They had me at the first gear change, the day the new highway opened in the late 1960s, after cutting a broad ribbon through our picturesque dairy farm in Tasmania.
Those log-laden Mack bulldogs and Man diesels growled all the way down the long hill where we had learned to drive while the road was being built.
I’d lie in wait as they came up from the Southern Forests towards town, always around 7am. Nothing automatic, they double-clutched past my bedroom every morning.
Back then we used to take 15 show horses on a semi-trailer to shows and one-day events — that also could have something to do with the intimacy I still feel for them. These are happy memories. I am a truck junkie. I get them. I get how much room they need.
I relive the highlights of my driving life, like when I approached a roundabout alongside a semi and the driver just knew I stayed beside him, one out and one back, so he could use the whole two lanes to get his rig around with ease.
I can still see his big hand waving and saluting me. The next time I tried it, the bloke just thought I was a stupid old lady.
I once sat in the dark alongside that awfully long stretch of road from Hay to Deniliquin, outside our caravan park, feeling the elation build as I watched the pinpricks of light grow to full beams before I could even hear them.
By the time we reached Broken Hill on that particular trip, I demurely gave the signal kids do to trucks, pulling the air a couple of times, and felt completely intoxicated when the gorgeous black and shiny chrome affair honked the horn just for me.
Some of my nieces don’t laugh at me, promising they will just park me alongside the highway when I’m in a home in a wheelchair (thanks, girls). And now? One of my sons drives a 22-wheeler 540hp Volvo semi. Sigh. And I have a nephew in one of those huge Komatsu 830E mining trucks. Sigh.
I always try to be around when a stock truck is due to pick up sheep or lambs from our farm. It’s my job — it really is — to guide them in as they reverse their hulking machines up to the loading ramp.
If it’s a four-decker, I can barely contain my excitement. I’m sure it’s not because of my excellent hand signals but they always get it right first go. Every time. I feel awe as they slow just right to feather-touch the ramp.
So if you ever see an old girl sitting beside a road, in her own little set of wheels, do give her a honk.
That would make her extremely happy.
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