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Jessie Veeder, Published October 13 2012

Coming Home: A cracked windshield a sign of new times

I have a giant crack that runs the length of my windshield, a result of a run-in with a rock thrown from the tire of a big rig as I drove myself home from a fishing trip this spring.

The blasted crack has been there for months, obstructing my view as I pull my Chevy in line behind semi-trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, company pickups and minivans, all moving with me in an unbreakable ribbon of traffic pushing through days that aren’t so quiet anymore around the buttes of western North Dakota.

I catch myself peering over the crack to meet the eye of my fellow drivers, most with similar windshield situations and license plates from every state in the union. I look at their faces, eyes set sternly on the road or head leaned back against the seat as they wait at a stop sign, and I don’t wonder where they’re going or what brought them here anymore.

I know the answer.

I live with certainty behind that crack in my windshield, refusing to get it fixed, positive that it will be a waste of money and knowing without a doubt that as soon as that crack is repaired another rock is sure to find a way to leave its mark.

I say “What’s the point,” turn the radio up, hit the gas and hunker down behind the wheel, a place that, due to my distance from town and the years I spent traveling the country singing for my supper, has become a sort of refuge for a now-planted wanderer like me.

Yes, I’ve grown comfortable with that crack as if its glaring, irritating existence can protect me from the uncertainties I see barreling down a road that was once so familiar, a road I was sure would stay quiet and patiently wait for my Chevy to find its way back home.

But as I sped along interstates, collecting experiences that held the promise of making me stronger, less naïve, braver and more accomplished, it never occurred to me that a quiet road could not have given me what I needed.

A quiet road could not have led me home for good.

It’s a fact the finds me restless during the nights when the blare of brakes from an oil truck wake me from my sleep, a sound that has become as familiar to me as the meadowlark’s song in the morning.

I lay there next to my husband, breathing steadily into a night that no longer sleeps, and I wonder what it means for us and for our unborn children, who may not have had a chance to walk these coulees and ride horses to the tops of the hills every day of their lives if it weren’t for the sound of those trucks.

It’s bitter and sweet and comfortable and terrifying, and I know I’m not alone in my late-night wondering. Because under the moonlight in the cab of that truck making its way along an unfamiliar red scoria road is a father putting in hours to send a check home for his daughter or a new wife driving to make ends meet.

And under the roofs of new houses and apartments popping up on the outskirts of my booming hometown is the hope that maybe this is a chance to stop moving.

Maybe this could be home.

I close my eyes and listen as the truck makes its way up the hill, and I think of my changing horizon. I think about my unpaid bills. I think about my neighbors and the barn that needs to be repaired, my family and the children I hope to meet someday.

And then I lay back and think of my Chevy, the hum of its tires and the eyes that meet mine as we unwind like a spool of thread along a highway filled with hope, greeting one another from behind cracked windshields, the only thing standing between us and a world that won’t stop spinning, regardless of how we wish to see it.

And I know I’m not alone.

Jessie Veeder is a 28-year-old musician and writer. She lives near Watford City, N.D., with her husband, on the ranch where she grew up.