Brian Koser's Reviews > Trucking Through Time

Trucking Through Time by Charles E. Harris
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did not like it
bookshelves: 372-pages, fiction, first-read-2019, new-authors-read-2019, own, read-2019, sci-fi, time-travel, favorites

Quality is a circle; sometimes a book is so bad that it completes the circle and becomes good. Trucking Through Time, by Charles E. Harris, is so bad that it swings around through good, then keeps right on going until it's firmly back in bad. This might be the worst thing I've ever loved.

Karate. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Indians (his term). Soldiers. Chases. Escapes. True love (OK, actually the second-worst and worst romances I've ever read). Humor (unintentional). Humor (intentional and not funny). Paragraphs far more repetetive than me listing "humor" twice. Historical errors. Catch phrases. A completely blank page. And dialog that sparkles like concrete.

The plot: Chad and Dale are two truckers who go back in time to save the Indians (his term) by sending a telegraph to the president. They are rewarded by the Great Spirit with a wife and a daughter-in-law.

My favorite part of the book is Chad and Dale's catch phrase, "Damn it, boy". It's quite versatile. Here is every occurrence in the book with its corresponding emotion (everything is [sic]):

Confusion (p7): "Damn it, boy, I don't know where to put all this loot."
Satisfaction (p6): "Damn it, boy, I slept like a log."
Excitement (p18): "Damn it, boy, I sure like these." [binoculars]
Insecurity (p22): "Damn it, boy. You and I are the only ones in here without cowboy hats."
Agitation (p28): "Damn it, boy," he said as he hit the ground running for the lobby. [stepping into heavy wind]
Annoyance (p35): "Damn it, boy, I still have 0800."
Sarcastic (p37): "Damn it, boy, you're too kind." [after the other says, "I don't want to chance your big ass falling on me."]
Fear (p63): "Damn it, boy, they're all around the camp." [wolf tracks]
Surprise (p67): "Damn it, boy, you sure heal fast."
Camraderie (p104): "Damn it, boy, you tell him," Dale said.
Anticipation (p146): "Damn it, boy, hotsprings," Dale declared. (amazingly, said to a woman, not a boy)
Indifference (p190): "Damn it, boy, Collins is one angry cowboy."
Amusement (p191): "Damn it, boy, this sounds serious," Dale laughed and looked at Dancing Leaf who blushed and said with the same kind of smile Dale had on his face.
Lust (p239): "Damn it, boy," Chad said, knowing the torment they were both going through.
Observation (p255): "Damn it, boy, he just won't learn, partner," Dale said as Chad kicked high in the air, catching Collins on the side of the head.
Agreement (p255): "Damn it, boy, you're right."
Amusement (p278): "Damn it, boy, don't you ever give up."
Complimentary (p281): "Damn it, boy, you sure have a way with the women."
Disappointment (p325): "Damn it, boy, they're gone," Dale said as they ran for the truck.
Wonder (p328): "Damn it, farm boy. We did change history."

Another favorite aspect begins on page 5: "He and his partner were as different as night and day, and the most unlikely team you could imagine." When I read this, I paused and imagined the most unlikely team I could. I came up with "Juror #5 from the 1957 film version of 12 Angry Men" and "a pumpkin". On further reading I learned that Chad and Dale were the most unlikely team because Dale is bigger than Chad and also has a beard. The rest of the book informs you that both men are:
- Truckers
- Ex-military
- Trained in karate
- Avid readers
- Enjoy Louis L'Amour westerns
- Currently dressed in jeans, western shirt, black vest, boots, and baseball cap
- Trained in CPR
- Experts with pugil sticks
- Agree on everything and think identical thoughts

Chad and Dale are very woke for two truckers from Tennessee. They talk a lot about "the greed and prejudices of white man" while praising "the most decent people we'll ever know" who "kill only for food or to defend themselves", "so you tell me who is the savage here". Then the Indians (his term) capture a white criminal, who is definitely bad (attempted rape, hits a boy). The Indians (his term) put the man on a torture pole, beat him, scalp him while still alive, castrate him, then burn him to death. Dale: "You don't know enough to say whether they're right, wrong, or just indifferent." Then: "Indians do not have schools to teach them the ways of the white man...What you and most white man think as savage, is only a way of life for the Indian." Chad: "Dale just said we don't condone the torture, we just understand it. It's their way, their custom. You can't argue the point." I guess this is the author's attempt at "both sides have room to grow", but it's the most clumsy, high-school-freshman-essay way of doing it.

I'm mostly sure that Harris used the term "lick" to mean "punch" in the fight between Dale and Collins on page 253. But I'm not completely sure. You be the judge:

Dale: "Captain, why don't you tell Collins to come up here and put the chains on us? I'll shut his mouth permanently."
"Collins swung at Dale again and Dale blocked his lick and plastered him on the chin and Collins landed flat on his tale with a thud."
Dale tells Collins he learned karate back east. "Speaking of learning, you have a lot to learn, Collins, and keeping your mouth and comments off my partner and me is one you just learned...Your mouth seems to get you in a lot of trouble."
Collins stares at Chad and Dale. "Maybe he just wondered how they licked him so easily." "Collins was known to be pretty tough because he had licked many of the soldiers before."

(This next section I wrote on 1 hour of sleep in the previous 36. It made sense at the time.)
The time period Chad and Dale travelled to makes no sense. But it goes deeper. My extensive research and resulting string wall have convinced me that someone is altering the timestream!

Chad thinks they are in the late 17th or early 18th century. Obviously he means the late 1700s or early 1800s, but even this is soon contradicted:

(1867-????) Collins meets the three Indian scouts in Cheyenne, which was founded in 1867.
(1868-1890) We're in the Wyoming territory, which organized in 1868 and became a state in 1890.
(1858-1890) General Rollins et al. are stationed at Fort Bridger, which existed from 1858-1890.
(1868-????) Green River is a town near the fort, incorporated in 1868.
(1868-????) Chad tells Captain Troy they came from Georgia via Chicago (town organized 1833) and North Platte, NE (founded 1868), with the destination of San Francisco (ceded to US 1848).
Chad doubles down on late 17th or early 18th century based on soldiers uniforms and rifles. He claims Custer fought the Indians during this period, although his years of service were actually 1861-1876, and he only fought Indians 1866-1876.
(1861-????) Wilson tries to escape to Colorado (territory or state is not stated). Colorado became a territory in 1861.
(1864-1867) Rollins sent to Fort Collins for reinforcements, which was only a fort from 1864-1867.
(1861-1865) Rollins says Chad and Dale could be working with the Confederates.
(1902-????) Rollins contacts the Census Bureau, which was founded in 1902 (!!!!!).
(1861-????) Wyoming got the telegraph in 1861.
Chad doubles down on late 17th or early 18th century based on soldiers uniforms and rifles. He claims Custer fought the Indians during this period, although his years of service were actually 1861-1876, and he only fought Indians 1866-1876.
Chad triples down on "early 1800s" based on rifles the soldiers have.
(1862-????) The military started using taps for "lights out" in 1862.
Chad tells Captain Troy they represent the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which was actually known as the Office of Indian Affairs until 1947. Oops a daisy.

The pinnacle of this madness is on page 248. Maybe I've been staring at this too long, but Dale's logic makes no sense to me:
1. Slim Fox is Sitting Bull.
2. Custer was 20 or 21 when he was killed.
3. Slim Fox is 12.
4. The Battle of the Little Bighorn was in 1870 or 1871.
5. 20 years plus Slim Fox's age (12) is 32 years. 32 years before the battle is 1838.
6. Conclusion: The year is 1838, plus or minus 2 years.

Why are we adding Slim Fox's age to Custer's age when he died? Even if it made sense, his numbers are riddled with errors:

1. Sitting Bull's original name was Jumping Badger.
2. Custer died at 36.
3. I can't find where we found out his age. Input welcome.
4. The Battle of the Little Bighorn was in 1876.
5. The math is correct.
6. Very false, considering this whole discussion.

To quote Chad and Dale, the ONLY POSSIBLE CONCLUSION is that someone is altering the timeline. It obviously does not match our timeline, which would require the year to be 1902 at the earliest, and 1865 at the latest.

Postscript: I wrote this before finishing the book. Near the end we find out that James Garfield is the current president. That narrows the date range down to six months: March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881. There's snow on the ground, so odds are it's at the beginning or end of that range.

A few of my favorite sentences of the book:

- p14 "I spent the night at a restaurant parking lot across the street from the truck stop because there was no room anywhere else because of all the other trucks."
- p42 "Chad, where is the interstate and telephone poles and everything else we are accustomed to seeing, like people?"
- p70 The two met at the same time, almost bumping into each other.
- p72 "We are trapped in the late 17th or early 18th century. That means white men are scarce and Indians are plenty."
- p72 "It all adds up to a bad day for the home team, and we just happen to be the visiting team that's trailing."
- p84 The General wanted Wilson badly because he had made him appear incompetent by allowing him to steal fifty U.S. Government horses from the fort, right under his nose.
- p85 He was fair with his men and very well liked by most everyone, including the Indian.
- p88 He only hoped the General would accept them as good trackers and not as savages as he thinks all Indians are, in his mind.
- p98 Pandemonium struck as both forces began firing at one another, the soldiers with their rifles and the Indians with their hatchets and bows.
- p104 "I assure you, Collins, we are in cahoots with no one."
- p122 Chad and Dale were happy to see the boy smile with such happiness and joy.
- p128 As she and Dale left the lodge, Chad felt his heart would explode not having his friend with him all of a sudden.
- p133 That maiden will be a reward and the one also rewarded.
- p135 "Dumb Indian," Chad said, and they all laughed.
- p137 Everyone was friendly, with smiles or nods for them and some even patted them as they passed.
- p138 Chad looked at her smiling face and grew an excitement he hadn't felt in some time.
- p144 Chad couldn't get past the idea of being with Light Feather with her beauty and graceful style, while Dale just wanted a bath.
- p146 "Damn it, boy, hotsprings," Dale declared. "This is the one thing I've always wanted and I'll certainly enjoy it."
- p146 "Please understand that I appreciate you very much, but I must not give any thought to this matter because of my love and respect for my wife."
- p147 He released her and saw in her eyes a deep true longing he'd not seen give him by anyone so ravishingly beautiful and innocent.
- p148 The submissive and passionate smile on her lips told Chad that he was about to have something he had wanted throughout his life.
- p149 Chad was so filled with emotion he could only watch this young maiden as she washed him and did it with the care and tenderness you would expect a mother to give a small child.
- p149 His heart was finally taken by the beauty and caring nature of a real, down-to-earth princess.
- p153 Of all the things the troops could imagine, war with the Sioux was not the most pleasant.
- p158 "Black Hawk," Jim Eagle said to Black Hawk as he jumped from the roof.
- p163 "We refuse to discuss it, but you can rest assured our time together was totally and completely enjoyable," Chad answered, not caring in the least what anyone thought. "We are squeaky clean."
- p165 "I have an idea, that what we do from this point on will be for the betterment and survival of the most decent people we'll ever know." The sincerity of his words was shown in his eyes. He had chosen his words carefully.
- p167 There was much laughter and warmth, feelings that were surely conducive to the times of young happy boys.
- p167 Dale put both his hands behind his back and around Slim Fox's shoulders.
- p169 "Enough! Place this white dog on the torture pole near the fire so we all can enjoy his pain."
- p171 Dale went to his other side and took his other arm to help him up.
- p172 "Dale just said we don't condone the torture, we just understand it. It's their way, their custom. You can't argue the point."
- p176 "That's what took us so long, we had to bury so many different parts of the bodies."
- p183 "Let's just shoot the General. Solve whole problem." They all laughed and sat down for a cup of coffee.
- p185 "I actually think he is more of a savage than these people," Dale said matter-of-factly.
- p187 "You are a fool, Collins."
- p188 "To the white man, it's a movement for power, money and the destruction of a people for expansion and the possibility of gold, silver and more room for cattle and cities for white men the could absolutely care less about the beauty of the land that God gave us."
- p189 "I don't eat dog meat," Collins said sarcastically.
- p191 "Princess, I would marry you before Congress, the entire Sioux Nation and before all the Armies in the world. You excite every sense from passion to panic and I would be honored to have you to show off to my mother and family. You can bet your little moccasins I'll marry you," Chad answered with the excitement of a teenage boy.
- p209 "It is hard not to fall in love with someone as honorable as you."
- p210 "I am normal."
- p222 She actually seemed to glow like a picture of an angel without wings."
- p233 The only explanation possible would be that this was a genuine miracle. Maybe God had a plan and revealed it through an ancient Indian ritual.
- p236 They decided to make a point of sending a message to the War Department and also to Congress.
- p242 The Captain saluted the General and left his office thinking all he said was rubbish.
- p244 "You should probably contact his news or press agent."
- p246 The shaman told them not to take chances but to remember the Great Spirit would be with them always.
- p250 "My butt is getting sore from riding this frazzling horse."
- p255 "Speaking of learning, you have a lot to learn, Collins, and keeping your mouth and comments off my partner and me is one you just learned."
- p259 "Indians do not have schools to teach them the ways of the white man."
- p260 "My partner speaks for both of us, General."
- p262 "Captain, that was known as karate. It's an art known by a handful of people back int he United States. The government was given permission to send a few men to China to learn the art."

[review continued in first comment]
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Reading Progress

July 5, 2019 – Started Reading
July 5, 2019 – Shelved
July 5, 2019 – Shelved as: 372-pages
August 16, 2019 – Shelved as: fiction
August 16, 2019 – Shelved as: first-read-2019
August 16, 2019 – Shelved as: new-authors-read-2019
August 16, 2019 – Shelved as: own
August 16, 2019 – Shelved as: read-2019
August 16, 2019 – Shelved as: sci-fi
August 16, 2019 – Shelved as: time-travel
August 16, 2019 – Finished Reading
November 21, 2019 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-4 of 4 (4 new)

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message 1: by Brian (last edited Aug 17, 2019 08:57AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Brian Koser - p263 "But afterwards, we must get down to details on the matters concerning the problems at hand."
- p264 "Using careful wit and logic."
- p266 "We've already said more than we need to, Captain." - summary of the book
- p269 "We are gathering information that may help our cause to educate the backward and heathenish people, be they Indian or white."
- p273 "If we are to be tried for something, we may as well be guilty."
- p283 TO THE WAR DEPARTMENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA stop YOUR LEADER IN CHARGE OF FORT BRIDGER IN THE WYOMING TERRITORY. stop CONCERNING HIS ACTIVITIES stop NONE ARE BY OFFICIAL RECORD TRUE stop ONLY INDIANS TO MAKE TROUBLE ARE NONTREATY stop THEY ARE WHERE NO WHITE MAN WOULD LIVE stop HIGH IN MOUNTAINS AWAY FROM CIVILIZATION stop THE GENERAL IS TO ATTACK VILLAGE OF PEACEFUL INDIAN SOON stop MUST BE STOPPED stop IT COULD BEGIN LARGE SCALE WAR stop SIOUX VILLAGE TO BE ATTACKED HAS TREATY stop IF GENERAL BREAKES TREATY stop WAR WILL ENSUE stop CAPTAIN TIM TROY IS EXEC stop SHOULD BE IN COMMAND stop IF WIRE IS SURPRISE stop IT IS GOOD YOU KNOW TRUTH stop IF SIOUX ARE ATTACKED AND KILLED stop AMERICA WILL HAVE TO CONFRONT ALL THE WORLD stop AMERICA WILL BE FOREVER EMBARRASSED stop
- p293 "He is the most loyal officer I've ever known," she said, grasping her chest.
- p300 GENERAL ROLLINS Stop MAKE NO ATTEMPT TO VENDICATE FORBES DEATH Stop INFORMATION RECEIVED CREATES DOUBT OF YOUR ABILITY Stop RELINQUISH YOUR COMMAND TO CAPTAIN TROY Stop PLACE YOURSELF ON INACTIVE ROLL TILL FURTHER NOTICE Stop. James A. Garfield, President of the United States
- p306 "Parlay, my ass."
- p308 "The truth I'm speaking of, is your hatred for a people you don't understand because of lack of want. You have to want an understanding, before you are able to have understand. Yes, these people are different from the white man, but not indifferent unless you make them indifferent."
- p310 "You smell of arrogance you are so wrong."
- p312 They followed the chief to his lodge to discuss the entire situation in the sequence as it had happened to this point.
- p313 "These two men that found your son, also found a way to the truth. They have shown to the world and to me, that it is possible for the white man and the Indian to live close and in peace."
- p319 "Of course, I had other things on my mind and began to pet and play with Light Feather, when the strangest thing of all happened."
- p329 "We may have lsot eight hours and fifteen minutes, partner, but we gained seven days of mystery, drama, excitement, compassion, horror, and romance along with many, many other words that could never explain the trip we took, trucking through time."
- p333 "Dumb Indian is all I have to say, Miss Weathers."
- p333 "To be honest, I had no idea he was Indian. I only know you are the most beautiful lady I've had the pleasure of seeing with my own eyes. Please do not take my words as a danger sign."
- p334 "And believe me when I tell you, we have met before. You might say I've already loved you in my mind."

I read this book with the 372 Pages We'll Never Get Back podcast. It's a book club for bad books. Highly recommended.


message 2: by Clint (new)

Clint This was a lot of fun to read!


message 3: by Ben (new) - rated it 1 star

Ben De Bono This is near the top of the 372 Pages canon for me. Ranking in terms of enjoyment (because they all suck in terms of quality!)
1. 64 Squares
2. Trucking Through Time
3. Eye of Argon
4. Ready Player One
5. Tek War
6. Armada
7. The Mister
....
99999999999999. Bob Honey


Brian Koser We alternate so Melissa read Armada and 64 Squares; going off the podcast, my ranking would be the same but with 64 Squares moved down to 3. I started Bob Honey but Sean Penn beat the completionist out of me. At least that let me skip The Mister


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