If there is any universal trigger of nostalgia in the United States, it is the Golden Years of the 1950s. Glamorized to this day, the innocence of youth, the music on the radio, and of course, the tons of steel molded into cars are some of the most common visuals associated with the period. DeSotos, Hudsons, Chryslers, Lincolns, and all other manner of road behemoths piloted the burgeoning highways of America, guzzling gas and fueling the joy the driving every mile of the way. Simply a beautifully written novella, Jack Cady’s 1993 The Night We Buried Road Dog reflects back upon the era to evoke a similar nostalgia, and in the process touches upon aspects more intrinsic to the motion and direction of the human spirit.
The Night We Buried Road Dog is the story of Jed and his life in small town Montana circa 1961. He and his friend Jesse both car junkies, the hammer of pistons on the open road is their religion. So in love with automobiles, when Jesse’s decrepit Hudson gets too old, they bury it in his front yard, complete with a tombstone and epitaph. But Jesse does not spend long without a car, a giant Lincoln is soon burning rubber beneath his feet. The highways of the night forever calling their name, mile after mile is racked up by the pair. But everywhere they go, they see markers and signs left by the mysterious Road Dog—a man some think is real, and others just a legend of heartland USA’s open highways. One night driving home, an even more mysterious thing happens: a ghost car flashes past, and in its wake the mystery of the Road Dog deepens.
A poignant piece of nostalgia as much as it is hardwired into the subconscious of being human, The Night We Buried Road Dog is a gorgeous novella. The prose not lush and flowing as one might imagine given the adjective, rather it effortlessly outlays a reflective yearning difficult to capture with words.