We used to walk out into the evening air and climb into this little truck. The door always gave a baritone creak when I slammed it shut, and the seats let out an uncomfortable squeak as I settled in. It smelled like old damp leather, denim, and dust; a smell that I still cherish to this day. With a quick start and crispy click of the parking break we were on our way.
When I was small, my brother would join us for these sacred outings. The three of us in this little truck, enjoying an adventure in the night air. I would sit in the middle and hold your pillow in my lap. A little pillow to help you rest during your long bus journeys to and from work every day. It smelled like the truck so I didn’t mind. We would cram into the cab of the truck and I would remember my dance as we drove to our destination. I would move my left leg over my right in second and fourth gear, as precise as a ballroom dancer. The sound of the RPMs acted as my cue and I knew the right amount of grace to move out of the way and avoid cramming my brother into the door at the same time.
We would enter the ramp, westbound into the setting sun. There is nothing like a setting sun in the desert sky, with a backdrop of mountains and a city with a charming urban sprawl. We would always remark about the different shades of yellow and orange poking through the low clouds.
It was always oldies on the radio on the way to the game. We would discuss the brilliance of Buddy Holly and the Beatles. You would share the story about when you saw Simon and Garfunkel at Memorial Gym and you could hear a pin drop during “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and I could close my eyes and put myself in that gym with you.
We would drive by downtown and I would always check out the light show on the MBank building and wonder if I would work in there someday. We would be at the SEC in 10 minutes and I was ready to sit in the stands with you while we cheered our team and you taught me about basketball. “Your hands are just as important as your feet on defense. Always remember where your zone is after you trap. And most importantly: never, never, ever, give up the baseline. Make him go through you.”
We would spend half the time watching the game and the other half watching the Bear. Did his closet have one cream colored coat, one white shirt, and one pair of black slacks that were too long? Or did he have a giant closet full of hundreds of cream colored coats, white shirts, and black slacks? We could always tell how well he thought the team was doing based on the shade of red on his face. The refs were a whole other story. They were never up to the Bear’s standards, which means they were not up to our standards either. If the rolled up program in his hand got tighter as the game wore on, we just knew he would get a technical.
Whether we won or lost, we would always walk out to the little truck, buzzing about the shooting, defense, and the refs. We would comment that you could stand the Miners up to any program in the country and come away with a win.
Sometimes we would walk up to the little truck and it would be damp with a fresh downpour that took place during the game. That smell of a fresh desert rain in the cool night air is how I imagine the scent in heaven.
The ride home would be quiet and peaceful. The post game analysis on the AM radio in the background while we made small talk about our upcoming days at school and work.
As we pulled into the driveway, I always said thank you for bringing me with you and that it was fun. As I look back now, I realize that I didn’t say it enough. Some of the best memories I had as a kid were not at the games or at school or on trips, but rides in that little truck.