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Big Boy's Big Rig: The Leftovers

Big Boy's Big Rig: The Leftovers

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Big Boy's Big Rig: The Leftovers

102 pagine
1 ora
Apr 15, 2020


In the 1990s, when he was a magazine freelancer hustling books off a card table at craft fairs, the mall, and out of his car trunk, Michael Perry self-published two books: Why They Killed Big Boy and Other Stories and Big Rigs Elvis, & the Grand Dragon Wayne. In 2005, after the success of Perry's book Population 485, Harper Perennial published Off Main Street, a collection of Perry's essays, magazine articles, and short fiction. Big Boy's Big Rig: The Leftovers contains the 11 essays from Why They Killed Big Boy and Big Rigs, Elvis & the Grand Dragon Wayne that weren't included in Off Main Street. This new collection includes fresh reflections and commentary written for each piece by Perry in 2020.

Apr 15, 2020

Informazioni sull'autore

Michael Perry is a New York Times bestselling author, humorist, playwright, and radio show host from New Auburn, Wisconsin. Perry’s bestselling memoirs include Population: 485 (recently adapted for the stage), Truck: A Love Story, Coop, Visiting Tom, and Montaigne in Barn Boots: An Amateur Ambles Through Philosophy. Among his other dozen titles are The Scavengers (for young readers) and his novel The Jesus Cow. Raised on a small Midwestern dairy farm, Perry put himself through nursing school while working on a ranch in Wyoming, then detoured into writing. He lives with his wife and two daughters in rural Wisconsin, where he serves on the local volunteer fire and rescue service. He hosts the nationally-syndicated “Tent Show Radio,” performs widely as a humorous speaker, and tours with his band the Long Beds. His live humor albums include Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow and The Clodhopper Monologues. For more information, please visit

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Big Boy's Big Rig - Michael Perry




Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time

Million Billion: Brief Essays on Snow Days, Spitwads, Bad Sandwiches, Dad Socks, Hairballs, Headbanging Bird Love, and Hope

The Jesus Cow

The Scavengers

Visiting Tom: A Man, a Highway, and the Road to Roughneck Grace

Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting

Truck: A Love Story

Off Main Street: Barnstormers, Prophets & Gatemouth’s Gator

Roughneck Grace: Farmer Yoga, Creeping Codgerism, Apple Golf, and other Brief Essays from On and Off the Back Forty

From the Top: Brief Transmissions from Tent Show Radio

Danger, Man Working: Writing from the Heart, the Gut, and the Poison Ivy Patch


Never Stand Behind A Sneezing Cow

I Got It from the Cows

The Clodhopper Monologues



Tiny Pilot

Bootlegged at the Big Top

Long Road to You


WAY BACK IN THE DAY, when I was a magazine freelancer hustling books off a card table in the mall, I self-published two collections of my work: Why They Killed Big Boy and Other Stories and Big Rigs Elvis, & the Grand Dragon Wayne. Then in 2002, Harper Books published Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time. It sold better than expected, and as soon as it went to paperback, the publisher said, What else y’got? They framed it in more professional terms, but that was the message. A Harper editor and I went through a decade’s worth of my essays, magazine articles, and a dash of short fiction, winnowed them down, and published them in the collection Off Main Street, which contains the most unexpectedly popular essay I’ve ever written, the one about passing a kidney stone.

Eventually the last of the self-published titles found a home. (I discovered the final batch of Why They Killed Big Boy in a box while cleaning the barn. They were scuffed but we still sold out of all but those the mice befouled.) I still get requests for fresh copies now and then, but in light of the fact that 9 of the 16 pieces in Why They Killed Big Boy and Other Stories, and 16 of the 20 pieces in Big Rigs, Elvis & the Grand Dragon Wayne are included in Off Main Street I could never justify reprinting and reselling that much material. I repeat myself enough as it is.

Instead, Sneezing Cow publishing (previously Whistlers and Jugglers Press, after a Shel Silverstein song sung by Waylon Jennings, my prime literary influence at the time) presents Big Boy’s Big Rig: The Leftovers. As the subtitle not-so-subtly suggests, what you have here are the 11 pieces not included in Off Main Street (plus the original prefaces). You’d have to be a completist to even consider purchasing this book, so with an eye toward history, added value, and taking shots at myself two decades after the fact, I’ve gone through the old pieces and added commentary.

And now, with gratitude, I am off to write something new.

Why They Killed Big Boy Original Preface


When I first began writing, I frequently used the name Michael Ryan, and did so until very recently. Why? There were a couple of reasons, neither of them especially interesting. But for one significant reason, the pen name itself was meaningful to me.

When I was casting about for one, I knew I didn't want a pseudonym the likes of Michael Diamond or Destiny Arisen. I wanted something unobtrusive and simple, but of meaning. In the end, I settled on Michael Ryan, in memory of my sister, Rya.

Rya came to our family when she was two weeks old. She had Down Syndrome and congenital heart and lung defects. For the next five years, through numerous surgeries and setbacks, she was, as my father put it, a trouper. Unaware of the definitive distinction, I always imagined he meant a resolute, marching soldier; a trooper. I can still see her, an oxygen mask for her and one for her doll, leaning against a small bench in a position that eased her breathing, watching our farm family at the end of the day, clowning as much as her lungs would allow. Rya died when she was five. The influence she had on our lives runs too deeply to describe - at least I am inadequate to the task. Let me simply say her spirit remains woven through our lives.

As I began to sneak a few things into publication here and there, I got the occasional note from an editor saying there were already some Michael Ryans out there, writers far more established than I. Lately there has been more confusion. So, I've returned to the name on my tax return, and that's fine. But for one last time in print, here's to the little trouper.

She still shows me how to march.

UPDATE, 2020: Just this year we rediscovered some old photographs of Rya. The images hit me like it was 20 minutes ago. Love and grief flow ever fresh. That said, my first reaction upon seeing those images was not tears, but a smile.

The line lately there has been more confusion is a veiled reference to correspondence I received in which a specific poet advised me to desist deploying my pseudonym as that was his name and he had a poem in The New Yorker. All these years later that is still his name and I still haven’t had a poem in The New Yorker.


(First published as Shooting the Split on the Drive Home in The Christian Science Monitor, August 1, 1995.)

THE TRUCK WINDS AROUND and down the on-ramp, picking up speed gradually and with effort, a fat gray beetle trundling into place among more nimble vehicles; scurrying two-doors, purposeful sedans, predatory sports cars. The kingpins are ancient, and float in their sockets; I must constantly nudge the steering wheel - left, right, left - to keep on line. I tuck the truck in the slow lane, keeping my foot tight to the floor. The pitch of the fourth-gear whine rises, climbing in harmony with the heavy roar of the six cylinders spinning behind the squat iron grille. The lugs on an out-of-season set of snow tires thrum against the concrete, setting the streetlights to dancing in the rear-view mirror.

My truck is an ugly truck. A '51 'Binder, the farmers call it, recalling a time when the International Harvester Company made corn binders, not homely pickups. A country boy attending college in the city, I couldn't believe my luck when I picked it up for $150 from a man hauling wood. Monumentally unwieldy, it is constructed from thick slabs of rolled iron. Gimme ten acres and I'll turn that thing around! a laughing farmer once told me. Originally a hearty red, the truck had been swathed at some point with a pinkish coat of primer by a man named Ron. Ron used a fat paint brush and saw fit to sign and date his runny work, daubing a Playboy bunny beneath the spare tire for good measure. The truck's exterior is copious with rust, but the pink primer dominates; hints of original red show through the thin spots. The fenders are great plowshares, turned inward, prepared to till the wind. The hood rises from between the fenders like the prow of a capsized boat, a strip of pitted chrome for a keel. I have owned this truck for over a decade; in that time I have driven it everywhere, double-clutching through the city, rattling the muffler off on the way to job interviews, shouldering accountants and clerical workers aside during the rush hour—all the while unspooling a long limbo of miles left undocumented by a broken odometer. For all those city miles, however, that truck and I were always at our best when we were rolling up Five Mile Road, northbound at 3

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