(I present this tale to you exactly as Bob told it to me)
“Oh, what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day…” Bob hummed softly as he cheerily steered the 24 foot flatbed truck out of the driveway and down North Valley Road, headed over the mountain on another delivery.
You see, Bob was a delivery man. He delivered hay and straw to folks all over Yamhill and Washington counties, and sometimes even beyond. Bob was proud of the work he did.
He was proud of his ability to expertly maneuver a 28 foot truck around curves, down highways, and up steep mountain roads.
He was proud of his muscles that could efficiently throw 120 pound bales into lofts and up towering stacks of hay.
He was proud that he was a good employee and never did anything wrong.
And Bob loved driving a big truck. It wasn’t quite a semi, but Bob pretended it was, and he drove it like it was.
He was proud of the way it belched blue smoke every time he shifted gears, proud of the way it groaned and squealed every time he turned the steering wheel, proud of the way it lurched around corners as if it was going to lose its load of hay, proud of the way it barely made it up the slightest incline, proud that his boss trusted him enough to let him drive off into the sunset every day with hundreds and hundreds of dollars’ worth of hay, proud of the air brake endorsement on his license….my goodness, he could do ANYTHING with an air brake endorsement….
In short, Bob was one proud guy and he felt just as happy as if he had good sense, humming the tune from Oklahoma and gazing in fondness at the clear blue sky and bright green of the trees and pastures of early spring while steaming down the road in an ancient old 32 foot delivery truck that was almost as good as a semi.
Now, it was the simple truth that the delivery truck Bob was driving was just about dead. It had rolled some 259000 miles over the years, and now it used almost as much oil and water as it did diesel.
Bob turned right, onto Albertson Road. Albertson wound around and around and almost straight up the mountain in some places and although Bob started out as fast as he could get the truck to go, it was not long before they were grinding up the hill in second gear, blue smoke billowing out behind them, the four ton load of hay and straw lurching and creaking and groaning around every turn and curve in the road.
Bob and his fellow laborer passed a couple houses. They passed Brett’s big old barn.
The road became steeper and the truck gasped as it tried to climb each foot higher and soon Bob was forced to shift down to first gear.
First gear is pretty slow. Slow enough that Bob could count the blades of grass in the ditch alongside the road.
Slow enough that he could see each hair on a woolly worm eating a grape vine six yards away.
Slow enough that the other guy in the passenger seat fell asleep.
Eventually, Bob and the five ton load of hay and straw made it to the top of Bald Peak. And it so happened that on that particular day and delivery, Bob wanted to turn left.
However, there was some road work going on down the left hand side of the road, and had been blocked off to such an extent (mostly because a dump truck, while efficiently removing its load, had gotten caught on some phone lines and pretty much completely shut down the road for hours on end).
Bob was mildly disgusted. I mean, how stupid do you have to be to get your truck caught on phone lines and block the entire road??
Bob stuck his nose in the air and went on to turn right. The old truck groaned and squealed, narrowly missing a shiny black suburban in the opposite lane.
“Hey, where’re we goin’?” Bob’s coworker, whom I have just termed Murphy, so I don’t have to keep on calling him Bob’s coworker, woke up and drowsily noticed they were going the wrong direction.
“Adventure!” Bob said with a big smile. And proceeded to explain just what had ensued, and that they were going to go down the back way.
Murphy nodded and promptly went back to sleep.
Well, it was not very long before they came up on Holly Hill Rd, to the left. There were two ways to get on to Holly Hill, and naturally Bob missed the first and easiest one. Bob liked adventure. He also apparently liked making life hard on himself, because that is exactly what he was about to do.
Coming up on the next left to Holly Hill Rd, which slanted the opposite direction, he attempted to make the turn. But turning left on a road slanted the other direction, AND on a hill, in a 38 foot flatbed truck (or any kind of truck, for that matter) is no easy task, and Bob decided discretion was the better part of hay delivery and expected that it would be best to not tip the truck over. So he backed up, again narrowly missing the same shiny black suburban who had also found it necessary to turn around back there where that stupid truck driver had gotten his dump stuck on the phone line.
“What now?” Murphy murmured, half awake.
“We’ll turn around on King’s Grade,” Bob responded, pretending to be in control. “There are two places to get on this road, too.”
So they traveled down the road a few more yards, turned right onto King’s Grade, and then another left back around onto Bald Peak Rd.
There was a bit of a hump and blind spot right where Bob was trying to get back on Bald Peak Rd. He revved the engine. It smoked and leaked water and about 15 drops of oil and the tires spun and the load of hay lurched and groaned and the steering wheel made so much noise Bob thought it was just going to up and fall into little tiny pieces on the cab floor.
But it didn’t, and they managed to roar up onto the road again and then go down the opposite direction a few more yards until they could turn right onto Holly Hill Rd, a bit easier this time.
Of course, all during this, Bob was continuing to feel very posh that he could manage to drive such a tough old bird such as this up and around and here and there and everywhere. And here they were, driving down the right road and only a short distance from their destination.
Life wasn’t so bad after all, Bob thought. He very cooly rested one hand on the shifter as with the other hand he expertly wheeled the truck down the hill and around all the curves on Holly Hill.
It was sunny, it was warm, and life was good! Bob shifted into a lower gear and enjoyed the noise the truck made as it de-revved into lower gear…kind of like a jake brake.
And then, they arrived at Cloudrest Lane. Up this lane was where the hay was to be delivered.
“Mhm,” Bob hemmed and hawwed. He had forgotten about this part. The truck idled noisily, dropping oil into the road and steam into the air while Bob pretended to be an expert surveying the situation.
You see, Cloudrest Lane was to the left. To turn on it from this direction one would have to turn about 180 degrees before making the turn onto the road.
Almost impossible with a small vehicle. To say nothing of a huge truck such as Bob was operating.
Bob hemmed and hawwed some more and looked over the situation.
To the left, a road that led uphill almost completely the opposite direction the truck was headed. About 20 feet to turn around a 42 foot truck with a seven ton load of hay. And a very steep precipice to the right, directly at the edge of the pavement, and so far down Bob wasn’t sure where it ended.
Bob thought a while longer. “Any ideas?” he asked Murphy.
Murphy glanced out his window. “Just don’t back off the edge of the road over the edge of that there precipice,” he muttered.
“Of course not,” said Bob confidently. “I think I can do it.”
Carefully he maneuvered the truck right to the very edge of the road and made as tight a turn left as he could.
The motor roared. The clutch ground loudly against Bob’s intermittent foot as they lurched forward, right to the far side of where Cloudrest Lane came out.
Shifting into reverse, Bob backed up as far as he thought safe, slammed it into first again, and roared forward. At least, he tried to. A bit of a hump where the lane came down to the road caused the front tires to slip backward and the truck edged up till the rear tires were about a foot from the edge of the precipice. The load of hay lurched and almost dumped off the flatbed.
Bob started to sweat. This was not turning out to be so posh. And there was a vehicle approaching from either direction; they not being able to get past, slowed to a stop and watched curiously as this dumb hick farmer endeavored to turn a 46 foot long truck around on a 15 foot wide road. And what was that on the back of his truck? Hay?
Bob put the parking brake on, revved the engine, let the clutch out just enough til the truck started to go forward, then released the brake and zoomed forward.
That was his plan.
It didn’t quite work out that way.
The little hump in the road made things tougher and instead of going forward, the truck rolled backward til the front tires were securely stuck against the hump.
Bob slammed the brakes on. His knees were weak.
His forehead was sweaty and his hands were just slightly shaking.
He climbed down out of the truck to see just what was what.
What was what was that the rear tires were now on the very tippy edge of the precipice. One more inch backward and Bob could see the entire eight ton load of hay, along with the truck, his water bottle, and Murphy rolling backwards off the edge.
Bob’s hands were clammy and it was difficult to walk, his knees were so weak. The day did not look so beautiful anymore. More cars appeared, from both sides of the road.
A lady came up. How was she going to get to Hillsboro? The entire mountain seemed to be shut down.
Bob felt awful.
A garbage truck came up, how was he going to get on to the rest of his route?
He was ticked and Bob felt awful.
Bob called his boss, who was a former REAL truck driver, and she said she’d be there in a few minutes. Bob and Murphy explained the situation to everyone who drove up and soon the road was empty.
Except for the truck teetering on the edge of the cliff.
Bob felt very small. Bob felt very humble. And, Bob felt just plain scared as he watched his boss climb into the truck and start it. After placing a piece of a concrete block behind one set of rear tires, she really and truly expertly revved the truck up and out of the position it had gotten stuck in, without losing any hay, the water bottle, or Murphy over the edge of the precipice.
Bob became exceeding grateful, and after turning the truck around in a driveway further down the road, they came back up the road and went on to deliver their hay.
Bob still enjoys driving big trucks. He still enjoys delivering hay, and nice sunny days and all that. But he told me just the other day that he doesn’t feel so posh anymore.
Which is always a good thing.