We needed diesel in the truck as we crossed over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg heading west. A giant billboard advertised a truck stop and superstore at our next exit. Perfect. Orange road work and flashing detour signs then announced that our exit was closed. We were re-routed around the truck stop and found ourselves on our way up the river road in Louisiana. “I’ll get diesel at the next town,” I told Marcia as we pulled our trailer through the cotton, soy, and cornfields of the vast Mississippi Delta, now heading north to Arkansas.
Struggling towns like Tallulah, Sondheimer, Alsatia, and Transylvania, dotted the table-flat landscape every 20 to 30 miles along Highway 65. Their store windows were mostly boarded. Peeling paint, sagging porches, and rusting cars told of communities left behind by progress. Between the towns, white churches tucked back in fields, were more common than houses. Large farming equipment and acrobatic crop dusters were all that were seen working the fertile land. Farm mechanization left many residents of this historically poor region unemployed.
We found no diesel in the first few towns we passed. Our fuel gauge continued to drop. The warning light had been on for miles. Looking at a map, I remembered that Lake Providence was a decent size town; we would fill up there. We pulled into town, made a hard left at a lonely stop sign, and spotted diesel at a ramshackle garage called the Hit and Git. There were two pumps out front and a small store next to the garage. Several men and boys seemed to be hanging out at the place, some drinking from cans in paper bags. Marcia announced that we were not stopping there despite our perilous fuel crisis. We continued to drive out of town.
A road sign read that the next town, Eudora, just over the Arkansas state line, was 24 miles away. The in-dash computer in the truck stated that we had 23 miles of fuel left. I turned to Marcia and said, “You can walk a mile, can’t you?” High cotton was all we could see for miles as we drove north with our fingers crossed.
We made it to Eudora and filled up with diesel. I now know that you can continue to drive the truck for at least a few miles when the fuel gauge is completely empty. But now Marcia will not let me ever get below one-quarter tank when we travel together. Perhaps it is for the best.