The BudMan Chronicles, vol. 3

12 Apr 2006

If I were to bring up two subjects simultaneously -- truckers and arm wrestling -- a lot of people would recall one of the most awful movies ever made. Anyone remember? That's right ... Over the Top, the 1987 smash hit starring Sylvester Stallone as Lincoln Hawk. (The pic, above, shows the movie poster.) However, thanks to one memorable trip to BudMan's house about 13 years ago, I'll never have to think about Over the Top again when people bring up truckers and arm wrestling (as is more common than you may think in some circles).

It all started because my wife (then my fiancA©) was thrown a small bridal shower. BudMan, being the considerate brother-in-law that he is, decided to take me down to the local tavern for a guys night out. Things started out fine enough. We had darts, Budweiser, and steak sandwiches.But, this was an authentic small-town dive, deep in the back woods ofNortheastern PA. You sort of have to know someone to be truly welcomed into a place like that, as they don't take well to strangers.Being a kid from the big city, I took quite a few sneering glares from some of the barflies there, until BudMan came around to vouch for me.

Turned out it was something of a trucker hang out -- not like a truck-stop, though. Rather, it was more of a place where many truckers often hung out when not working. There was a big dude there, a massive hick named Claude. I could tell right off the bat he didn't want me around. He kept calling me weird names like "candy ass" and so forth. There's just something about me that dirtbags do not like, and I've never quite figured out what it is. But, it's there. It's palpable, undeniable.Still, he was a friend of BudMan's, so I suppose it was inevitable that we all wound up at a bar table together.

As an white-collar city slicker (an editor, no less), I had a tough time fitting in that night, as I recall. When the truckers traded yarns about how many miles they could drive in a day, I tried to make pleasant conversation.But, my analytical side got the best of me.I'd say something like, "But, wait a minute, if you drove 1,200 miles in a day, and you averaged 60 miles per hour ... I mean, that's not allowed, right?"

They all laughed like freaks, affirming to each other how much of an "educated idiot" I was. In the country, people who went to college are often referred to as "educated idiots."It refers, of course, to their all-too-common interaction with people who are book-smart but not street smart. (And, it's entirely true.)So, when I said, "that's not allowed," those guys laughed as though it was the funniest joke they'd ever heard.

They were practically crying ... "Allowed!" they'd all yell, nearly falling from their chairs in laughter.

I'm sitting there confused like ... well, like an educated idiot, I guess. But, I tried to salvage the conversation by displaying more of my book-smarts."Yeah, but how can you drive for 20 hours? Aren't there log books and such?"

Again, nearly falling from their chairs with laughter at my stupid ass. "Log books!!!" they yelled, which translated roughly into "Oh my god, this kid is too much. He's killing me with his ignorance!"

I guess I'd given them all such a great laugh that they finally accepted my presence in the bar. Just then, BudMan grabbed me, Claude the Trucker, and another guy, and dragged us outside to his truck. "We're going for a ride," BudMan said.

"But, where're we going?" I asked.

"I got you an engagement present," he said. "Party materials."

Aww jeez.I figured I knew where this might be going, but went along anyway.

Sure enough, five minutes later, we're on some back road in the woods and BudMan pops in an AC/DC tape and whips out a bag of cocaine. He was pretty proud of it and said, "See, party materials!" He handed it to me and said, "go ahead, bro."

"Nah, I'll pass."

"Whaddaya mean 'I'll pass'?I got this for you, to celebrate!"

"Well, it's not that I don't appreciate the gesture, BudMan. Because, I do appreciate the fact that you got me a present. It's just that, well, I'm just going to stick with the Budweiser, okay?"

Claude grumbled, indicating his unhappiness with my apparent lack of gratitude. It suddenly clicked with me how the man could drive 1,200 miles in one day. But, I definitely felt like the stereotypical rookie cop who wouldn't grab a share of the drug money. (And, just to set the record straight, if I were a rookie cop, I'd definitely take a share of the drug money.I mean, hell, why not?) But, this was different.I'd made some stupid choices as a kid, and didn't want to make any further ones, so I politely declined (through several more rounds of peer pressuring, of course).

Actually, the others weren't offended in the end, as that meant more for them. So, I guess it was a win-win.

Back at the bar, though, things got a little crazy. We did shots, and the juke box blared more AC/DC. With everyone juiced out of their minds, I suppose the arm wrestling matches were bound to happen. They didn't have fancy equipment with handles and so forth like you may have seen in the Over the Top movie. I suppose that crap was probably for all of the "wanna-be pussies" from the city. This here was a logging town, after all. All you needed was two guys and a table. So, they sort of informally set up a tournament.

Claude was by far the largest guy in the room, so naturally I got paired up with him first. Frankly, I'm not sure the guy was even paying attention when we arm wrestled. He just sort of looked over at me straining to move his arm, and then slammed my arm to the table with a rather annoyed look. I think he'd been waiting to do that for some time, actually.

Eventually, it came down to BudMan and Claude -- two large drunken coked-up guys, one more stubborn than the other. I'll never forget the sight of those two straining against each other for what seemed like several minutes.Neither would give up, even as their faces turned unnatural shades of red. It's a miracle no one had a stroke.

Later that evening, my fiancA© showed up. Her evening had been the exact opposite of mine -- a bunch of women calmly sipping tea.BudMan was blasted out of his gourd by that time. He approached his sister (my fiancA©) and said, "Patrick's a good guy, sis. I tried to give him drugs and he refused."

That certainly wasn't the traditional "family blessing" accepting a new family member into the clan, I suppose, but she understood what he meant. That's just his way.

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