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Saturday, October 1st, 1994:

 Saturday night in Salt Lake City laid over at the Yard. A semi-warm Domino’s pizza and a couple hours reading time. In my bunk now with the sleeper curtain open. Ear plugs to quiet the world. Through the windshield I can see the first snow of the season falling softly up on the Wasatch Front. Summer is less than a memory. Under somber Yard lights the tops of trailers and tractors roll slowly by. Dim red and yellow bulbs mark the rooflines, like small Arabian oil lamps. Occasionally the palewhite glow of a service truck lumbers by rocking against the uneven pavement. Steadily, mutely the languorous procession moves past my view. The silent slow activity moves me toward sleep.
 It’s from my childhood. Summers I got to go to all the races. Seven nights a week plus an afternoon show on Sundays. And always at the end of the evening the ride home, or to a motel, the next race track, or maybe a borrowed shop for repairs. I’d sleep in the back seat. From my makeshift bed I could watch the tops of streetlights, trucks, buildings, trees, and telephone poles speed by in the sungone glow of late night as we moved down the highway. A soft visual lullaby, secure slumber-song: Dad and usually Lyle sitting quietly tired in the front seat and the engine giving off the steady soothing rumble that is the sound of sleep. Now like then. The 899 cubic inches of diesel engine warming, massaging my well-fed body, tops of things seen from my bed, and a blanket up around my neck against the cold of that snow falling on Parleys Mountain.
  Woke up at 3:30 after only a couple hours. Wide awake. Brain energy. Hard to shut off the head. And I’ve been through it enough times to know I wasn’t going back to sleep. I had to get up at five anyway. So I slipped on my cold jeans, stiff boots, and 75,000 mile jacket and walked toward the bunkhouses for a shower and early head out. Freezing temperatures and a sadistic wind from the icy mountains. By the fuel lanes, truck stop-like: tires stacked and clustered in random groups, pallets full of chains reminding it’s that time of year again, opal puddles of spilled diesel reflecting the fluorescent gleam. None of the usual constant stream of trucks. A rare moment. No coming and going. Only the Yard Hogs all night long moving trailers, sorting wagons: hot loads, dry loads, time loads, empties in the empty lot, loads in the load lot, some into the trailer shop for service. All night long the creeping movement. But the fuel island quiet and empty except for a small group of graveyard fuelers in dirty blue overalls. In a tight group they huddle around an enormous kerosene heater rubbing their hands, stomping their feet, wondering at the unexpected lull in activity. The heater is useless against Parleys breeze. Nobody’s talking. All just staring at the red glow of the heater like a watch swinging from Freud’s finger.
 Through the layover lot toward the gate and my favorite shower. Rows and rows and rows of idling tucks, everyone asleep and warm inside. Three guys standing together by Death Row, talking quietly as though trying not to wake the sleeping. Easy short laughter. I couldn’t hear what they were saying over the white noise of 200 diesel engines whispering at winter. Three guys just keeping each other company, waiting to be tired. Probably don’t even know each other, just went looking for others in a similar condition. They didn’t notice or acknowledge me. I slipped through the gate and into B bunkhouse the same one I slept in my first night here what seems like so long ago. Lights out, two guys snoring, almost in counterpoint. I closed the shower room door behind me, washed up, shaved, slipped into a fresh set of clothes.
 Warmed head steaming in the cold I walked back across the Yard watching my breath fight the gray falling snow. Same dark figures in front of Death Row. Same overalls huddled in front of the heater still not talking. And still the ceaseless movement of trailers and service trucks around the Yard. I bumped into a guy walking the other direction: “Sorry, my fault; I wasn’t paying attention.” “That’s okay, but be careful, you might miss something important.” He never even looked up at me. Kept his eyes and thoughts on the icy asphalt. But something about what he said made me pull up short. I stopped to look around, slowly, several times — overwhelmed by the realization that all this will be over soon — all this wandering. As my life goes, it won’t be long. Sometime soon I’ll be remembering nights like this — simultaneous vision again.
 This is the kind of job that affects you profoundly, fundamentally. Like the military maybe. I imagine that once you’ve been a soldier, at some level, you always see yourself as a soldier. Truck driving’s similar. More a life than a job, once you’ve been up high, rolling at night while they sleep, that image of yourself as something other remains implanted, elemental. As though you’ve seen and experienced things few others ever have or will. Once you’ve been out here, there’ll always be an itch — an itch to run Wyoming wide open at dusk; run Iowa on a spring Sunday while everyone else is at church; run the midnight summer desert a hundred miles an hour with the windows down; run the Thursday Salt Flats headed home to San Francisco for the weekend.
 Tomorrow I’m headed for Pennsylvania, but at some point memories of these days and nights will haunt my peace, interrupt my sleep. I stood in the gently falling snow and tried to take it all in: the smells, the sounds, the sting of the morning wind, out in the Yard at ten to four on a Sunday.
 It didn’t last long though, this trying to take it all in. I had to laugh at myself in the middle of the effort. “What the hell are you doing?” I thought. “Stop trying to embalm life. You can’t hold this thing here. Enjoy it for what and when it is then move on.” So, with a smile I took another good look and walked back to the truck ready to go to work.