Line One
Kingpin for a day

By Bill Hudgins, columnist

Father's Day is Sunday, June 19, and let's face it – dads play second fiddle in the holiday business compared with moms. Flower-hauling fleets like Armellini run all-out in the days and weeks leading up to Mother's Day. But you don't hear about aftershave shortages for Father's Day, now do you?

Dads are tough to buy for, and trucking dads are even harder because they're gone so much and they can't take much with them. Plus, like other holidays, they celebrate it when they get home.

So, not being a dad myself, I asked my friend and ace gearjammer, Rufus Sideswipe, what his kids (now grown) used to do for him.

"Oh boy, it was more like what they did to me," Rufus groaned.

For instance, one year, the kids decided to surprise Rufus by cooking his favorite breakfast – bacon and pancakes. They dumped a pound of bacon on a cast-iron griddle, turned the heat to high, and then got distracted by a TV cartoon in the living room. Fortunately, Rufus kept an ABC fire extinguisher in the kitchen. "Then we got in the pickup and went to IHOP," he said. "I bought, of course."

Food was a popular gift for several years. "My little girls had one of those toy ovens that can actually cook stuff – used a 100-watt bulb. They'd bake these cookies that looked like cow chips instead of chocolate chip. Took some strong coffee to wash those down."

Another year, the kids set out to detail his vintage Cornbinder before Rufus woke up. "You know what happens when kids get hold of a water hose," he sighed.

Shrieks of laughter from the driveway woke him. He went out and found all the kids except his youngest were soaked. The youngest was up in his cab with a pail of soapy water and a brush, scrubbing his dashboard. "If I'da been five minutes later, she'd have grabbed the hose to rinse it off. Took me two days to get it all dry and make sure the switches worked."

"When they were small, I had to be real careful what I said before Father's Day, because they'd take anything as a hint. One time, I said something to Mrs. R. about having filled up my comic book and needing to remember to get a new one.

"So when I was getting ready to leave the next day, I grabbed a fresh logbook from the shop. Wrote down my start time and put it on the dashboard – figured I'd swap it for the old one in my logbook cover later on.

"Wouldn't you know it – at the first scale I was pulled in for a random check. I handed the officer my new log and the old one, still in the cover. He opens it and there's a copy of 'Batman' as well as my log. He wasn't real amused … asked me if my CB handle was 'The Joker.'"

"The kids loved the truck, and they used to play in it," he chuckled. "I used to find all sorts of things they put in there, I guess to keep me company.

"One time they left the cat's squeak toy wedged down in the cushion of my seat. I didn't see it, and the dern thing drove me crazy for about 50 miles, squeaking every time we'd hit a bump."

Then he got uncharacteristically serious, went out to his rig and came back with something in his hand. "They're grown and gone now, and I miss those days. That's why I keep this in my truck."

He handed me a framed photo of his kids – a rascally bunch of imps making faces at the camera. The frame was covered in glued-on pieces of macaroni that had been spray-painted gold, with "No. 1 Trucking Dad" written in magic marker at the top.

"That was out in the IHOP parking lot after they burned the bacon," he said. "Best Father's Day ever."

Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often. LL