Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pass me a grape Nehi …

Truck writers are a nutty bunch. I got an e-mail today from Rufus Sideswipe, the gearjammin’ imaginary pal of Land Line columnist Bill Hudgins. This e-mail was a copy of a note sent to another Land Line columnist, Dave Sweetman.

Rufus, it seems, read Sweetman’s column in the October Land Line and liked it a lot. If you haven’t read it, it’s called “Blue Highways,” and I agree it’s one of Sweetman’s best. Good enough to bring a fictional character like Rufus “to life,” I guess.

Allow me to share this exchange. The fictional Rufus writes to Dave:

That was one fine journey back down the backroads in Land Line. That other writer fella, Bill Hudgins, what quotes me all the time – he says he read “Blue Highways” and “Travels With Charley” and “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and did some roaming, too. But then he got sidetracked and stuck in one place with that Wilma of his. Thanks for the trip! – RS

Now considering that Bill wrote this in the guise of Rufus, I really like the “Wilma” touch – seeing as how Bill’s wife is WILDA, not Wilma.

In fact, I couldn’t resist shooting off a totally fictitious note to Rufus myself, claiming to have run into Hudge back before we were truck editors. I said I thought I saw him once, standing on the corner in Winslow, AZ.

I copied Sweetman, who was quick with a reply to Rufus, copying me back, of course.

Awww, shucks! To get a word or three of kind encouragement from the well traveled Rufus, is plum flatterin’ alright. Guess that means I have nine readers now, including my dear old Mom.

And I always did like that Hudge feller’s writing. Met him a time or two, but not in Winslow, or Show Low or Tupelo. We talked once about sharing a couple pulls on some Lem Motlow, till we found out it costs more than the GNP of BearWhizBeckistan. When the subject of who was buying came about, the subject pert near changed fast as greased lightnin’. A bottle of grape Nehi was affordable and had the same effect.

Again, many thanks for the kind words and for being a Land Line reader.

That Dave feller

This Rufus Sideswipe stuff is all in fun, of course. Hudge says he invented the character years ago. Did you know that many readers actually DO think he is real?

OOIDA Member Bob “Cowpoke” Martin of Lafayette, IN, is one guy who doesn’t buy it, though. In fact, Hudgins’ literary leaping back and forth in and out of the Rufus character once prompted CP to e-mail me with the question “does Land Line have a random drug testing policy in place?”


  1. You and Cowpoke might be interested to know that I created Rufus in 1980 as an altered ego for a newspaper column; after spending half our lives together, it's not surprising that you're never sure which one you're addressing - we're not always sure which one is doing the talking, either.

    Back at the newspaper, Rufus used to talk about stuff like backward masking - remember that, playing your lps backward to hear the satanic messages? - U of TN football, and always the helical relations between men and women. I think he once took on Sen. Orrin Hatch, but as an altered ego, that could be his false memory.

    After I left the paper, I didn't see him much, and was as surprised in the 1990s to find out he was driving truck. (With a name like Sideswipe, you'd think he'd have a hard time getting loads!) He and Sweetman became friends quickly, which explains a lot.

    Anyway, you can reach Rufus at

  2. Whatchu talkin about Roofus aint real?????

  3. 40 year?
    I sometimes get accused of not being real, either. Some days, more unreal than others, but that is what 38 years truckin' and 4 1/2 million miles does to ya.
    I've learned a lot from Ol' Rufus over the years..he's a good role model...just sometimes ya learn what NOT to do, if'n ya catch my drift.

    {altered ego, indeed...bwahahahaha}

    the real Dave Sweetman

  4. Yes yes we understand. Now everybody put down those grape nehi's and nobody will get hurt.


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