Connecting with an ex-mule: dropout turned trucker delights audience with new autobiography

driver turned author Finn Murphy regret dropping out of Colby after three years here? Not one bit: “for me at the time, I had taken as much as I was willing to take. It was the right decision in terms of my life. I’ve never looked back from that.”

After dropping out, Murphy covered more than a million miles as a long-haul trucker and then wrote a book—The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales to Life on the Road—which was published this year by W.M Norton. The Denver Post’s Jason Blevins describes Murphy’s memoirs as “a rare fascinating glimpse into the lives of big-rig pilots and the people they move… The Long Haul beguiles readers with wit, wisdom, and observations born from decades in transit.” The book is both deeply personable and uproariously entertaining, just like Murphy himself.

Murphy told the Echo about some of his formative experiences at Colby, such as his freshman year JanPlan stay at a Virginia commune. Because he grew up in a strict Catholic household, Murphy was drawn to philosophical ideas of anti-authoritarianism in college. After studying the commune however, he quickly realized that “whatever patina a social organization puts on itself, it doesn’t really matter that much” since Murphy believes society’s true ailment—authoritarianism—plagues both collectivist and individualist societies alike.

Murphy holds strong beliefs on the topic of authoritarianism. His favorite book is 1984 by George Orwell because Orwell “describes authoritarianism not in terms of -isms but in terms of who is in control of someone else.” Murphy innately views authority figures with distrust. “When somebody tells you they’re doing something for your own good, check the premises. Then double check the premises. They may be doing it for your own good, but most people only care about their own agendas.” So what’s the solution to this problem? “Eternal vigilance for freedom is the only thing that halfway works. Looking for panaceas, looking for utopian social order is the road to authoritarianism.”

In fact, Murphy was drawn to the trucking industry precisely because of the freedom it offered him from authority figures. As Murphy explains, “I’m not against rules, I’m against dumb rules.” Between his views on authority figures and his deeply-held belief in the American dream, Murphy decided that dropping out of Colby was the right thing to do, despite the protests of his parents. Although he’s happy with his decision, Murphy admits that trucking does not offer total freedom from authority. “Every time I stop for a meal, every time I fart I’ve gotta put it in my logbooks to send to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”

Now, Murphy is more disillusioned by the concept of the American dream than when he dropped out of college. “Here’s what I know now: I did not know all the gifts I had been given from my family: the education I received before Colby, the education I received at Colby. I wanted to be the working-class hero starting from the bottom. The thing is, I didn’t actually start from the bottom.”

In fact, when he dropped out of Colby, Murphy “didn’t even know I was starting at a different point in life [than most people]. There are millions of people who think they’ve pulled themselves from their bootstraps and they don’t even realize the leg-up they’ve had.” Knowing this now however, Murphy explained that “if there’s anything I want to see change in terms of the social fabric of America, everyone needs to get a leg-up from the beginning. Why don’t we all just understand that we’re not starting from the same line?”

37 years after he dropped out, Murray still has fond memories of Colby. Specifically, Murray appreciates the College’s academic rigor and even compared it to the trucking industry: “Colby academics set an unwavering standard based on merit. It’s like on a moving van, you either execute the work or you don’t. There’s no room for equivocation or excuses. It either gets done or doesn’t get done.” Furthermore, when Murphy chose to travel across the United States working as a long-haul mover for his junior year Jan Plan experience, he said he “didn’t see any judgement” of his Jan Plan choice from students and faculty. “I love the Jan Plan for that and I’m so happy that they’re still doing it.”

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