Monday, May 16, 2011

Gene’s 1962 truck ‘Merlin’

A Trucker's tale

Back in cold February, I was chugging up Highway 75; when suddenly right before Ohio Gulch, the rig started behaving badly and jerked to a halt. Turns out it was the transmission, and even though a mechanic-friend had recently inspected it with a fine-toothed comb, it was shot.

That cost some big bucks; and then, only a few weeks later, the truck started acting up again, at that exact same spot. As
Blaine County locals know, Ohio Gulch is the turnoff for the dump transfer, and just south of where the State sometimes sets up truck inspection stations. It’s also essentially the last safe place to pull over; if you’re heading north with a big rig in the area, and it happens to break down.

The second breakdown was caused by a fuel pump problem. I thought it was strange and yet a little fortunate that the truck decided to break down at the same safe pullover spot twice. Then I remembered; fifteen years ago, I was driving a rig full of rocks for a stonemason, and that truck broke down at the same precise spot. I had loaded Gene’s truck to the brim, with four and ¼ tons of river rock. As we approached Ohio Gulch, his truck started thumping loudly from the right rear side. I pulled over and soon saw that the wheel had actually rolled out from its base, while the lug nuts whizzed off like hot bullets in the wild-west sage. Although the tire and rim had shot off, it had miraculously wedged upright into a corner of the truck, keeping the masonry rocks from spilling out.

As I hitchhiked to the East Fork jobsite, passing over
Greenhorn Bridge, I became thankful that the truck had not decided to shuck off its rock, back to the river there. I wasn’t looking for that type of legend on my resume.

It’s funny; every time I drive past that Hyndman Creek house with a friend and see those river rocks shining so intact, I feel compelled to pull over, point at the stones and tell this story.

And it makes me curious to hear about other people’s experiences of breaking down at same spots.

And while we did laugh later, Gene told me, when he saw me walking the last leg of Hyndman, two hours late and with no truck, he thought, “This can’t be good.”


Another synchronicity occurred few weeks ago, when I was in this same proximity, dumping off an old mattress at the transfer station.

While up there, the garage-styled back door of my work van became wedged open in a manner that I could not shut it. Since I had another job scheduled, I tied everything down that might come loose, clamped the door to the roller as a precaution, and then headed back out on the highway with my rear door ajar.

As I pulled out, I gave the only other vehicle in the area a wide berth to scoot around me, but he would not pass right away. I felt as though he was checking out my rear door and might try to flag me to inform me it was open.

Finally, as he passed, I noticed that he was driving a service vehicle for Overhead Door repair company! As my problem is in the area of his trade, he was probably checking out my disabled door. At the next intersection the light conveniently turned red, giving me enough time to jot down his number.

The amazing thing is that he passed me, right at the same spot, where I've broken down thrice before. As I pointed out to a friend, he was a helper. And come to think of it, now; all four times that I've experienced mechanical difficulties at the Ohio Gulch "
Bermuda triangle for trucks" eventually, a helper has always come with gracious assist.

After discussing this with the friend who has great insight, she asked me, "What colors do you see in the sky when you break down?" I don't understand what that could have to do with anything regarding the breakdowns, but believe me, whenever I notice anybody else experiencing trouble in that same area, I study the sky, thinking of her unusual question.

Perhaps, someday, I can be the helper for someone else in this area who is experiencing a breakdown, and recount this interesting tale to them as we try to fix whatever problem they are having, as we curiously bide our time

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