I lasted six months without a truck. Now I have two. One of them seems fit for travel off the Island. The other does not. The nicer of the two was insured and registered in the same morning before I brought it off the Island with gusto, as it was the first vehicle fit for travel on the mainland I have owned in many years. It was immediately loaned to a friend and coworker, in a karmic attempt to repay all the borrowed vehicles I have driven to different reaches of New England over the years usually fetching piglets or the occasional pregnant goat. The truck got as far as the Canadian line after a tour through Vermont before the driver and my shared neurosis brought consensus that it was best parked on our side of the border.

I learned to drive on my father’s lap. Steering while he controlled the gas and brakes on our winding dirt road long before my legs came close to the pedals. I returned the favor to my sister Molly, using the same form while driving down Middle Road. She was seven, I was in high school and apparently of suspect judgment, though I was taught by a man who dragged his kids behind his red truck using a long rope tied to a toboggan. He would do so only after a deep snow, one memorable day driving straight onto Squibnocket Pond in the middle of deep winter freeze. The ice moaned and creaked as we glided along and clutched each other tighter with the weight of the truck causing waves under the ice that undulated like speed bumps in his wake. I was cold but never frightened.

Though I haven’t owned many vehicles, most have been trucks. My first car was a station wagon, with wood paneling on the side. It was my mother’s before me and was a few sizes larger than the school bus Miss Jenkinson picked us up in on our way to the Chilmark School in the days I attended, when it was still two rooms. Miss Jenkinson drove a light blue wagon with a sign on the roof announcing its title like a taxi cab lightbox, and a seat in the way back facing the rear that was always coveted by the oldest passengers. I’m sure we didn’t wear seat belts because the inside felt like an extension of the jungle gym. It was a short commute, though not nearly as brief as my father’s. He would cross the street then walk across the fields at the community center with the family dog by his side carrying his lunchbox before arriving at the same school house I would later attend. The commute down South Road was one I would repeat late at night on my bicycle in the summer months after finishing up my shift washing dishes at the Feast of Chilmark (currently the Chilmark Tavern) in the last few years before I had my license. I would ride down the center line of the road creating my own dark imaginary race track. Coming up the hill past Lucy Vincent Beach onto the Allen Farm pastures usually meant a moon hovering over the water with a few small dots of light from fishing boats on the horizon.

I would hear the occasional rustling in the bushes causing paranoia of impaling myself with the antlers of a deer as he crossed the road. The trip from Beetlebung Corner to Abel’s Hill was just under three miles, but the rolling hills made it a bit more challenging. As the speed gained coasting downhill near Fulling Mill Brook made for dips in temperature at its bottom then all momentum was lost and work had to be put in to get up those lazy hills to the cemetery. The crest of the hill meant more moonlit views of the ocean on one side with gravestones on the other that sometimes cast shadows connecting them to one another like the last names carved in them all ready did. This same straightaway was where during the mighty hurricane of 1938 the Chilmark school bus (then a Woody) was blown over on its side from a great, and back then unquantifiable, gust. On a day that started calmly with all the children going to school, while the animals paced and fretted as they do before a storm, a bus filled with children was lifted off its feet and placed on its side like a sow wallowing in its sty. Once it was established there were no injuries on board, the stronger of the lot righted the bus. And they continued along. With everyone making it safely home before a storm that supposedly blew horses away into the woods never to be seen again and definitely caused Menemsha to disappear under water for a time.