I’m pretty sure it’s against the law to ride in the back of a truck. However, growing up in these Ozarks, us kids took many trips in the back of Dad’s truck. Whether that be going down to the creek on a short two-mile ride, the eleven-mile trek to our summer baseball games, or longer trips, such as the 100-mile journey to see my Aunt Annie in Camdenton when she lived there, I remember the exciting adventure of riding in the back of the truck with my brothers, while my sister rode in the front with Mom and Dad.
As I’ve mentioned in other recollections of my past, part of the adventure of riding in the back of the truck was dodging Dad’s flying spit of tobacco juice from his driver’s side. A splash in the face brought screams from the back and snickers from the front.
On hot summer days the feel of the air brought welcome relief from the heat, along with the anticipation of swimming in Bear Creek or getting a solid hit in summer league baseball. On cooler days in the fall, winter, or spring, however, the back of the truck brought shivers as we huddled closer to the back window.
Cindy said when Mike was little, maybe one or two years of age, he would stand up next to Dad as they rode in his truck. It always made Mom nervous. No car seats back then! My Aunt Carolyn said when she was about three, she also would stand next to Grandpa Clell in their Model T holding tight to his shoulder as he drove.
I’ll never forget a trip back from Camdenton riding in the truck. It was a clear, warm Thanksgiving night in 1976. The stars were dancing across the sky in a thick canopy as I lay flat on my back on one of Mom’s blankets on our trip home. I remember probably being about 12 years old, mesmerized by the twinkling lights of the night sky, feeling joy deep in my heart at the beauty of the night. I remember thinking about how big God must be to make all of this, and how safe I felt with my family riding down the highway. When I think back at moments in my life where I felt the most peace and joy, that night in the back of my dad’s truck cruising down the Ozarks highway ranks way up there.
I agree with current laws about the safety issues of riding in the back of a truck. However, I miss the joy and wonder of sitting up on one of the wheel wells and feeling the wind blow in my face, watching the Ozark scenery speed past, while dodging Dad’s tobacco juice.