For a week, Sandi Purdum had been preoccupied with a new truck driver hauling small loads in her Frederick County neighborhood.
One afternoon, the two women's paths crossed on Rte. 194: Purdum in her five-axle, 18-wheel tractor trailer, and the other in her single-axle dump truck.
"Hey Morning Glory," Purdum said over her CB radio. "How long you been pushing that thing around?"
"Hey Midnight Sunshine," crackled back the other driver. "Tell 'em Morning Glory's been here a week-and-a-half."
"Hey Morning Glory, I started out eight years ago and I used to be scared to death of these monsters, don't ya know," said Midnight Sunshine . . . "You be taking care of yourself."
For Sandi Purdum, this year's Open Road Magazine's national "Queen of the Road," the voices at the other end of the radio are her daily sustenance as she hauls loads of up to 73,280 pounds from 6 in the morning until 6 at night, some 400 miles each day on short runs.
"I used to daydream a lot until they let us have CBs in our trucks. Knowing what's in front of me and talking to my friends, that's what's important to me. It makes the day go faster."
The short, sassy conversations keep her in touch with the layers of country people who have made up all 26 years of her life here in Walkersville, and with strangers who give her day an extra lift.
Since Open Road Magazine chose her as "Queen of the Road" for her "ability, talent and being pretty," she has made appearances across the country, becoming what one local newspaper called a "superstar" of the road. While she is free of feminist slogans, she is consciously "destroying" stereotypes of male and female drivers.
"Truckers are supposed to be raw and red-necked, ignorant and stupid. I don't even listen to redneck music," she says.
"People are afraid of me. I like my work. I think it's exciting and glamorous. I get good money to support Eddie (her 6-year-old son) and I enjoy my work. But I'm not some powerful thing; men and women don't have to be scared of me."
Purdum's progression from farmchild to farmer to trucker, has been logical. She was an only child of the Ramsburg family dairy farm near Walkersville. When he father needed a driver, 10-year-old Sandi got behind the wheel of a tractor. Five years later, she was operating the combine, cutting fields of barley, oats, wheats and rye.
That same year, her father built a new garage on the farm for which a truckload of concrete was called in. Enchantment with both the truck and the truck driver did her in. By 18, she was a professional trucker.
After two marriages, she now lives with her son in a 19th century frame house on her parents' farm.
"Maybe I shouldn't be here," she said, as she shifted gears towards Pennsylvania. "I almost went to California but I don't think I could ever leave Maryland. Maybe people here are narrow-minded - that's not the word - maybe traditional. But this has been home for the Ramsburgs since 1732, when my people came here as squatters. It's my home."
On promotional tours as Queen of the Road - to California, Michigan and Florida - there have been job offers at double her $13,000 salary in public relations jobs. But she has a horror of giving up driving for "office life" and has refused all offers.
Her addiction to the road is obvious. The animated chatter over the CB is constant. Children stop on their tricycles to wave at the female trucker and she sounds the air horn in reply, like a trapeze artist waving from a tight-rope, or a queen saluting on the road.
And there are the men who dominate the asphalt and concrete highways. As much as male truckers appreciate men. She is especially fascinated by "smokies," the handle for Maryland state troopers who are the foil for incalculable trucker games and maneuvers.
As she rumbled through a railroad crossing a quiet little town, a "smokie" came up from the right on a narrow crossroad, so startled by the female trucker that he screeched to a halt. "Whoope, did you see that guy!" she laughed. Immediately she was on the air trying to find the trooper on one of the CB channels.
"Tiajuana taxi, Tiajuana taxi," she said, twisting the dial but getting no response. "He doesn't have his ears on, the guy doesn't have his ears on." She meant he wasn't using a CB radio in the tan patrol car and she quit trying.
Someday, she wants to write a novel about the troopers who "are always on the line. I could happen anytime. If we (truckers) get a flat on the road it'd be the same thing, we'd be in trouble."
If the novel lives up to her expectations it will be filled with handsome troopers as well as courageous ones. "They're all so clean," she explains, important for a woman constantly surrounded by dust and grease. "They keep their hair cut neat and they're so good looking."
There are plenty of vignettes from her own life for the plot of a story: The time a trooper pulled her over to issue a warning when all he wanted was her telephone number; the troopers who joked with her over the CB through long night hauls, the troopers who "were supposed to be enemies of truckers but helped me out."
While she talked about her dreams refined in hours by herself on the road, Purdum frequently broke her conversation to point out houses. Since she hauls only sand and aggregate for the Lehigh Cement Company (her company, Mitchell Transport, is the sole contractor) she regularly delivers to brick factories.
Bricks, how they look in homes, how well they weather, have become a passion second only to trucks.
"A lot of guys didn't like the idea of hiring her," said Jim Costley, another driver for Mitchell. "To me it seemed natural," he said, while scribbling out his logs. "It took some getting used to, watching your language and sharing the bathroom. But Sandi's added some life to the place. Things aren't so dead around here anymore."
That night she had an evaluation scheduled at her son's school and there was supper to fix and her goat, chickens and garden to tend to.
"The thing I don't like is always being tire. I can't keep myself the way I'd like to. A lot of Friday evenings I'll just feel like going to the bowling alley with Eddie and having pizza. He'll see his school friends and I'll relax, have a beer."
She looked around her house on her parent's farm which she has been remodeling over the years.
"It's me and Eddie every night doing chores, reading, listening to the radio. I'd like a bigger family. I'm sure I will get married again."
Then she stopped herself and laughed: "I said my life was glamorous, didn't I?"