There were times we “got to” ride in the back of the truck. I remember sitting in the truck bed, eating avocados out of a bag. We just peeled them and got green all over our faces. When we were pretty small, we were riding there with Maria, the young Indigenous woman who helped around the house. Mom always put headscarves on us because of the cold and wind. We were coming down the five cobble stone, hairpin curves into the Calderon Valley when Jan’s headscarf blew off. To little kids, that feels like a disaster so we began to bang on the cab and shout. When Dad stopped the truck and Mom came around to see what the matter was, Maria said, “El pañuelo de la niña Janny cayó. (Janny’s headscarf fell off).” All Mom only heard “Niña Janny cayó,” (Janny fell out) and ran back up the road, looking for her. Just then, a big truck came by and she saw the headscarf disappear under the wheels of the truck. As we screamed from the back of the truck, we saw Mom almost collapse on the side of the road. But all she saw after the truck passed was the head scarf. What a relief when she found that the headscarf was all that fell out and not Jan.
Once we were in school in Quito, the truck was often how we got to and from school. Sometimes, we would all try to cram into the cab. Jim would have to sit by the door and hold it shut as we went around the curves because the latch was broken. In the back, we had more room and more comradery. We read and made songs or jokes about the signs we passed. There was the flying horse of the Mobile Gas and the yellow shell for Shell Oil. There were always Coca-Cola signs everywhere and also signs for Alka-Seltzer. Sometimes, the control gate was down and sometimes it was up. It was a pole across the road with a big rock tied on one end so it could be lifted by a person. It was often used for collecting a toll but not always. Perhaps it depended on the government at the time. I also learned to tell the little girls from the little boys who played by the road at the control. If they only could afford one piece of clothing, little boys wore shirts so it was clear that they were boys while little girls wore panties.
On the way to school one morning, we came upon a large truck that had overturned. The trucks served as buses as well. The cabs were longer and open and had benches. People rode there as well as on the cargo that they were carrying. The truck was on its side and there were people crying and bleeding. Of course, there were no ambulances back then. So we stopped and picked up some of the injured. Jan and I were in the cab when the door opened and a woman got in, holding a blood-soaked towel to her face that appeared to have been torn off. We slipped out the other door and got into the back, where we shared the rest of the ride to school with people who were crying and covered with dirt, blood and grain from the bags that had broken open when the truck overturned. Sensing their grief and pain, we cried along with them.