For as long as I can remember I always wanted to be a trucker.
As a child this career path seemed AWESOME!
As an adult I have realised that the lifestyle I dreamed of having no longer exists. Even that relationship with vehicles has changed. Cars and trucks no longer symbolise freedom, they represent high fuel and insurance prices and being stuck in a traffic jam.
So where did my romanticized view come from? As is often the case with my life, the answer is film.
This was understandably the second highest grossing film in 1977 (second to Star Wars) and like Star Wars it had a big impression on me. The theme song “East Bound and Down” by Jerry Reed speaks of overcoming obstacles “doing what, they said, couldn’t be done”. The phenomenal Pontiac Firebird that the “Bandit” (Burt Reynolds – who really should have been in my Manly Hats post) drives is still one of my all time favourite cars.
Even in my child hood fantasies I did not have the confidence to imagine being the lead, I was much more comfortable in the side kick role – The Trucker “Snowman”. It felt achievable. Besides, he had a dog, and the Bandit seemed to spend too much time chasing a woman (Sally Fields), and at that tender age I thought girls were stupid.
Not so much a trucking movie, but one that existed in the same world. Released in 1981 with a great cast, it’s not nearly as good as Smokey and the Bandit (also directed by Hal Needham), but its worth watching just for the outtakes at the end of the film. The cast was having a ball. (Roger Moore plays a man who believes he is a Secret Agent!) This was the 80’s and its easy to see why we all had posters on our walls of a Lamborghini Countach (and lady tennis players scratching their bums)
In this world even the Police have a Pontiac Firebird.
But once again its the theme song that has stayed with me.
“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Be anything you want to be. It’s not what you got, it’s how you use it, you be you, and I’ll be me. It’s just a matter of sty-le”
These films are Modern Day Westerns. They can only exist in America and they embody a sense of individualism, adventure and anti-authority that as a child, and now as an adult, I really responded to.
I just found out Sam Peckinpah directed this! Oh its a Western alright. I was aware of the theme song long before I saw the film, which is the least entertaining of the three I have mentioned. However that song is full of mystery and sparked many a day-dream.
“It was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June and a Kenworth pullin’ logs. Cab-over Pete with a reefer on and a Jimmy haulin’ hogs. We’s headin’ for bear on Eye-one-O ’bout a mile outta Shakeytown, I says “Pigpen, this here’s Rubber Duck” “And I’m about to put the hammer down”
I still have no idea what they are talking about, and until just now I thought it was “Big Ben” not “Pigpen”
So that’s it. The three films, with theme songs, that made me want to be a trucker. The open road, the sense of loyalty and comradeship, pulling on that horn, bar room brawls, huge burgers, beer, sleeping in the cab. Looking back I can see how they also shaped my film preferences, (John Carpenter, one of my favourite directors, Westerns, particularly Rio Bravo, Rocky and more) particularly due to the ideology and the casts.
Oh actually, in the words of Yoda, “there is another”.