Dad loved taking a Sunday afternoon drive to see the country. In the 1980’s, after his last child had graduated, he lived in the New Mexico side of the four-corners where he found his perfect job – delivering fuel to gas stations across the western landscape. On Mom’s days off, she frequently accompanied him on a run. Below is in an edited excerpt she wrote of an early Sunday delivery to a gas station on the Navajo Indian reservation. She refers to my dad as The Trucker.

At 6 a.m., while The Trucker gets the truck loaded and paper work completed at the Plateau Rifinery, I walk up the road, enjoy the birds singing, watch the sunrise and view the mountains. Truck loaded, we go a short ways down the road and stop at the weigh station and then hit the road.

We haven’t had our morning cup of coffee so we pull into the first open place. It tastes like cowboy coffee to me – I can’t handle it without something to go with it. The Trucker decides he needs a sweet roll, too, and has me go back to the counter to get him one. As he says, “Get loaded. Get past the weigh station and settle down to do your own thing. Have a cup of coffee and hit the road.”

Another stop at the Arizona border check, then we head for the Indian reservation community of Many Farms, Ariz. – until we have to stop for cattle on the road.

One cow ignores every message we give it to get off the road. We blow the air horn and she still looks straight ahead and walks very slowly in front of our big truck which is nearly at a standstill in the middle of the reservation. That cow knows no one dares to hit her. She moseys over and checks out a spear of grass on the other side of the road.

Afterwards, we keep a wary eye out for flocks of sheep tended by dogs and the occasional shepherd on a horse. In the morning, the sheep graze along the highway. In-between watching for cattle, sheep and horses, The Trucker must also watch-out for the pick-up trucks coming across the reservation which pull right out in front of us.

In spite of all that, nothing spoils this early morning run for The Trucker who bursts into song and then comments on the buttes and a flat mesa in the Four-Corners Area. He points out the Colorado and Utah skylines and adds, “back there is New Mexico and here we are in Arizona.”

Because it is Sunday, traffic across the reservation is light. By 10 a.m. we are in Many Farms where gas is $l.459 for no-lead and $1.389 for regular. In Bloomfield, N.M., where we live, it has dropped to $1.029 and $.979.

At the gas station and convenience store, we see several older Indians dressed in native and modern clothing. Some stand around talking. Others wander in and out of the store. A couple of men sit on the sidewalk with their backs to the building, enjoying the sun, sipping soda, eating packaged cookies and greeting friends coming for groceries or gasoline.

In a half hour, the tanker is empty and so are we but, restaurants are few and far between out in the desert. The Trucker points out a sign for a new restaurant that is open on Sundays.

The place overflows with motorcycles and riders – most carry two riders. Several of the bikes pull trailers as if they just had an overnight camp-out. Their jackets proclaim they are from Farmington, N.M., a community near where we live.

The rest of the crowd came in identical cars – all with Michigan plates. We’ve never seen cars like them before. Their drivers and riders fill the restaurant and the parking lot where they walk around taking pictures.

We order coffee. It’s not cowboy coffee. This time it’s too weak – for even me.
Suddenly, the crowd is gone and we are alone in the restaurant – except for one Indian couple. Skipping over the breakfast options on the limited menu, we choose a couple of hamburgers. We will eat more when we get home.

We make one more stop in Shiprock, N.M. to complete the run and by 2 p.m. we park outside our trailer park.

It is much warmer than when we left before dawn, so draping our coats over our arms we walk back to the trailer to read and rest until evening. We won’t be going for a Sunday afternoon drive to see the country this week. We were out early – compliments of a gas station that needed their fuel tank filled.

(The Trucker’s daughter Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at