been having a bad day because instead of a ‘thank you Rocky’ he scolded me and sent me to bed. Then he and Larry turned the truck’s interior inside out looking for the poor thing. When Jim finally corralled the critter, and I thought I would be vindicated as he tasted the dinner I had brought to him or at least he would find amusement in playing with it, he tossed it out the door and scolded me again. Really bad day driving I guessed.

Three days later we checked into a motel room in Oak Grove, Missouri. I have terrific memories about the truck stop there. It became a regular one night layover because of the munitions plant nearby. Larry always parked as near to the grass field as he could and took me for a walk. He didn’t let me go there alone because other drivers with dogs, big dogs, exercised their pets in the field also. I never understood why anyone would want a dog in the truck. They stink, they bark, they eat their own throw-up and they lick their nether parts. How gross is that?

But, I digress. We checked into the motel across the highway. Ironically, a news story was carried on TV about Hantavirus outbreak in the southwest. Jim went immediately to bed while Larry brought in their overnight bags, perishables out of the refrigerator, and of course, me and all my gear. I loved motel rooms. Most often they had to sneak me in because the manager did not allow pets which I fail to understand. From my observances it was the humans who got rowdy and caused damage. As I was saying, the smells were enticing and quite often I found interesting things under the beds.

For the next 3 days Jim laid in bed all day and all night. Larry went out hunting and returned with some really strange smelling food which they ate. Brings up another issue about that mouse. I could not believe they preferred whatever Larry brought back to the room over the wonderful mouse dinner I captured for them. Humans, just when you thought you understood them.

Come to think of it, humans can be really ungrateful sometimes for the things we ‘pets’ do for them. I remember another time in Montana. We had the afternoon off and bobtailed to a lush, river bottom parking spot along the highway. Of course I was the first one out the window exploring. It was late spring and everything was fresh and aromatic. I meandered around the riverbank while Larry and Jim looked for rocks and geodes. And there it was in front of me. I had never seen anything like it before. It was long, slender, black, glossy, and trying to slither away from me. Needless to say I gave chase, caught up with the critter, captured it and headed back to the truck to show my humans what I had in mind for supper. It wiggled and squirmed in my mouth, tasted just awful, but I managed to hold on to it and was just by the open truck door when I heard Larry yelling very loudly ‘Rocky, put it down….now.’ I just wanted to take it up to my bed and play with it awhile but, I hesitated just long enough for Larry to run a 50 yard dash in record time, slam the truck door shut and scold me for bringing a snake back to the truck. How was I to know? I had never seen a snake before and it certainly wasn’t as frightening as the story he told of the 2 snakes he had evicted from his farm house. For dinner that night instead of snake pate, I had the usual can of Friskies with a dab of ice cream. I love ice cream.

Jim was a playful kind of guy. Larry was more serious. Always said he had to be, ‘Someone has to be the adult on this truck’.

We spent a lot of time around Salt Lake City and points west and north delivering and picking up at the numerous military bases and munitions plants. Not always able to spend time at interesting rest areas because of our cargo, when we were empty or bobtail my favorite rest area of all was north of Salt Lake City just over the Idaho border.

Larry was sleeping when we pulled in and found a parking spot. Jim pulled out his log book and rolled down the driver’s side window. Oh wow! That means playtime for the feline. I hopped out the window onto the hood and just embraced the exquisite aromas of the area. Some were familiar, some were new to me and I wanted to explore them all. It was midnight but the late hour was not about to deter me. Off the truck’s hood and down the nearest path I went. This particular rest area’s greatest appeal was that it was situated in a field of lava rock. You can’t imagine the time I had leaping from one rock to another, sniffing, leaping, running, sniffing. And then Jim, being the fun lover that he was, joined me in my game. I would jump, he would chase and yell Rocky, I leaped and he would mumble something I did not understand so I would run again to the next lava observation point. I had a great time and finally allowed him to capture me. He must have had a really bad day driving because he got tired of our play time really quickly and fussed at me all the way back to the truck.

It was after midnight and all the commotion awakened Larry who, upon crawling out of his bunk, began to yell at Jim. I really didn’t understand what the problem was and to this day I still don’t know. But, from the conversation between them I believe it had something to with Jim’s fear of spiders.

As we left the rest area Jim read a sign posted on the pathway on which we had just played.

“Warning! This area is inhabited by native tarantulas.”

So, I ask, what’s the big deal? What’s a tarantula?

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