Wow, it’s been a year-and-a-half since I last did a “soundtrack” posting. I guess it’s been awhile since I had a song carry me back to a different time and place. Today my iPod hit upon “Live Until I Die” by Clay Walker. The song was originally released eighteen years ago (Whoa, how did that happen?!?!) in October of 1993, but for me it will always represent the Spring of 1994.
I had been working at the Alberta Wheat Pool in Enchant, AB. The Spring rush was over and my services driving the fertilizer tender truck were no longer needed. I’ll always remember that truck, because it was a brand-new 1994 GMC TopKick and I was the first one to get to drive it on a regular basis. I also was the first person to scratch the side of it, but that’s a different story…
Anyway, I had been laid off and wasn’t sure what I was going to do. This was just months after I had quit my job as a long-haul truck driver. Let’s just say I didn’t exactly have my career path outlined, shall we?
You have to remember this was pre-Internet so job hunting meant scouring the classified ads in the newspaper and mailing resumes (yes, kids, we used paper and snail mail back then!) to any company who might be looking. I was sitting at home one afternoon when the phone rang and I was asked to drive up to Brooks for an interview with a company called West-can Seal Coating. Well, I didn’t actually know that at the time; what I did know was some company wanted to interview me and they wanted to interview me right now. Who was I to refuse?
I don’t remember much about the interview. I remember being told the company had just relocated to Alberta from Saskatchewan and needed to replace their oil distributor driver who had just quit. I remember being asked about my driving skills and I remember NOT mentioning the scratch on that brand new TopKick. I was hired on the spot and told I started the next day.
“Excellent. What time do you want me here?”
“Not here. Canmore."”
I must have visibly been shaken. “Canmore?”
“Canmore. The Akai Motel. Just go to the office there and tell them you need to check into Gerald’s room. He has an extra bed. Get up there tonight because you start early tomorrow. You work ten days on and four days off. We’ll pay you $12.86 an hour. Any questions?”
That was it. I’m still not sure how I got the job considering I didn’t know what an oil distributor was or even what chip sealing involved. Heck, I had only had my Class 1 license for less than a year. I was a small-town kid being sent on the road with a group of grizzled construction workers with no idea what was waiting for me.
That’s where Clay Walker comes in. His album was loaded into the CD changer behind the seat of my truck and I remember it playing as I left the Calgary city limits, westbound on the TransCanada Highway heading towards the mountains.
And I don´t wanna think about tomorrow
I don´t need anything money can buy
I don´t have to beg, steal, or borrow
I just wanna live until I die
You know how vivid that memory is, even all these years later? My CD had a scratch on it and the song was always skip briefly at the same point in the song – to this day when I hear the song I still expect to hear that skip and it takes me by surprise when it doesn’t.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I think that was the day I officially “grew up”. I was away from home and living life on the road. That job finally gave me the freedom to get my own apartment and move to the city. That job taught me that I had the strength of character to not fall in with the crowd and spend the bulk of my paycheque in the hotel bar every night. Nope, my character had already been firmly established and I wasn’t about to change now.
Skippin´ rocks, skippin´ rope
Laughin´ at all my best friends jokes
Things I loved when I was a kid
Muddy roads, muddy feet
I didn´t live on no blacktop street
Things have changed a lot but I never did