Tuesday, August 03, 2004

The Milk Truck Bogey

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Many years ago When I was young and dumb.

I used to change and repair truck tires for Danny's father, Bob. Bob owned a trucking outfit and I had been changing tires for him since I was 14 years old. He would wait until he had several flat tires then he would call me and take me to where he had the tires and vehicles and leave me with tire changing tools. His stepson, my friend Danny, would work with me, and sometimes my brother; and I could make up to $10.00 in a day, which was good money for a punk kid back then.

The process to change a large truck tire, by hand, is labor intensive and dangerous. It involves using large pry bars, sledge hammers, blocks of wood, hydraulic jacks and an assortment of smaller tools for patching and airing the tires.

Bob bought an old milk truck and removed the refrigeration unit so that we could use it to transport our tools and ourselves back and forth, (so he didn’t have to). The milk truck was quite ancient with loose steering and the wind blew through it as if it didn’t have any doors. The truck did not have a heater but it was a place to use for a windbreak, somewhat, and to get out of the rain.

Danny called on a Saturday morning and said, "Dad wants us to go over to Henderson, (a town across the river from us), and change some tires". I said ok, and he came over to pick my brother and I in the milk truck. It was in November and it was raining and as cold as it could get without freezing.

On the way, Danny jerked the steering wheel and said, "watch this". My brother and I were sitting on an old tire in the back, there were no seats, and the truck started swaying side to side, worse and worse, until we slid off the tire we were sitting on and all the tire changing tools were skittering around on the floor. We stared yelling at Danny and he grabbed the steering wheel and the truck quit swerving back and forth.

Now that I’m older I realize that, "watch this", has been the last phrase spoken by many a redneck but Danny thought it was the height of sophisticated wit. He laughed like demented clown and did it again, so I picked up a tire iron and whacked him a good one on the shin. He was sullen the rest of the way to Henderson.

My brother thought that the whack I gave Danny was funny but refrained from laughing out loud because I was still holding the tire iron and eyeing him.

We arrived at the place where the trucks, trailers and tires were and worked for a while. The rain had tapered off to slow cold drizzle and our hands were getting numb from loss of body heat. I complained and Danny said that he had a charcoal grill, starting fluid and charcoal in the back of the truck. So we took them out and started a large charcoal fire in the grill and when the flames went out we put the grill in the back of the truck with the doors open so we could take breaks to warm our hands, and other body parts, over the hot coals in the grill.

We finished the job and Danny said that we needed to change a couple of tires elsewhere. We loaded up the tools and I started to dump the charcoal when Danny said, "Just put it in the milk truck, we’ll need it again and it’s so drafty in the milk truck we aren’t going to suffocate." So we piled into the truck and took off.

We were approaching an overpass on a cloverleaf interchange when Danny looked back at me, gave an impish grin, then whipped the steering wheel again. The truck swerved back and forth harder than before. I was too busy, trying to keep the grill from flipping over with my foot, to do anything about Danny. The truck was swerving wildly and Danny couldn’t seem to get it under control. We struck the guardrail, the truck was top heavy, and it flipped over the rail and rolled down the embankment toward the road going under the overpass.

I don’t know how many times the truck rolled over, at least once, not more than three times. My brother, the tire tools, the sledge hammer, me and charcoal grill did a bit of acrobatics that I don’t believe I’ll ever forget.

The truck landed upright and Danny managed to hang on to the steering wheel and stay in the seat, with a very strange look on his face.

There we were driving down the road in the wrong direction, bruised like we had been in a fight with baseball bats and swatting at smoldering clothes and singed hair.

I earned my money that day!

1 comment:

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