Table for Two

Steve Haley


Steve Haley


Feb 15, 2024

Table for Two

I graduated from Todd County Central High in the last week of May1977.  On Thursday, May 26th, I startedworking for Hudson Brothers, Sales and Processing.  Hudson Brothers was a local family-ownedbusiness just outside the city limits of Guthrie.  I was hired by the plant foreman, Joe Shelby,to help Mike Rose load trucks in the evenings for the next day'sdeliveries.  

The part-time truck loading job was the perfect position for a collegestudent.  I was able to arrange my workschedule around my class schedule at Austin Peay.  I began helping make deliveries when therewas inclement weather or school holidays. This allowed me to become morefamiliar with some of the routes.  As thespring semester of 1979 wound down, Mike and I were approached by the plant’stransportation dispatcher about filling in for vacationing drivers during thesummer.  

The driver I subbed for most made deliveries in Nashville to the H.G.Hill’s grocery chain. H.G Hill and Hudson Brothers were similar in that theywere both family-owned operations competing against corporate giants. My truckdriver trainer, who I will call Flint, was an economy of motion.  He was always looking for ways to make thedeliveries quicker and more efficient.  Iwatched how he worked and mimicked his actions. We soon became quite a team. Being a single young man I occasionally tried flirting with some of thefemale store clerks. They simply smiled at my ineffective efforts.  Flint playfully chided me saying, “Let’s go,Steve Haley. We don't have time for any of your shucking and jiving.”  

Flint and I both liked Wendy’s hamburgers, and it became our custom tostop at the same restaurant, order our food, and return to the truck.  We ate our ‘single with cheese combo’ inbetween deliveries. On our return to the plant, we would deduct 15 minutes fromour time cards.  By Flint's calculations,the time deduction accounted for what we spent ordering, paying, and mealpreparation.

The trucks we drove were lightweight 6-wheel Internationals.  They were basic models. The radios onlypicked up the very highest watt AM stations, and the air conditioning wastwo-sixty.  When I inquired what atwo-sixty a/c was, Flint said we would roll both windows down and go sixtymiles an hour to cool off. When the vehicles weren’t being used for deliveries,they were utilized to make pick-ups at area chicken houses.  Because of the nature of the business, flieswere attracted to the trucks, especially the cab.  After a couple of weeks of eating in thetruck for lunch, I asked Flint if we could eat inside the restaurant.  With a surprised look on his face, he said,“We will have to put longer than 15 minutes on our time cards if we do.” Ireplied, “I'm okay deducting more time. I want to eat in the airconditioning.”  

At this point, our conversation took a more serious tone.  Flint asked me, “Where will you sit?”  I said, “At one of their tables.”  Flint then revealed his true concern. He asked me where he would sit.  I told him he would sit at a table, too.  “No, no,he said. “Who will I sit with?”  Puzzled,I replied, “You will sit with me.” In my naïveté, I didn’t realize what he was asking until Flint looked at me with a surprised expression and asked, “You will eat at the same table as a black man?”

Flint was always a good friend and mentor.  He was about 15 years older and much wiser in the ways of the world.  During our time traveling together, we had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics from his time in Viet Nam, our faith, and mutual love of the church.  He grew up in an age where life was segregated, and I didn't.  His question about the restaurant seating was of supreme importance to him, but seemed strange to me. I started first grade in a desegregated classroom at Guthrie Elementary. I ate lunch with classmates of both races.  I sat next to classmates of both races, andplayed ball with kids of both races. I became friends with classmates of other races, and those friendships continued long after we graduated.

In the fall of 1980, I developed a life-threatening blood clot in my left leg that put me in very bad shape. One Friday Flint asked me if I would help him cut wood for his stove the next day.  I was agreeable but knew I wasn't much help with my limited mobility. I figured Flint wanted someone to talk to or be there in case of an accident.  I could stand in place, bust the cuttings with a wood maul and then hand them up to Flint in the truck bed.  After loading his truck high with firewood, we headed home. I told Flint I would help him unload the wood at his home.  He just smiled at me and grunted.  He turned onto Locust Street, in the heart ofGuthrie, and began backing his truck into our driveway. I asked him what he was doing. He said, “You need wood, too.” Because of my hospital stay, we hadn't gotten enough cut to hold us through the winter, and Flint knew that.  He must have noticed our dwindling wood pile on his daily commute to and from work.

We ate at the same table that day in Wendy’s.  We ate at the same table whenever we worked together from that day forward until I left Hudson Brothers in May 1989. Inverse nine of the 19th chapter of the book of The Revelation, the apostle John wrote,  “Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Someday Flint and I will dine at the Master’s table.  I look forward to seeing Flint again and retelling our memories at Hudson Brothers. They are too numerous to write about in a short story, so I will leave them for another day- perhaps a book.  I thank God that I didn't miss the opportunity to know this fine man, and that I didn't remember a time when we couldn't sit together in a restaurant or ride together in a truck.

About the author:

Steve Haley spent his childhood in Guthrie, KY during the 1960s and 1970s. He loves to recount the stories of his extraordinary ordinary upbringing in a small Southern town with his many friends. If you have any comments or suggestions you can email him at Setsof4Haley@ATT.Netor call/text him at 615.483.2573

Do you have some positive news that needs to be shared?

We're always looking for positive news to share with our community. Let us know all about it!

Share Your News

More Positive News