THE LAST TIME
It was our last drive together up to my house in the mountains, and I spent the 30-minute drive in quiet reflection on the past three and a half years we have spent together. I’m rather sentimental about such things and will often get maudlin about a last time at doing this or that, even if no one else is involved. Perhaps it is a sign of getting older, since I notice that I do it more and more now. But I’ve always been that way to some extent.
I remember walking home alone from a date with Georgia way back in 1956. We had gone to a Saturday matinee where we ate popcorn and held hands. She was a freshman in high school and I was a sophomore. I was head over heels in love with Georgia, but after that date I was certain there would be no more, and there wasn’t. As I crossed over the railroad tracks that have long since been removed, I vowed I would always love her, and I promised myself that I would always remember that moment. The silliness of youth perhaps, but I never forgot.
Of course there have been many memorable and emotional “lasts” that I will never forget – like the putting down of my horse Black Jack in 2000, and a number of dogs that I had to say goodbye to, and the last time I saw each of my parents and my deceased sister. I remember the last time I saw Paris, and a host of other places in the world that I visited, knowing that I would not be back. There have been many friends I’ve made in my travels around the world to whom I said goodbye knowing that I would never see them again.
This time was really not much different I reflected, as we made our way up the now dark but familiar mountain road. Since 1999 we had made four round trips between Colorado and the East Coast, hauling a horse each way along with my dog Nina. A total of 103,000 miles of experiences is a lot, and they all came drifting back as we proceeded in the dark.
Our first month together I had purchased a three-horse gooseneck trailer and forgot to put the tailgate down – causing the first of many major dents in my then brand new truck. Then there was the woman who cut in front of us and slammed on her brakes, causing us to plow into her. It cost $7000 to fix her vehicle, but only denting my front bumper. My airbag didn’t deploy, and Nina didn’t even fall off of the backseat. The police charged me with the accident, so my insurance rate doubled for the next three years. It just went back down this past spring.
In 2001 I burned up the brakes on a trip down the mountain because I forgot to release the parking brake, but I used Nina’s water to keep the brakes from catching the tires on fire. And then my horse Bubba kicked a dent in the right rear quarter panel that cost $2100 to fix. In 2002 I forgot to set the emergency brake and put the truck in gear when I parked it, and my truck rolled down a hill, crashing into a woodpile. That also got me a new quarter panel, but there were many more good times than there were bad ones.
I’m at my happiest when we’re on the road heading somewhere, and there have been a lot of “somewheres” in that 103,000 miles – sightseeing, visiting friends, and listening to “On The Road Again” by Willie Nelson. It is a tradition that at the beginning of each trip we play “On The Road Again.” I don’t play it any other time, but I’ve heard it often.
On all but a few of those miles, Nina was in the back seat of my truck where she feels most secure and happy. She always gets excited at the prospect of getting in the truck, and would often get in and sit there if the door was open. Whenever I worked outside, I would leave the truck open so that she could go there when she wanted to relax. She even preferred to be in the truck rather than in our house, so she went with me to movies, dinners out, shopping, and working. I cut and hauled over 55 truckloads of wood in the past two summers, and Nina was in the truck for each of them. I reminded her of all the good times we both had, and that this was our last drive together in our truck.
In the morning I am trading in our truck on a new model. I’m sure Nina will adjust to the new truck and eventually like it as well as this one. But I know that we will both miss it a lot.