Shadows In The Night

Roger Clark
June 2021

It was the pre-dawn hours in Charleston, South Carolina, and a wrong turn led to a deserted parking lot. Carefully working my 53-foot trailer around concrete curbs and lamp posts, I suddenly felt a giant shadow envelop the truck. Stopping the truck and stepping outside, while holding my breath, I looked all around, and then up.

At first scared, then confused, and suddenly thrilled, I realized the shadow was from the 800-foot long aircraft carrier Yorktown. An iconic and key player in American naval history, the Yorktown, (CVA 57), was awarded 16 battle stars. And there I stood, shortly after 4:00 AM, staring straight up at her flight deck, not knowing whether to kneel or salute.

 Some months later, leaving the great state of Georgia shortly after 9:00 PM, I saw the Ringgold Union 76 lit up more than usual. Turning in just out of curiosity, I saw right away there was a gospel group out front, with an appreciative audience of around a hundred people. Why not join in, I thought, so I headed for a parking spot out back.

The darkness of the parking lot contrasted so sharply with lights up front that I had the momentary sense of going from Heaven to Hello. But then I noticed something funny as it was disturbing. Music embraced the front lot, and whispers gripped the darkness out back.

Out front, people swayed and clapped and raised their arms. Out back, folks were selling happiness by the ounce, or sniff, and touch. As the gospel group encouraged the light, people in the back were scurrying like rats through the darkness. I stayed for the music, as you might guess, and left with a gospel trac, two joints, and a ten-dollar Rolex watch.

 One of my earliest escapades in trucking was my first trip to Las Vegas, Nevada. Hauling a trade show exhibit from Minneapolis to the Comdex Electronics Show, I turned north from I-40 onto U.S. 93. Right away, it seems, I started seeing signs for the Hoover Dam. 

Hoover Dam, 20 miles. Hoover Dam, 15 miles. Hoover Dam, 5 miles. Too bad I’m going to miss it, I remember thinking, just as the truck rounded a curve and drove across the #%^@#! top of the dam. By the time I got my wits about me, I rounded another curve and got my first glimpse of the Las Vegas Strip. Believe me, they left a light on! 

 In another memorable late-night event, I was northbound on I-65 near Sonora, Kentucky, and doing a little snoring of my own. Realizing I was falling asleep at the wheel, I headed for an exit to nowhere, easing to a stop just before the top of the ramp. Without leaving the seat, I was instantly in dreamland.

When I awoke, an hour or so later, it was imperative that I re-position the truck. That’s when I noticed it was leaning against a guardrail on my left. There was no damage, no mechanical issues, and no way I was moving without a wrecker. Two hours later, wide awake with a wallet $400 lighter, I was once again on my way.

 And who could forget the night I pulled into Houston’s Rankin Road Union 76. Well, okay, you could, but I never have! Turning in the driveway late one night, I saw it was blocked by a couple Harris County PO-leece cruisers. A sawed off deputy told me to get out of my truck and, when I did, the door somehow knocked him backwards. Instantly jumped by him and his partner, I was cuffed and back seated until a watch commander couldn’t discern a reason for my arrest. Then I was released with a request to never return, and believe me, I never turn down a PO-lite request!