How often do you make a wrong turn while driving your car? Even if only occasionally, you know you can easily get turned around, and get yourself back on track. Imagine, if you will, trying to get turned around to the correct direction when you are driving an 18 wheeler…a tractor/trailer. It’s not so easy. I have gotten MORE lost trying to get back going the right way. In fact, while somewhere out in the Mid-West… Idaho, I believe it was, I drove close to 50 miles before I could find a place large enough to turn around in.
It was Wintertime, I was still a “newbie” in the world of trucking, and there was a great deal of snow on the ground in Idaho that day. I was on what the truckers commonly refer to as “a skinny road”. A skinny road is one that is not a major interstate, but is OK for truck traffic to use. And they look just like that on the map….skinny roads.
I was going the wrong way. I can get lost in a parking lot, so I was used to making some funky U-turns, but out in the middle of Potatoville, there were no U-turns, or “jughandles” in which to get myself turned around. I drove for miles and miles….seeing vast acres of snow covered farm land. I was on a little two lane road that was heavily trafficked by the tractor trailers trying to avoid the toll roads and “chicken houses”….another trucker term for a weigh scale. After an hour of driving, I finally see a large open expanse with farm equipment parked out in front of a building with a large “John Deere” sign on it. I breathed a huge sigh of relief….”I can get turned around in this guy’s semi-circular driveway”, I thought.
I pull in, and as I’m heading toward what I thought was the exit, I notice that there seems to be a fairly large, snow covered incline, so I gassed the truck, gave her all she had, and roared up the hill.
The truck was doin’ pretty good, but suddenly, I came to an abrupt stop. Perplexed, I put her back in first gear, and gunned the engine. Put her in reverse and tried again. Nothing. I wasn’t moving. Just making lots of man-pleasin’ loud engine noise. I look over at the building, and there’s 6 men, standing in front of the large storefront window…staring at me in amazement. “Geez….haven’t they ever seen a lady driving a ‘big rig’ before”, I was thinking. Even as recently as 13 years ago, ladytruckers were still sort of scarce, and a bit of a novelty.
Well, I climbed down out of the truck to get a better look. To my horror, I saw that I was just plumb stuck….the fuel tanks were halfway buried in the snow. It was deeper than I had realized. And the rear tandem tires were OFF of the ground!!! I had been spinning my tires in the wind! AAARGH!!!
Humiliated, I sheepishly walked toward the building. All of the men were still standing in the window, one old feller was scratching his head, looking as perplexed as I felt.
“Good afternoon, Gentlemen”, and I introduced myself. “I was a little lost and found that i was going in the wrong direction, so I thought I’d get turned around in your semi-circular driveway, but somehow, I got stuck”.
I look over to my right and see an old farmer, chewin’ on a long piece of straw. He spat into a coffee can spittoon next to him, and started to guffaw. “Hey, Earl”! He bellowed, “When y’all gonna finish puttin’ in that semi-circular driveway y’all started?!” At that, all of those farmers got to belly laughin’ so hard, I feared that the old man was going to keel over from apoplexy. To say I was mortified would be an understatement.
One fella in particular was real nice. He and I walked outside to get a better handle on my predictament, and he explained what I did wrong. “Thar’s a big ditch right thar, little lady. It’s all filled in with snow. That’s why you didn’t see that it were a ditch. Git in yer truck and try to back ‘er up”.
I climb back in and put her in reverse. Gun ‘er good. Nothing. Just a lot of noise. And to make matters worse, I hear the truckers cackling over my CB radio…”Hey lady! That’s a funny place to park!” They’re all having one hell of a good laugh, and no doubt, I gave those fellers many miles of entertainment as they drove down the road. Truckers love to yammer on the CB, and especially out there in potato land where there is not much to look at. To them, a blonde in a big rig, stuck in the ditch was almost as much fun as going to a hooter bar.
A few of the fellers trudged out into the snow to offer “assistance”. No matter how I tried to move that truck, it wasn’t budging. Finally, they called a farmer buddy from “up the road a piece”. I can only imagine what they told him, because it didn’t take to long for him to get there on his farm tractor.
He hooked up some cables to the back of the trailer, and started to pull me out backwards. One middle-aged feller, name of Ed Kitchen, and I, hunkered down and stared at the back tires to see if it were actually moving. When I tell you that grass would grow faster than that truck was inching back, we’re not exaggerating. “It’s movin’, little lady, can’t ya see the snow bunchin’ up on the tire?” If I weren’t already so mortified, I would have started wailing. “No, the truck isn’t moving, Ed! I’m stuck here forever. I’ll have to call my boss!” Being homeless AND unemployed was a calamitious scenario running through my brain at that moment. The last thing I wanted to do, was to have call the boss who was of the antiquated mindset who thought women didn’t belong behind the wheel of a “big rig”. I sure didn’t want to be the gal to “prove him right”.
Ed gave me a good look up and down, as amusement twinkled in his eyes. “So, how long you been driving this big ol’ truck, little lady?”
My head down, and my voice barely audible, I whispered, ” ‘Bout four months now, Ed”.
“Well, I supposin’ y’all ain’t doin’ all too badly, then.” he growled.
The truck moved at a snails pace, and it took over an hour, but that tractor pullin’ farmer freed me of that snowy fuel tank grave….backwards, of course. Reaching down into my half frozen jeans, I gratefully grabbed at all the cash that I had in my wordly possession. Yuppers…He got the princely sum of $36 bucks and 80 cents!
I was delirous with joy! Lots of hand-pumping and hearty thank you’s and good natured laughter all around! I just couldn’t thank them enough for all they did for me, and no, never did tell my boss about that one….nosiree bob!
Though, to this day, I can’t help but wonder how many folks read about it in the local paper. I have no doubt that I was the biggest story in that “blink and you’ll miss it” little town for a long time after.
And to this day, I can still hear the catcalls of the truckers driving by:
“Hey, Lady! That’s a funny place to park”!