By Del Starr, a pseudonym, all rights reserved. Posted Sept. 2, 2015.

Hitch Your Wagon to a Star

The coal truck pulled into a rest area. Another truck pulled in also. Dianne sat waiting patiently as her “new driver” approached the driver of the other truck. She had felt safe with this driver, for the first time since she left Bud, and she did not look forward to yet another truck and another driver but she was closer to home and still had her $5.00.

She had lost weight and was hungry but she would not eat for two reasons. She was not yet starved to death, and she didn’t know how much longer it would be before she arrived in Portland. She might need the money more later than now. Besides that, she was afraid to be away from the truck long enough to purchase anything for fear the driver would leave without her.

The driver of the coal truck returned. He climbed into the truck and had a serious talk with Dianne. He told her that he had informed the next driver of Dianne’s travels so far and had told him that Dianne was not willing to give “favors” for a ride. He had also told him that all Dianne was trying to accomplish was to get home to her children. The other driver was scheduled to go right into Portland and had assured the coal truck driver that he would transport Dianne safely. For reassurance, the coal truck driver had taken all pertinent information such as driver’s license number and PUC numbers from the truck that Dianne would now be boarding. It sounded good but Dianne was still very apprehensive.

Once again she gathered her belongings and boarded the new truck. This should be the last one she would have to ride.

The “still newer driver” turned out to be a friendly sort of person and chatted along as they rode. Dianne was mostly silent.

He talked of weather, truck stops, trucks, loads, anything and everything, but what caught Dianne’s attention was when he spoke of drivers who carried knives and other such items and how some truckers were not to be trusted. Dianne maintained her silence but now she was very alert. There was something about this man that frightened her. Not just a “bothered” frightened but rather, a terror!

As they entered Idaho, the driver suggested that they go to Jackpot, Nevada.

“Why?” Dianne asked.

“Oh, just to do some gambling”, he replied.

Dianne was not a gambler and had never heard of Jackpot, Nevada. “No,” she said, “I’m not interested but you go if you wish.”

He continued down the road without making the turn for Jackpot.

At Boise, he pulled into the truck stop and said, “We’re going to shower here. You’ll have one too.”

As Dianne had sometimes accompanied Joe on the truck, she knew that there were showers and she had shared one with her husband. She was not looking forward to this shower, though she knew she needed one badly.

The driver went in and when he returned to the truck he tossed a key to Dianne and said, “Here, this is the key for your shower room.” With that, he walked away.

Dianne scrambled out of the truck, hurried into the truck stop, gathered towel, wash cloth, and soap, and headed for the shower. She must have taken all of three minutes to scrub completely as she once again feared that the driver would be gone when she returned and she was determined to finish her shower before he finished his.

When he came from his shower, Dianne was waiting patiently for him, dressed in clean clothes and finally smelling human and minus what felt like twenty pounds of grime.

“C’mo,n, he said, “We’re getting a bite to eat.”

“I’m fine,” Dianne replied.

“Oh no you’re not,” he insisted. “We’re having a steak dinner and you are going to eat the steak!”

Dianne nearly cried. She was so very hungry but she didn’t want to owe the driver more than just her transportation. He insisted, though, and when they were seated and the waitress was ready to take their order, he ordered a steak for Dianne, only asking how she wanted it cooked.

As they sat waiting for their meal, Dianne looked around her hoping against hope that she would see someone she recognized. Kathy, Dianne’s stepsister, had worked in a small truck stop in Portland and Dianne was familiar with many of the drivers. But… she saw nobody she knew.

The driver noted her apprehension and saw that she was looking around. “Are you looking for a better-looking driver?” He asked.

Dianne was mortified! She wasn’t going to admit how fearful she was of him and so she remained silent once more.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said, “I saw an old buckboard wagon outside. Maybe we can get that and I’ll hook it to the back of the truck and you can ride there so you will be more comfortable.”

Dianne had to laugh in spite of her fear. She pictured that semi-truck with the wagon tied on behind and her sitting in it all the way from Boise, Idaho to Portland, Oregon.

When they had-finished eating, the two made their way back to the truck. “I’m out of hours,” the driver stated, “but I know how afraid you are and I’m going to take a chance and go on into Portland and get you home.”

When he had said he was out of hours, Dianne remembered the night in the truck stop with the driver who wanted “favors” but when he told her that he was going on into Portland, she sighed. Perhaps she would arrive safely, after all.

The road skimmed by hour after hour as the truck continued its way to Portland. Dianne had begun to re1ax a bit, and when she saw the lights of the truck stop in Portland, she totally relaxed and began to joke and laugh with the driver. They went into the restaurant, and Dianne called Brad to let him know that she was home.

As the two waited for Brad to arrive, they hatched a plan to tell Brad that they had “eloped.” In delicious mirth they anticipated his reaction. The driver once more fed Dianne. She appreciated him so much and now trusted him and counted him among her friends. He had taken a chance on a huge fine for driving the extra hours and Dianne was cognizant of that, realizing that he had, in a sense, put his life on the line for hers. The verse that says “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” came to her mind. Dianne knew in her heart that it was only God’s mercies that had brought her safely back to Portland, and she sent up a silent prayer of Thanksgiving to Him.

When Brad arrived, there was more fun and hilarity. Brad, of course, did not believe their story for a moment but he was rather confused as to just what had taken place. An hour later, Dianne departed with Brad for her home, and the truck driver retired to his truck for the night.

On the way home, Dianne suggested to Brad that they have a barbecue the next day and invite the truck driver to it. Brad agreed and so they did. When the truck driver left after the barbecue, it was with Dianne’s phone number tucked safely into his wallet.

But Dianne was still married to Joe.

Joe’s brother Bud called the next week. His very next load had taken him into Meridian, Idaho and had Dianne known, she could have returned to Mississippi with him and he would have hand-delivered her to Portland. Irony.

The first thing that Dianne did upon awakening the morning after she arrived in Portland was to call her aunt and ask to speak with Janelle. She was not there. After probing and asking questions, Dianne learned that her aunt had put Janelle on an airplane headed for Kansas where Janetta was living with her husband Luke while he served in the military.

Dianne called Kansas but was unable to reach either Janetta or Luke. Finally, in desperation, shecalled Luke’s commanding officer. She insisted that Janelle be returned home immediately but heard nothing further.

A few days later, the truck driver called Dianne and suggested that he would buy a ticket for her if she would fly to Las Vegas to meet him. Dianne might have been tempted. She did enjoy, his company. But Joe had returned to Oregon and was home. Dianne had taken him back and they were together again.

One reason that Dianne had accepted Joe back was that he had stopped in Kansas and picked up Janelle. She was now home, too, but was not happy. She had met a boy in Kansas, Janetta and Luke had included her in their parties, and she had wanted to stay with them. Janelle was thirteen years old.

Life resumed its semi-normal routine. Joe again was not working and still had not, to this point, contributed to the family income. Dianne had found another job and was working hard to catch up and pay the bills that Joe had promised to pay but had not. Lights, water, and house payments had all suffered. Dianne was determined to get things back on an even keel.

Joe told Dianne that her children were manipulating her. “You don’t control them,” he said, “they control you.” Dianne ignored him. He was, after all, the one who had suggested that she give them up to foster homes and she considered this yet another ploy so that he could have Dianne’s undivided attention.

It wasn’t long until Joe once again had an excuse to head for Mississippi. He burned a lot of rubber going back and forth that year. Dianne really didn’t mind this time. She needed the time to compose herself and get things in order. She was no longer drinking and had once more recognized her need for God in her life. The trip back from Mississippi had impressed upon her God’s care of her and she determined now, that she would return to church.

She had only attended a couple of times before Joe reappeared again. This time she told him that she was really not interested in continuing the marriage. He had been a terrible disappointment to her, turning her life upside down, not being there when she needed him, playing head games with her, abandoning her in Mississippi with no funding at all, running up and down the highway, and not contributing anything to the household. Dianne began to see him as an overgrown boy, rather than a man.

Joe stayed with friends. That Sabbath Dianne readied herself for church and as she was walking out the door, Joe pulled up, dressed in suit and tie, ready for church himself.

If anything would reach her now, it would be his interest in the things of God and he was aware of that. Dianne hoped that this might be a turning point in their lives, and they went to church together that morning.

Joe moved back home with Dianne.

A few days later, a police car pulled into the yard. In it were a man and a woman. They spoke with Dianne and told her that Janelle had filed a complaint against Joe for sexual abuse.

Dianne was more than stunned. She began to see what Joe had meant when he told her that her children were manipulating her. She knew in her heart that he had never taken any sexual interest in the children but it was the era of witch hunts in Oregon and Dianne was told, “Children don’t lie about this kind of thing.”

The police left, after talking alone with Janelle, who told them that she had “made up the story so that she could return to Kansas with Janetta.”

Dianne took Janelle out in the yard and they sat on a large warm rock in the sunshine while they talked. Dianne asked her about what she had said. She again reiterated what she had told the police. She had made the story up so that she could return to Kansas and her boyfriend. Dianne was satisfied that Janelle was telling the truth. She had, after all, spoken with the children before she married Joe and specifically asked questions about this sort of thing.  The children had all told her that they wanted Joe to be their Dad, that he had never done anything to make them uncomfortable and that they enjoyed him.

The following week the police returned. This time they told Dianne that they wanted to investigate further and for preventative measures, they would take Janelle into protective custody, placing her in a foster home until they had made a determination. Dianne was devastated but the law had spoken and there wasn’t much she could do but accept what they had said. Janelle packed a few clothes and left in the police car.