Listening: Breaker-Breaker One-Nine

The lights on my brother’s CB radio cast a doily of light on his bedroom floor.   I could barely read the words scribbled on a piece of notebook paper in no. 2 pencil: Smirky Traxor.

I said them out loud. No, no, it’s sounds like you’re reading it. Try it again, natural this time—real natural.

But it hitched up in my little 11 year-old throat and crackled out, “Smer-er-ky TRACK—sor .”I sat still, while the CB radio crackled and hissed. I wound the curls of microphone cord around my fingers and nervously eyed the mic, still safe in its clip. I didn’t dare touch it lest I hit the button while clearing my throat and practicing my first line. My heart raced. I swallowed hard and took a deep breath.I fumbled getting the mic out of the clip and launched it over the back of the stereo-stand right into a cobweb. Great, off to a real smooth start. Smirky Traxor, this is the Smirky Traxor, I repeated.I was ready. My thumb pressed the button, the radio hiss when silent and the airwaves were all mine. But I chickened out.

I wiped the sweat from my hands onto my jeans and tried again.

“Breaker, breaker one nine, this is the Smuh. Smuh-SMIRKY TRACK-SOR!” I released the button, my heart was booming like thunder. You goober, I thought.

“Yeee-aah there, Smirky, this is the Green Hornet, what’s your 10-20?” A man’s voice emerged from the static. It sounded far away, but clearly he was responding to me.

Ten-twenty. I know what a 10-20 is but I can’t say Panora. Panora’s small, everyone knows everyone in Panora.

“Yeee-aah, Green Hornet” I counter. “Coming at ya from the big P-town.” I groan inside. You sound like an idiot.

“P-town? P-town. *pause* “Don’t knowzziff I’ve heard of P-town.”

I get this nervous metal taste in my mouth. What was I thinking! I can’t think of a single thing to say.

“Uh, Smirky, do you read me?” *pause* “Smirky?”

Click. I silence the radio—as the mic slides from my hand. Clunk.

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That’s the extent of my illustrious stint as the Smirky Traxor on CB radio channel one-nine.  I got the “handle”—my CB name—out of my 6thgrade English textbook, from an exercise on diagramming sentences. But CBs, yah, CB radios were the BIG thing back then.CW McCall had made CB radios and trucker-talk all the rage with a series of trucker songs starting with the Old Home Bread commercials. Every kid that was anybody knew ALL the lyrics to the commercials and the songs “Wolf Creek Pass“ and “Convoy.” Plus a handful of others.Yep, to whip through those tongue-twistin’, lightning fast, trucker-talk lyrics was what real heroes were made of back in fifth and sixth grade in Panora, Iowa.

People didn’t drive fast, they “put the hammer down.” The speed limit wasn’t 55, it was “double nickel” and you didn’t say bye, you said, “Catch you on the flip-flop.”

What did I learn about listening from this?

You check back here with ol’ Smirky tomorrow. *wink* Then, I promise, I’ll tell you the rest of the story.

Next Learning to Listen post: “Gator in the Granny Lane”

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Until then, enjoy a little slice of Americana brought to you by Old Home Bread (or Kerns Bread, depending on where you lived back then.)

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Catch ya’ on the flip-flop!

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6 thoughts on “Listening: Breaker-Breaker One-Nine

  1. I’m on the edge of my seat!! I’m waiting on the flip-flop! I can’t wait to read the next installment of learning to listen. 🙂

    1. Working on it, Amy! It’s at the unruly-oh-my-stars-look-at-the-word-count stage. Gonna go get some fresh air and come back at it with new eyes. Stay tuned.

      Thanks for the encouragement.

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