Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Tug's Wreck...

My friend, ER, in one of his recent posts, spoke of a wreck that he survived a number of years ago. It started me thinking about my own closest call.

Wednesday morning, March 10, 2004, about 8:10 am, I was pulling a load of live turkeys from a farm deep in the woods of eastern North Carolina to the Cargill processing plant in St Pauls, NC.

It wasn't even supposed to be my load, but one of the other guys had to go to the dentist that morning, and he asked me if I would trade schedules with him that night so that he could go home about 4:00 am and rest a few hours before he went. I traded.

The schedule on that job was erratic, to say the least. We went in sometime before midnight, giving ourselves enough time to get to whichever farm our first load came from, pulled two or three loads per night, and went back home whenever we dropped the last load of the day at the plant in the morning. The length of the workday varied according to how many loads, how far from the plant the farm was, and whether or not we totaled our truck that night.

The night was uneventful for the most part. I pulled my first two loads, dropped them at the plant, and took the only trailer that was left there, number 326.

Normally, none of us would pull 326, because it had weak springs on the right hand side, and was tipsy. It would scare you. We had complained about it to our supervisor, but most of our trailers were junk, and if they had put them all in the shop, we wouldn't have had any to pull the birds with. The only thing we could do was put one or two in the shop until they were fixed, and pull the rest until we got them back.

I hooked to 326, and headed to the farm. When I got to the farm, the loading crew was running behind, so I parked off to the side, and took a nap.

They woke me up about 7:30, and I pulled up to the loader. The standard procedure was to load half of one side, turn around, and load all of the other side, turn back around, and load the rest of the first side. But this what we called a "Cleanout Load." The last load of that flock, from that farm. I had to get every last bird from that farm on that load, and if it was heavy, then it was heavy.

They wound up loading the whole right side twice.

The side with the weak springs.

I made it seven miles.

I had stopped at a stop sign, and started again, and was up to around 35 MPH. The road curved around to the left, and about halfway around the curve, I glanced at my mirror, and observed my left side trailer wheels coming off the ground, real gentle like.

I cannot describe the feeling you get when you see something like that.

I backed off the fuel, and tried to set the trailer back down, but it kept on coming up, so I slammed the fuel back to it, to try to keep the cab ahead of the load. I knew at that point that I was going to turn over, and my main concern was not getting trapped under 2500 dying turkeys, out in the middle of the woods.

The truck turned almost completely upside down in a ditch with about a foot of water in it. When it stopped sliding, I climbed out the driver's side window, and surveyed the damage.

I had totaled an almost new, T-800 Kenworth road tractor, a 30 year old cage trailer, and killed 1300 of the little turkeys in the trailer, and almost killed the big one in the cab.

When I tried to climb back in to get my cell phone, there wasn't room in the cab for a human being. I had to find the headset cord, and follow it to the phone, and fish it out from outside.

Anyway, I called in, reported the wreck, and the ambulance came and took me away. (They wouldn't let me drive the ambulance...I was bummed.)

At the Hospital, I discovered that I do not have one single private part, but that I was not seriously hurt. I was one big purple bruise, but the only broken bone that I had was my floating rib on my left side. I had a cut on my head behind my right ear, a cut and sprained index finger on my right hand, and a sprained right wrist.

But that was it.

I lived through it. I don't know why.

I think about that every time I look at the pictures of that truck. I think about my wife of almost five months walking around the truck, taking pictures and crying. I think about myself, covered with mud and blood, sitting in the wheelchair at the hospital, trying through a case of mild shock to explain what happened, to the company safety manager, and what I must have looked like to him. I think about how my wife must have felt when she got that phone call at work, and learned that her new husband had just destroyed an 80,000 lb truck, and was at the hospital.

I think about how she must have felt when she realized that her new husband no longer had a job, and probably could not get another one any time soon. I think about how worthless I became as the depression set in over the next few weeks.

I'm glad she stuck with me through it. I certainly wouldn't have blamed her if she hadn't. I became a pitiful monster.

I think about how easily and quickly you can lose it all.

But she, my family and her family prayed me through the aftermath. Today I have a decent job, (Still driving tractor-trailers), my self esteem is back, and this is just an unpleasant memory.

But if anyone ever asks me how I know that there is a God, I can tell them that I know because I felt His hands close around me as the cab of that truck folded up.

Take it however you want, but I believe.

I got the pictures to prove it.

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