Trudy Andrew | Canadian Author

Tails From the Farm

Exciting Times

It seems, we can’t do anything, without adding a bit of excitement to it. With winter almost upon us, we had to get at hauling hay home. Before we knew it, snow would fall in earnest, and that makes the job far more difficult. Better to get it done on a warmish, dry day than a miserable one, especially when hauling from a distance. An early morning start, is also usually a prudent idea. It makes sense, if one stops to think about it for a bit. After all, if hay should be made when the sun shines, it’s only right that it should be hauled then, too.
We got off to a decent enough start. Though the weather was a bit crisp, the forecast was for a pleasant enough day, particularly for Manitoba in mid-October. Our first trip out was uneventful enough, until we were less than a mile, from where we had to turn off the highway. One second, we were happily motoring along. The next, we were careening across the highway. Back and forth, the truck and trailer jackknifed, while sweetpea kept her cool, and brought it under control. It was the strangest thing, that unexpectedly slick stretch of road. We hadn’t been the recipients of any precipitation at home the night before, but the further north we went, the more snow we saw. It wasn’t too big a problem though. For the most part, the highway was dry, and travelling no problem at all. Where it wasn’t dry, it was wet from road salt, and still not a problem. The little stretch of hidden treachery caught us by surprise. It wasn’t shiny, wet or greasy looking, but it sure did send us sliding. There was no spin out, no whipping or fishtailing, just pure and simple sliding. It was as if the truck and trailer were hydroplaning. I always knew, the girlchild was a great driver. The way she handled that truck and trailer was pretty, darn impressive. She didn’t panic, didn’t overreact, and didn’t hit the brakes and lose control. It was a textbook recovery, and we were all grateful that the oncoming vehicle, had been far enough away, as to not become involved and turn a good scare, into a tragedy.
The adrenaline rush of that near accident, reminded me of a scary, black ice experience I lived through, back when I still drove semi. Having a gravel truck, is great for hauling materials home for corrals and round pens, and hauling hay in a dump box is great for unloading, but it was our means of making a living, too.
The early morning starts were a given, yet if that early morning, started at a pit over an hour away, we had to leave home at a time when many aren’t even close to groaning at the sound of their alarm clock. One crisp, autumn morning, I dragged myself out of bed at about four or so, and got on with the day. I was hauling out of Gull lake pit, and I wanted to be first. I always wanted to be first. First into the pit, first out again. Gravel hauling is a rat race, and incredibly competitive.
By the time I was loaded and on my way, the first hints of dawn, were upon the horizon. There was about a half hour of two lane driving, before I hit the open, four lane highway. Two lane driving is okay, but four is so much better. There’s less worry about slow or nervous traffic. Slow traffic sticks to the granny lane, faster traffic runs on the hammer lane, and things move along, tickity boo.
At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Unfortunately, too many drivers run in the fast lane, even though they’re going slow. Well, I was happily trucking along, minding my own business, making good time, when I realized that I was coming up on some traffic, and far faster than it should’ve happened. Of course there were three in the fast lane, and only a couple where they were supposed to be, the granny lane. I was running the hammer lane, as I wasn’t doddling along. There were loads to haul, a living to make. Until this annoying cluster of cars, everyone had been driving in the slow lane, and I had simply flown by them. Though a ways back, I gave the air horn a little toot, just to remind them that they should get over, and out of the way. Pass and get it over with, don’t just sit there, creating a rolling roadblock. Sigh and groan, they stayed put. I had no choice but to back off and follow. It wasn’t as if, I could drive right over or through them. However, I still very much wanted them, to get out of the way. If I stayed in the fast lane, there was still a hopeful chance, the cars would move over. They could look in the mirror, and realize that a big, black semi was barrelling down on them. Maybe, just maybe, the sight would inspire some movement.
Taking my foot off the throttle a bit, I was surprised, when the trailer gave a little wiggle. Wiggling gravel trailers, is not a good thing, not at all. The second the wiggle happened, I eased back into the throttle. The rig straightened out. I could breathe a sigh of relief, for all of a few seconds. I still had a loaded truck to slow down, and was coming up on the traffic at an alarming rate. I tried letting up on the throttle again, as braking would be a huge mistake. For that matter, taking my foot off too much was also a bad idea. The unit needed to continue to pull together, in order to remain controlled and on the road. I hit the air horn again, then again and again. One car moved over and out of the way. It wasn’t good enough. There were still two in the way.
For the next few minutes, I did everything I possibly could, to slow down my rig, all with no success at all. It wasn’t looking good. If those cars didn’t get out of the way and fast, I was going to have to hit the ditch. It wasn’t going to be pretty, and I was going to be in for an incredibly rough ride. Then, just like that, another car moved out of the way. There was only one left to worry about. I hit the horn, over and over, all the while, still futilely attempting to slow the rig. I could see the occupants of the cars glancing in their rearview mirrors, but that darn last car, wouldn’t move out of the way. At the very moment, I was about to aim for the ditch, the last car moved put of the way. I swept by and left them behind in a rush of steel and tires, and blasting air horn. I bet I was a good quarter mile past, when I realized, I was still pulling that air horn.
It seemed like a good idea, to stop for a while and take a break. I wasn’t the only trucker who stopped for breakfast that morning. We all needed a break. It probably took a mile to get slowed enough, to pull off the highway. Stepping out of the truck, I climbed down to feel terra firma under my feet, only to feel it against my rear instead. It was so icy, so slippery, it was near impossible to stand, never mind walk. I had gone down like a sack of potatoes! Black ice is an invisible danger, that’s for sure.

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About Trudy Andrew

Trudy Andrew lives on a small farm just east of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where she enjoys her Morgan horses. A dreamer since she was a child, its no surprise to those who know her well that her imagination would find an outlet in writing, as it has in the past through artwork.
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 Oakbank, MB