Guardian Angels or Instinct?–You Decide
There have been a few times in my life when I have narrowly escaped the Grim Reaper. Some of those close calls were due to the foolishness of youth, but I have one such escape in particular I would like to share with you. One in which I truly believe my Guardian Angel, working through Dad, snatched me from the Reaper’s clutches.
During the early 1940s, Dad and one of his farmer neighbors were trucking partners of sorts. He and this neighbor were more than friends; they were practically like brothers. They were not partners in the sense that they were in business together, but rather they traveled together when they hauled their barley to Ogden, Utah.
They also had a bit of rivalry going between them. Both drove Ford Trucks. Dad favored his 100 horsepower V-8, while his partner favored his 95 horsepower in-line six. He said because the six had a longer stroke, it developed more torque at lower rpms, therefore giving it the same or more pulling power than the higher rated V-8. At any rate, both trucks, by today’s standards, were grossly underpowered for the twenty-two thousand pound payloads they were carrying.
Both trucks were equipped with “add on” tag tandem axels. Tandem axels were not readily available from the factory for smaller medium sized trucks—and farm semis had not yet come into vogue—so those who wanted to expand their trucks to carry bigger, heavier loads, looked for a shop that would install an add on tag axel. It wasn’t until after World II that factory built tandems became more commonplace for those smaller trucks. As I recall, those two trucks were the only “ten wheelers” in and around the valley of Grace until after the war. Both men also added air brakes to the tag axels, which will play a major part later in my story.
It was a day in January or February when the two men finished loading their trucks about four o’clock in the afternoon. With the size load they carried, and the limited horsepower of their trucks, the one hundred twenty mile journey to Ogden, Utah took five to six hours at best, so they usually left Grace early in the morning in order to get to Ogden in time to get unloaded that same day.
Since they had to shovel their loads off by hand, or use a Mormon Board, it would usually be dark when they finished. The two weary truckers would take a hotel room in Ogden for the night and arrive back in Grace the next day in time to get loaded for another trip the following day.
(For those unfamiliar with the term Mormon Board, it was a large sheet of plywood with two handles attached. A long rope was tied to the board; the other end was looped over the saddle horn of a saddle horse. Upon signal from the man in the truck, the rider would nudge the pony forward pulling grain out the rear of the truck.)
Why they decided to leave for Ogden late in the evening on this particular day is unclear to me. But since it was a Friday, and there would be no school the next day, I talked Dad and Mom into letting me go on this trip. Around five that evening, we set out on our journey. Not long after, it began to snow, and eventually turned into a raging blizzard. The Cleveland store was a few miles south of Grace. The two pulled in there for a cup of coffee and to assess the situation; whether to turn back, or go on. After a while, the storm let up, and they decided to continue.
When we left Grace, I had asked Dad if I could ride in the other truck as far as Preston. Dad’s partner had a new 1942 Ford truck that was only about two months old. He had bought it just before domestic production was halted to produce trucks for the war effort. I liked riding with him in this new truck about as much as I liked riding with Dad. When it came time to leave the Cleveland store, however, Dad said he wanted me in with him. I protested. I reminded him that he said I could ride in the other truck until we got to Preston; but, still, he insisted I ride with him.
He said he had a nagging uneasy feeling, and he wanted me in his truck. A few miles south of the Cleveland Store was the Treasureton Hill. By the time we arrived there, the blizzard was raging again, and visibility was practically nill. We started down the hill. Dad was in the lead, and was taking it pretty slow. He and I both felt a jolt on the back of our truck. Dad decided he had better stop to see what it might have been. Turns out, with the poor visibility, our traveling partner had not been able to see us in time to avoid hitting us in the rear. When he did see us, he threw on the auxiliary air braking system.
This sudden braking and his hitting us in the rear, buckled the frame of his truck causing him to lose steering control, and he landed in the barrow pit completely smashing the right side of the cab where I would have been sitting. Had Dad not insisted I get in with him at the Cleveland Store, I would have been nothing but a grease spot.
One more instance when the Grim Reaper was denied access to me. Our friend was unhurt except for a bruise on his chest where the steering wheel had him pinned until Dad and others who had stopped to help, could get him out of the cab.
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