Convoy: a Novel by B.W.L. Norton
In 1978, a tie-in novel for the motion picture Convoy was published. It was written by B.W.L. Norton, and it advertised the movie on its covers.
TO MEN HE WAS
A LEGEND IN A
BIG RIG. TO WOMEN
HE WAS A LEGEND
OF ANOTHER KIND!
NOW A BREAKNECK
ADVENTURE FILM FROM UNITED ARTISTS
Starring KRIS KRISTOFFERSON
and ALI MacGRAW
a novel by B.W.L. Norton
BREAKER ONE-NINE —
HERE COMES RUBBER DUCK AND
THE BIGGEST, MEANEST, RAUNCHIEST
TRUCKIN’ ARMY EVER!
THE SPEED LIMIT WAS 55…and the
truckers were mad. At 55, the haulin’ was
slow, the take was poor, and the bears were
shining their badges and licking their chops…
Then Rubber Duck appeared.
He knew what to do.
They were gonna make themselves
a Convoy — an asphalt-crunching
They would roll past the tanks, the bears,
the poised machine guns…
roll wild and proud,
straight into trucking history…
The runaway novel of the men and women
who fought The Great War of the Open Road!
[From the page before the title page:]
KEEP ON TRUCKIN’ WITH THE CONVOY . . .
RUBBER DUCK: The Michelangelo of truckology, the brains behind the Convoy . . .
DANGEROUS CURVES: She fit her handle like a glove — but Rubber Duck was well-equipped to make the sharpest turns . . .
LYLE “COTTONMOUTH” WALLACE: The sneaky, snakey ole boy of a bear who had nasty plans for Rubber Duck's tender hide . . .
LOVE MACHINE: He had the sweetest little pleasure palace on eighteen wheels — and no queen to share the fun . . .
WIDOW WOMAN: The lady trucker . . . she was woman enough to take on four husbands — and every one of them died with a smile on his face . . .
by B.W.L. Norton
DELL PUBLISHING CO., INC.
1 Dag Hammarskjold Plaza
New York, New York 10017
Copyright ©1978 by American Gramaphone/EMI, Inc.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law.
Dell ® TM 681510, Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
Printed in the United States of America
First printing—May 1978
My thanks to Lary Gibson without whose help this book couldn’t have been written.
The giant tank lumbered into position on the northern approach to the bridge. It was an M-60A2, one of the most advanced prototypes, not usually assigned to the National Guard, but this was a crack unit, the best in Texas, and sure to be the first called up in any national emergency.
While the men on the tank completed their final course and range adjustments, the rest of the squad fanned out into the rocks and scrub on either side of the road.
“Damned if I know what we’re doing here,” one of them wondered aloud. “This ain’t no war.”
“Shut your face, man,” his buddy ordered curtly. “Listen.”
From the distance came the low-pitched rumble of powerful engines approaching rapidly like a summer storm. The noise sent a wave of activity through the two Texas State Police cars and the single armored riot-control vehicle that were backing up the action across the bridge.
Suddenly a black Mack diesel came roaring around the curve and semijackknifed to a stop about fifty yards from the tank guarding the bridge. Before the dust had a chance to completely settle, another M-60A2 pulled around the bend behind the truck, effectively cutting off any escape to the rear. Behind this second tank was a line of big-rig diesels that stretched back around the curve and out of sight. In the abrupt silence that followed, the giant machines seemed to be holding each other at bay like prehistoric animals.
“It’s him all right,” the guardsman spoke again. “Look at the hood on that truck.”
The hood ornament on the Mack had been replaced by a Woolworth-type rubber duck, identifying the driver as their quarry, the man whose spirit and determination had brought them all--the police, the truckers, the National Guard, even the FBI--to this time and place: the Rubber Duck.
The police PA suddenly sounded from across the river: “Surrender. Surrender immediately or you will be fired upon.”
Inside the cab, the Duck turned to Melissa. Now more than ever, her throughbred good looks seemed woefully out of place. She should be photographing this action, not taking part in it.
“You better get out,” he said softly.
“What are you going to do?”
As she waited for his answer, Melissa noticed how tired the Duck had become, not just from the events of the last couple of days, but from the years and miles on the road, too many miles, strange women, strong drink that had creased his face like a map. His amphetamine-triggered eyes darted over the situation like a snake’s tongue, but he only said, “Better go.”
“You will be fired upon unless you surrender,”the PA broke it. “You have ten seconds. One… two…”
The Duck cracked the door on Melissa’s side of the cab and pushed her gently toward it.
“But what are you going to do, Duck?” she demanded as part of the answer began to hit her.
He took in the scene one more time—the tanks, the police, the squad of men lining the road. Then his eyes came back to hers, asking her to understand.
“Keep on truckin’. Now git.”
Slowly, feeling very old and useless, Melissa climbed out of the cab and walked away. She heard the door slam behind her but didn’t look back. She didn’t want to see what was coming.
“…ten,”the PA rasped. “This is your final chance. Come out with your hands over your head.”
The tense silence was broken by a sudden Indian war whoop which in turn was drowned out by the roar of four hundred diesel horses as the Duck put the hammer down. The black Mack shot forward, charging certain death—the tank directly ahead.
Inside the tank Corporal Elton Beauregard racked his .50-caliber M-1 HMG and prepared to fire. The crazy son of a bitch was going to get blown away, right now. The radio crackled, “This is Colonel Ridgeway. Hold your fire. This is a police action. I repeat, do not fire unless ordered to do so.”
As the truck approached the bridge, the Duck threw himself to the floor of the cab, steering blindly with his left hand. If he had calculated correctly there might be just enough room.
Almost miraculously, the truck wedged cleanly between the tank and the retaining wall of the bridge, striking both at once and tearing off the cab’s fenders and doors. But somehow it was through and heading across the bridge toward the scattering police forces on the far side.
Almost immediately, the M-60 machine gun mounted on the riot car opened up. In a matter of seconds the Mack’s windshield disappeared and steam began pouring from its punctured radiator. But it kept coming with no sign of slowing despite the terrible punishment it was moving through.
Inside the cab, a bullet ripped throught the Duck’s arm. But intent on steering and punching the gas pedal, he felt no pain or fear. A pure, perfect rage was his shield against all that.
Suddenly, an officer wearing an Arizona Sheriff’s uniform leaped to the top of the riot car and took control of the gun. He centered it on the VOLATILE CHEMICALS sign stencilled across the leading edge of the trailer. He muttered something that sounded like, “Blow, you asshole,” and pressed the firing mechanism, etching a line of holes through the center of the sign.
The resulting explosion was only slightly less than nuclear. A fireball sprinkled with pieces of truck, bridge, wheels, mushroomed a good forty feet into the air above the river. The clearing smoke revealed nothing but the burning debris of the trailer. The cab had crashed through the metal guardrail and now rested somewhere beneath the rocking surface of the river.
Sergeant Lyle Wallace climbed stiffly down from behind the gun. The Convoy was finally over.
* * *
It was the damndest big funeral procession that Albuquerque, or any other city, had ever seen. At its head, the casket, empty because the Duck’s body was never found, rode in state on the back of a cabover-flatbed truck, the bullet-shredded rubber duck from the dredged-up cab mounted proudly on the gleaming wood like an emblem.
Behind the lead truck and its motorcycle escort came several undertakers’ limousines filled with ex-wives, children, immediate and extended family. Following them were more limousines carrying many who looked suspiciously like politicians—major and minor officials on the way up or the way down. Bringing up the rear was the longest damn convoy of trucks that the world has ever seen outside of a major war zone.
The first several blocks were occupied by heavy-duty cross-country rigs—K-Whoppers, Jimmies, Macks, Fruitliners—washed and polished to a blinding brilliance and rumbling like a procession of leashed animals. Following them was an even longer line of trucks of every age, shape, size, and description, from massive earthmovers to laundry delivery wagons. A little boy at the corner by the park began counting the vehicles. When he reached his limit, one hundred, and there was still no end in sight, he gave up and went back to playing with his friends.
On one of the smaller flatbeds, a nationally known folk singing group was introducing what would be it’s next million disc seller—a mournful, low-key ballad called “Good-bye, Rubber Duck.” Despite its carnival appearance, the mood of those in the procession and the thousands who lined the streets to witness its passing was uniformly somber. A great man, one of them, had died.
A television newsman from one of the local stations stood in the middle of a group of truckers, talking professionally into a mini-cam. “They came in semis, garbage trucks, dump trucks, and even limousines. Truckers. The living embodiment of the American cowboy tradition. A lonely breed. Men too proud to cry, but they can’t but shed a tear or two now. The Duck is dead. Who was he? And why does this first martyr of the American trucking industry deserve such respect? For it is love one feels here most of all, the honest love of one man for another that fills this procession and the thousands who have gathered here from all over America to witness this solemn event. And why—?”
There was a sudden movement among the circle of men as a massive, bearded trucker named Nasty Mike stepped forward and grabbed away the microphone. The camera and sound men scurried around to focus on him.
“I’m tired of this bullshit,”he bellowed at the astonished newsman. “And there isn’t a man here who doesn’t feel the same way.”Several growls, whistles, and you-tell-em’s from the assembled men urged him on. Nasty suddenly caught the newsman by the collar and began screaming into his terrified face.
“I’ll tell you why we loved the Duck. Because of pussies like you, that’s why. You government, big business, TV bastards think you own this goddamn country; and the rest of us, why, we don’t count for shit. Ain’t that right, boys?”
There was a more meancing growl of assent from the other truckers who had closed up the circle around the two men.
“And,” Nasty Mike continued, lifting the newsman up on his tiptoes, “the Duck never took none of that shit. This is our country just as much as anybody else’s. And now that he’s gone—those sons of bitches blew him away, I mean—we ain’t going to forget it. That’s what this here thing is all about. You tell that to your pussy manager, and your pussy FCC, and your pussy government. You tell ’em that the men in this country are starting to move. And this time they ain’t gonna stop—no way.”
He dropped the newsman back on his feet and strode away through the crowd followed by his friends, headed for the nearest bar and one hell of a drunk.
At the edge of the crowd a kind-faced elderly woman turned to a pretty young woman dressed in black with a camera and equipment bag dangling from her shoulders and whispered, “I never heard of him.”
The younger woman lowered her camera now that the truckers were out of range and replied simply, “He was the greatest trucker that ever lived.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that. I mean judging from the size of the procession here. Are the taking the remains out to Memorial Cemetery?”
Melissa smiled grimly. “No. To Washington. They’re going to put the casket on the steps of the Capitol until they get an appropriation to build a permanent monument.”
The old lady pondered this answer before speaking again. “My goodness, all the way to Washington, the Capitol.”
“I suppose,” she continued timidly, “he must have been very important. I don’t meant to seem ill-informed, but what exactly did he do?”
“He started the Convoy,” Melissa answered flatly.
“Oh, you mean all those trucks that—”
“Oh well, now I understand. It’s a shame he had to pass away. Did you ever meet him, this Rubber Duck?”
“Yes. Oh yes, I met him. I was there when it all began.”
And in Melissa’s eyes, the old lady, who was neither quite so naive or uninformed as she sometimes made herself out to be, could see a story beginning to form.