Across the White Line

This isn’t my typical fare for those of you expecting something delicious.  I don’t have any monsters in this post, nor will anybody die.  Sadly, there will also be no twist endings, no surprise villains, and I will not be creating a world you’ll want to visit from time to time.  Tonight I will be stepping outside of my comfort zone to talk about something that happened last week.

Life changing?  Sure.  For some, this was an event that might give cause to completely alter one’s life.

Enlightening?  Possibly.  I suppose there is something to take away from all of this. Later that day, my boss says to me; “Do you believe in God?  You should, because he believes in you.”

The day in question was August 4th, the day I nearly died.

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The image you see here is the wreckage of my 104, the truck I had been been entrusted with when I took my job as a driver.

I had just left the quarry in Edgarton KS, headed to a job site less than ten minutes away.  I had a number of routes available to me, three to be exact, of which I had chosen the quickest one; hwy 199, going east.  For those of you without any knowledge of this road, and I expect that number to be in the ‘most of’ category, it’s a narrow two lane jobber.

Normally, I try to follow the highways that have a full, or in the very least, a partial shoulder, in case something should happen.  Today, I thought that I could get a little bit further ahead by shaving a few minutes off of my route.  Three, to be exact.

Somewhere deep down, I knew that I had made a mistake when there was no shoulder on the other side of the line.  Once across, you were in the grass.  These fears came to fruition about a mile in.

Ahead of me, I noticed an extra large pickup coming my way.  More specifically, I noticed that his two rear-axle tires were on my side of the road!  I had only a split second to react and I moved over a little to the right.

Two things immediately happened:

  1. Because I was carrying a full load, and as it always does when I move a little too suddenly, the trailer began to rock from side to side.  When I felt it move, I looked out the side view mirror, wrongfully thinking that it had gone over the white line.
  2. Because I looked out the mirror, as nearly every driver would do at this point, my hand hand followed the movement of my head.

At that moment, what I thought my trailer was doing, was happening to my tractor!

I wouldn’t realize this until later, however, as I swore it was the former of the two that sucked me down.  That being said, there were only six seconds left until –

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I watched in horror as my truck slid from the road.  To my credit, I almost kept her on her wheels!  However, and as I was later informed, I did what eight out of ten drivers would have done in this situation.  I kept fighting to get back on the road.  As such, when I reached that point where only five of my eighteen wheels were still on the pavement, my tractor overturned and slammed into the ground at a little over forty-four miles per hour, give or take.

There were only six, when I felt myself losing control, but they were the longest six seconds of my life.  It was at that moment that I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I had come to the end of my life.

I wish I could say that I said something memorable, like in that movie; “The Perfect Storm.”  Remember when the boat went down and the crewman said something to the effect of; “This is going to be hard on my little boy?”

Or what if I had gone with a witty one-liner?  “Well, this is one way to lay down some rock!”

Unfortunately, the sad truth of it is I went with; “No.  No, no, no, NO – OH FUCK!”

That’s when the ground exploded into the cab.  That, and about two feet of the rock I was carrying that day.  When the dust settled, I didn’t have time to think about how I was alive.  I looked down into what was left of the passenger area of the cab and tried to make sense of it.  It looked, and I would later discover this to be true from the outside as well, as if it had been crumpled up like a wad of paper.

I heard steam.  I could hear something leaking.  I looked out the hole where the windshield had been and saw a pool of liquid forming on the ground.

The dust settled, and I burst into action.  I had seen the movies enough times to know what happens next.  Directing my attention to my side, I located my seat belt release and fought for escape.

*CLICK*

Success!  I was free!

The next two or three seconds are a blur, nearly lost in my memory, but I somehow birthed from that unholy compartment and back into the world.

I remember pulling myself to my feet and charging away from the truck as if the hounds of hell were at my heels!  What a sight I must have been to the bystander who’d stopped to help.  THIS man, bloodied, and wearing a terrified expression, pulls himself from the wreckage and charges as if possessed!

I remember the expression of shock/amazement/fear on his face as I waved him away.

“Got. To. Get. Back,” I shouted between gasps.

I was struggling for air.  I was also trembling from the adrenaline rushing through my veins.  I didn’t know it at the time, but I had sustained some damage to my left shoulder.  Maybe in the impact of the crash?  Or, maybe pulling myself out?  Who’s to say…  As I write this, pain is consuming every nerve ending in what I believe is the rotator cup area, and I’m wondering just how much more I can pound out on my keyboard before I’m happy with the results.

And actually, there’s little else to tell, from then on, that I feel is relevant to this post.

The bystander allowed me to call my work, 911, and my wife before leaving.

The person who caused my reaction, the one driving the extra-large truck, never stopped, and hasn’t been heard from since.

And, I have been on the mend now for over a week.

I don’t know how long this place in my life will hang on to me, I’m hoping to have some good news after my next doctor’s visit, but I do know that the wounds will take longer to heal in heart, than just in body.

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Amazing that these are the worst of the abrasions I suffered!   Not pictured were the scrapes, cuts, and scratches on my arms and legs, probably earned during the escape.  And, obviously, we can’t see the damage done inside my shoulder, but I assure you the bruises forming there are telling a story of their own.

Strangely, this hasn’t changed my outlook on the future.

Once I am able, I plan to get in another truck, back at it.  Since this job is seasonal, and most of the work is in the warm months of the year, I anticipate (as well as look forward to) the remaining months to be used writing my books.  Of course, I work on them during the week when I can, but some nights I don’t get home until well after dark.

I guess I am sharing this with you, my friends and avid readers, because I wanted to show you what was on the other side of the computer screen.  I don’t do this often, for I am not always fond of what I, myself, find there, but this time I felt compelled to.  As I mentioned before, I find myself heavy of heart as of late, but I’ve heard that sometimes it’s best to just tell the tale.

104 has been laid to rest this week, but I have not.

  • R. Richardsson
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