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The trucker's tale, a brother gone but not forgotten

Discussion in 'Gone But Not Forgotten' started by skyking1, Mar 6, 2021.

  1. skyking1

    skyking1 Senior Member

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    I was recalling and writing a story from Slim, a dear friend who left us 15 years ago at 55 years young. He was a Viet Nam vet, musician, fellow pilot and as good a friend as we have ever had. He was also a truck driver by trade.


    Ken was tired, really beat. He was only 5 hours into a 10 hour one way run to Boise from Seattle. In Yakima, he had swapped trailers and doubled up for the run to Hermiston, where he would get a third trailer for the last leg. Triple trailers are legal in Oregon, even if not very much fun.
    To save precious time and miles, they cut across the Horse Heaven hills on 221, a flat and very straight two lane road through farmland. It was as featureless a drive as you can imagine, and completely dark at night with hardly a farmhouse light.
    He struggled to keep focus, using the old tricks of cold air, small pieces of candy, changing up the lighting. Sometimes you just had to take a power nap but the logbooks rule the day.
    You might meet two or three vehicles on this 27 mile stretch. One of those fellow truckers was approaching and he blinked at the unwelcome high beams. Something was not quite right with the picture, but his brain struggled to acknowledge the horrible truth. The truck was in his lane and closing with him at a combined 120 miles an hour. In that split second that stopped time, he had to decide how he might survive. Do you take the other lane and hope the other driver does not wake up and correct?
    He went to the right, off the road onto the shoulder and into the dark unknown. As they passed he glimpsed his back trailer and a 2' gap between it and the other truck.
    Now he brought the steering wheel left, and watched that trailer lift up off the left wheels as he plowed the shoulder and some mystery crop with his right wheels. It was a slope down from the road to the farm that he was riding now, and he was at the mercy of some nameless grader operator who shaped that shoulder with care.
    As he clawed his way back onto the pavement the trailer rode the downhill wheels but never did roll over. Cresting back onto the pavement, the 75' long combination started a vicious crack-the-whip as the trailer slammed back down on all the tires. He corrected and corrected again and again, and braked down to a halt. He was completely awake now!
    As he sat there with a racing heart, he looked in the mirror and a mile away, he saw the brake lights of the other trucker. they both sat there on the lonely road, and he gathered his wits and walked around the truck looking for damage.
    The two never talked to each other, perhaps on different CB channels. What would you say? Ken waited and shared that distant bond, until the brake lights went out and the brothers in cargo continued on into the night.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2021
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  2. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    That one brought tears to my eyes. I've never been quite that close, but I can indeed relate. Godspeed Ken.
     
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  3. Coaldust

    Coaldust Senior Member

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    Wow, Skyking1.
    What an outstanding literary composition of the highest degree and a great story about lost friends.
     
  4. stinky64

    stinky64 Senior Member

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    Wow, If you've never thought about pursuing your literary aspirations perhaps you should reconsider...You had me back in the seat, along with the pucker factor..While every driver will eventually experience some sort of "near miss" there's nothing like dragging two or three wiggle wagons down the road and hearing the driver behind you in a wind storm come over the radio saying "hey Corn Flake keep your foot in it 'cause your tail wagon keeps coming off the ground" To this day I sometimes have dreams of getting in the dirt and laying a wagon over...Your brother Ken woulda dug your rendition...
     
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  5. skyking1

    skyking1 Senior Member

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    Thank you guys.
    He was the sweetest most loyal friend my wife and I have ever known.
    Slim was a lover of people. You knew he loved you just a sure as the sun rose. He was never angry with anyone, the most he could be was disappointed.
    My wife and he had a special relationship. He was a charmer in his "California trucker tennis shoes" (western boots) and western shirts, and would come by whichever office she worked in with flowers and a big kiss and hug every now and then. The office hens would explode with the gossip, knowing me and speculating on her "boyfriend". This was repeated over the years at different employers and we had a huge laugh about it. Another handsome common friend caught on and repeated it, and then a young guy from his shop who was 6'5" and built like greek god stopped by and picked her right off her feet. But it all started with Slim :)
    She was working in the surgery the last time, and he had to have an elective procedure done. She was his "wife" for that one and some more co-workers got suckered again :)
    He did come to our house and we cared for him post surgery.
    The truck driving story above was the first of a couple of close calls that got him to leave the road and try to hostle at the yard. That move really kicked his ass, yard hostling is damn hard work at a busy place. His last long haul straw was broken while descending Ladd canyon on I-84 with triples in the ice and snow. He never ended up in the ditch as far as I know, but something happened.
    I reached out to some common friends with that story I first wrote here. It was good to touch base with them and each of us has a hole in our hearts that he still occupies.
     
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  6. JPV

    JPV Senior Member

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    I felt like I was along for the ride, I could picture it all. I have had one close call like that in a snowplow where we both stopped on opposite sides of the bridge that we almost hit in the middle, collected our wits and watched the other guy until we both drove off never talking. Inches from a fatality, it all worked out. Someone was looking out for me and Slim, they say the Lord looks out for children and fools, and I ain't no child...
     
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  7. skyking1

    skyking1 Senior Member

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    he also told me a plow story right near our home, on an east-west road with tall trees. It could build ice all day. He met the plow on this regular county road with deep ditches and little in the way of shoulder. The driver lost control and the 10 wheel plow came around almost majestically, riding down the crown of the road sideways and filling it from fog line to fog line. It slowly continued the spin until he was faced the other direction. Slim had come to a safe stop at a good distance and just watched it happen. The driver probably rearranged his jimmies and then put the bed up and decided that it was as good a place as any to commence sanding :D
     
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  8. skyking1

    skyking1 Senior Member

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    stinky a special thanks to you. I had not heard the term "wiggle wagons" since I heard him say it. My wife nodded when I read your post to her.
     
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  9. Truck Shop

    Truck Shop Senior Member

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    Operating tow trucks out of Ellensburg I saw my fair share of sadness.

    I got a call from Millie the owner, {Mike WSP call there's a wreck at MP 135 I-90 lumber all over the road need it cleaned off. Ok I will take #9} and I hauled ass east at about 7:30 pm on a Sunday.
    When I got there it was hard to make out the destruction because there was so much of it. I dropped the sling and pushed 4"X 10" milled lumber to the side of the road. Swept up the small stuff.
    Then looked over the scene.
    There were 68 guard rail posts sheared off and guard rail all over the median along with lumber and what was left of the tractor trailer. There was a gouge in the asphalt that just went and went
    about 3" deep. Talking to a WSP on their early guess the driver lost his brakes according to another truck he passed {the other driver told him it's going to get steeper better get it under control.
    The real young kid from Missouri driving the load of lumber apparently replied { I have no Brakes and now I'm in neutral I hope I can out run the this hill}. A car and truck headed west bound
    told the WSP Quote { His flat bed flipped end for end 3 times}. WSP guessed speed at 110 plus when it rolled on it's side in the last corner before the Vantage Bridge.
    It took us 11 hours the next day to clean up the freeway.
    It was this poor boy's first trip driving in Northwest Mountains. He was only 21 he died a week later in Seattle. Worst wreck I've ever seen and remember it like yesterday.

    Sorry to Hi Jack
     
  10. skyking1

    skyking1 Senior Member

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    Not a hijack, just a solid reminder of how serious the business is. Mom had a tow driver friend who was killed alongside the road on Snoqualmie.
    You know the roads around here. A young driver did much the same on those wicked westbound corners on White pass right before Cayuse, and wrecked and knocked trees down onto Cayuse below. Witnesses and his skid marks told the story he was out of brake and miles below the single runaway ramp on that road.
     
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  11. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    An old man once told me that if you burn them out, look for someplace kinda soft to lay it in, before those white stripes start to look like a solid white line. I've never had to make that decision *yet* but I am certain sure that memory took a few miles per hour off every steep grade I ever descended under load.
     
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  12. JPV

    JPV Senior Member

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    What I was told when I started hauling logs was if you are going to lose it pick your spot carefully, don't get hurt, don't hurt anyone else, and make sure the truck is totaled. I kinda thought that was asking a lot!
     
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  13. AzIron

    AzIron Senior Member

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    I was told by a driver that worked for dad years ago if your going to drive in the metro you have to make peace with the fact an accident is likely to kill someone make sure it's there fault kinda harsh but it's just a fact

    At 21 I went wheat harvesting hauling combines on county roads at 65 miles an hour metting hay trucks and cattle haulers headed the other way going much faster really takes the green outa the driver in a hurry the first 2 move I crawled outa just fried from whit knuckle driving
     
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  14. lantraxco

    lantraxco Senior Member

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    Yes, there's a Zen thing to it, you have to figure out what your limits are and how much you're willing to give up to keep others alive, even when maybe they don't deserve it. Driving truck to me was a bit like being a tugboat captain in a river of idiots in smaller craft trying to get themselves killed, and a few less than sane other tugboat captains out there with you. When I was running lowboy around Portland metro area my goal every day was to make my average: Saved three lives today, and they never knew it.
     
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