Online book relays wisdom gained while trucking
ATWOOD, Kansas -- A former truck driver from Atwood, Kansas, likes to tell folks he's finished writing his first book. "It sounds impressive," Don Benda writes in the forward to his book, "Important Things I Learned while Driving a Truck across America."
While the book's sub-title is "A Traveler's Quick View of the Real USA," there's nothing ordinary about Don Benda's "travelogue." Yes, it's a journal of Benda's travels when he worked as a truck driver, but it's more than a listing of pretty places, good restaurants and clean motels.
Much of Benda's book is written in awe of the land he observed while driving over, across and through "big and beautiful and free" America. He observes that, "America is at her beautiful best the second week of June."
Some observations in the book take a comical look at that land's inhabitants: "Not all bicycle riders should wear those shiny, tight spandex shorts." And, "The girls in southern California don't seem to need many clothes. Sorry, I couldn't help but notice."
Some of it's sad, and thought-provoking: "In Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a huge Baptist churchyard has hundreds of neat white crosses lined up in rows to memorialize aborted babies."
Benda throws in a laugh or two: "The only thing worse than a deer in the headlights is a skunk under the bumper." And, "A highway billboard for a Reno, Nevada, motel says, 'You are getting verrry sleepy ... "
But even more unexpected is the book's lack of a front cover. Or a back cover. Or even pages in between them.
Benda' book is online.
That means "Important Things" rides the cyberwaves and can be found at an "address," not on bookshelves. But it's worth looking for.
Benda's "book" is at www.rarwriter.com under a link called, "Currently Hot on RARWriter."
Like any other book, Benda's online book is divided into chapters:
"Chapter One: When will it fall off into the ocean?" One excerpt from Chapter One: A little Japanese lady in California grows the best strawberries you've ever tasted. She sells them fresh picked and dead ripe from her little roadside stand in Lamont.
"Chapter Two: I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more." Buffalo Bill's Scouts Rest Ranch is near North Platte, Nebraska. But his final resting place is on Lookout Mountain in Colorado.
"Chapter Three: The South's gonna do it again." Only in the South can you find the Church of God Prophecy Holiness Get with It Tabernacle Assembly."
"Chapter Four: Jacksonville by 5 o'clock Tuesday morning." A watermelon farm manager in Florida says she has tasted watermelons from everywhere and the very best ones come from Michigan. Whooda thunkit.
"Chapter Five: Didn't you see the sign?" A little town in Fairmount in Indiana has a big billboard that says, "Hometown of James Dean. Where cool was born."
"Chapter Six: Ain't that America?" The most interesting rock formation in the country is at Vedauwoo, between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming. Go see for yourself.
"Chapter Seven: Things that go jump in the night." Sometimes, driving a semi in the middle of the night in a howling snowstorm on a winding two-lane highway, you just want your mommy.
"Chapter Eight: West, wild and weird." A 50 percent chance of rain in the desert west means half of the forecast area may get a light shower. A 50 percent chance of rain in the South means the entire forecast area will get hard rain half the day.
Benda grew up near Atwood and Achilles, Kansas, on his parents' hard-working farm, according to his "publisher," Rick Alan Rice, (rarwriter) a cousin of Benda's wife, Sarah.
Rice writes about his relationship with Don Benda: "I have known Don Benda since he attended ... country school in Achilles, east of Atwood, in one of those one-room buildings so small that students had to step outside to turn the page in their textbook."
Benda played football and ran track at Atwood High School, graduated, left town and then returned. The years and experiences since cause Benda to describe himself as "journalist/truck driver/x-ray technician/salesman/farmer/insurance agent."
He now works as a radiology technologist at the Rawlins County Health Center in Atwood.
Don said he encourages readers to search out his "book," and take a half-hour or so to read it. "It's fun ... it's a chuckle," he said. "Everybody has a little bit of wanderlust. Everyone can relate to something in the book."
Rick Rice's rarwriter.com site started in 2006 as a personal website to showcase his own writing. Describing the site's evolution into much more, Rice writes: "This site has always been about the individual pursuit of artistry that has a capacity to effect positive change in the world. All of the artists profiled on The Links are emissaries to this higher calling."
Rice concludes: "The creative people profiled on this site have grown from a community of friends and associates, with a shared history, to become a confederation of like-minded spirits from all over the planet who are trying to give voice to this brave new technological world we have made for ourselves - the world of the Internet, which at least for now re-levels the creative playing field and gives talented people of every stripe an opportunity to make a meaningful contribution for the betterment of us all. This is the purpose of The Links."