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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Eating on the road

Brad Nelson Published on 14 August 2013

Someone close to the late Elvis Presley commented on peanut butter and banana sandwiches. He said you could feed them to the guy (Elvis) all day. I finally tried one some time back. Not bad, but I would not like them as a major part of my diet.

At the funeral of Charlie Bridges, grandfather of one of my daughters-in-law, mention was made of a sandwich he preferred: peanut butter, onions, and jalapeños. Not bad. The peanut butter does very well at keeping the onions and peppers from sliding out of the sandwich.

A couple of my inventions are the peanut butter and marshmallow crème sandwich. Be aware that it must be eaten soon after it’s made because, even though it’s very thick, the marshmallow crème is still a liquid and it will move downhill and make a mess in a short while.

Then there is my signature ice cream sandwich. Start with two slices of bread (I prefer whole-wheat), and then layer on about a one-inch layer of ice cream on one of the slices, add the other slice of bread on top, and if you get right after eating it, you will not make a mess. If you use cherry vanilla ice cream, it counts for one serving of fruit. My wife will dispute this point.

A few years back, a co-worker asked me if my wife made the sandwich I had just bitten into. I answered no and wondered why he asked. He said his experience with sandwiches made by the ladies was that the part of the sandwich between the two slices of bread always seemed very slim.

My sandwich had thick-sliced roast beef, cheese, dill pickles and sliced onion. Verl said he had never seen a sandwich like mine that someone’s wife had made. This comment made me wonder if a sandwich as seen by the ladies differs from one seen by the guys.

Perhaps to the ladies, the filling of the sandwich is the bait so the family will eat the bread. On the other hand, to the guys, perhaps the bread is there only to facilitate eating the meat with one’s hands.

Eating on the road has its own challenges. One is that it does not take a lot of energy to keep four or even 18 wheels going down the chosen road.

Boredom is prone to be addressed by the movement of the jawbone in an up-and-down manner and the added sound of something between the teeth being crushed.

This, unfortunately, adds matter to that part of the body that gets the most use when driving, specifically that part of the body that keeps the driver’s seat from coming loose from the floor.

It helps to be chewing crushed ice or carrot and celery sticks rather than corn or potato chips – or any product made by Hershey’s or any other chocolate company.

There does come a point while driving when the body is not bored but actually in need of food. When I have been spending what seems like most of my time seeing the world through a windshield, eating goes through phases.

It works for a while to pack a lunch. Refrigeration helps, and I made a discovery that works without a 12-volt mini-fridge. A small insulated cooler, tall enough for a 2-liter pop bottle to stand up in is used. I fill the pop bottle with water, about 2 inches short of full, and freeze it.

That keeps the contents of the cooler cool without the mess of crushed ice and water all over everything. I change the frozen bottle each morning for another from the freezer, and the cooler never leaves the pick-up.

That gives me the option of getting a Subway sandwich, eating half and having the other half both dry and cold for later. Some areas have a local eatery that you just can’t miss, like the Log Cabin Cottage café (I’m sure I have the name wrong) at Midvale, Idaho, or Luke’s BBQ at Loon Lake, Washington. They are not cheap, but the food is excellent and you go away at least full.

Most of the time the food that’s available close to the main road has the boring sameness, plus it leaves you feeling like you just gained 10 pounds. When I was running my own hay truck in the previous century,

I carried a small propane cook stove, a skillet and at least one small saucepan. I had enough cutlery and seasonings stashed in the truck so that if I took the notion I could grab a steak out of the meat counter at any small grocery store, a potato and an onion – and eat like a king when I stopped for the night.

The loader buggy I built using a ’50s model Dodge truck and a Ford 300ci six-cylinder motor had a spot on the manifold that held two cans of Campbell’s chunky soup. It was just right to eat after heating on the manifold while either loading or unloading the truck.

It brought me almost to tears a couple of times when I hit a bump with the last forkful of hay going on the truck, then noticed a flattened red and white can on the ground with a tire track over it. That would have been my lunch.

A couple of weeks ago I went on an overnighter with my grandson’s 11-year-old Boy Scout group. Supper was tin-foil dinners cooked over coals from the campfire. Each of us prepared our own, which contained ground beef, sliced potatoes, onions and carrots.

I learned to avoid going first at anything new, so by the time my dinner was in the fire, other dinners were back on the fire a second time to finish cooking. I requested that mine be left in the coals longer, so I only had to open it once. I guessed right, and my meal was near perfect.

I was aware of a group from way back-when who became expert at tin-foil dinners cooked on the vehicle engine. There was none of this mundane ground beef and potatoes; this group was cooking Yankee pot roast with yeast biscuits, whole or half roast chicken with all the trimmings, turkey drumsticks and the like.

This group had a newsletter and shared recipes, tips on cooking time, how to guess the heat of the engine versus the outside temperature, etc.

I can imagine a loaded hay truck pulling into a rest area, finding a shady spot on the grass to park beside, pulling out a folding table complete with tablecloth and real dinnerware, then opening the hood of the truck and retrieving a foil-wrapped package from on top of the engine that contained pot roast with sautéed mushrooms and onions, potatoes and carrots, hot bread and chocolate pudding cake for dessert. Well, that’s enough dreaming. Now I’m good and hungry.

Just out of curiosity, I wonder how many of the old hay haulers out there ever ended up trying to roast a jackrabbit on the end of a hay hook over a smoldering sagebrush fire in the desert while the dust devils coated everything with desert dust?   FG

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