- Country Boys, City Boys
Country boys are tall—silo tall, not light-pole tall—with a stride like they have nowhere to be. They are lean from lifting hay bales onto wagons in the summer heat; their sunburned skin is tight around muscle and bone. Dust and grease from the day’s work are still embedded in the creases on their hands and the grooves in their jeans. They smell like life—sweat and sun and earth and oil.
After work and into the evening, country boys stand around in the shop drinking Miller Lite and smoking Winston cigarettes. The garage doors are open to the gravel driveway that crackles as other country boys pull up in their souped-up pickup trucks. They talk in that foreign language you’ve grown up hearing but somehow never learned, use words like “drivetrain,” “differential,” “winch mounts,” “trannies,” “chassis,” and “transfer case.” They are trying to decide how to fix it. Sometimes “it” is the next day’s job, sometimes it’s the crops, sometimes it’s a front loader, sometimes it’s the weather—that foreman who dictates every task. Their dialogue rumbles low like warming engines, revs and roars as more beers are poured from the rusted Frigidaire.
You walk in through the garage doors, past the rows of rusted wrenches hanging off of rusty nails, past dusty workbenches and dusty toolboxes, [End Page 49] welding masks and torches, air compressors and greasy vises, past the posters of half-naked women and NASCAR drivers to your father, the country boy born and raised an excavator on this very same plot of land.
It’s been a long, hard day, for sure, as evidenced by the silence around the circle of men. You offer up a hello to your uncle, a hug to your brother whose muscles are firm and dependable, solid, tight around your shoulders. He smiles like all those country boys do, like they’ve got a secret they aren’t telling you. You have brought your kids to visit your father, their idol, who lifts them up into dump trucks and pulls the air horn. They squeal and bounce on the springy seats, sending clouds of dust into the air. He calls from the cab of the one-ton, “Breaker, breaker, 1-9. Got a copy? 10-4, good buddy, over and out,” and the CB in the dump truck cackles and buzzes. Your children run from one machine to another, begging to sit in the driver’s seat and touch the buttons that are able to move mountains, but the man who can make it happen holds the keys, and it’s after-hours.
Instead, they climb into his red pickup, your son on the center armrest and your daughter in the passenger seat. They roll through the field slow over bumps and rocks in the lanes, around the crops and back through the piles of stones and sand and land, past the graveyard of antique machinery. They unload and crawl reluctantly into the backseat of your sedan, which is neither dusty nor loud and doesn’t smell like Pop-Pop. He waves and walks back into the shop. Your children whine as you head up to the house, leaving their grandpa and the country boys behind.
You are in middle school. It is Take Our Daughters to Work Day, and your dad has rolled up in front of the school in the Mack dump truck. The chrome-plated bulldog hood ornament glistens in the early-morning sun. You might be glasses and braces, junior-high gawky with thick bangs and a greasy ponytail who smiles too easily, but your dad drives a dump truck. He shifts levers and presses petals and suddenly there’s a pond, a basement, a driveway. He paves the way for your future. You stretch your leg as far up as you can and hoist yourself into the passenger seat, dropping your backpack full of books into the dirt of the cab. You hope a boy is watching, the boy whose name you inscribe in cursive letters inside your [End Page 50] notebooks with “Mrs.” in front. The truck...