The Redneck Angels 2006

The one thing I really enjoy the most about being a self employed mechanic is the ability to be in tune with God or letting him do my scheduling. Not that that happens knowingly on a regular basis, but every once in a while I notice. There will be times that I don’t have anything scheduled and low and behold some righteous person will break down and need help. The Ultimate was this story. No fooling, I Didn’t make this up or add to it in any way.

It was a snowy day, visibility oh say a quarter mile. I decided this would be a miserable day to mechanic outside, Nobody’s in a bind that I know of so, I guess I’ll stay home and bug my wife. My wife didn’t have any plans either. We should have known something was up, because this never happens that both of us have a day to do nothing, no mater what the weather!

Sure enough the phone rings. It is an over the road trucking company saying they have a truck with air problems and out of fuel somewhere between Durango and Ridgeway, Can we help? Do you realize that’s 100 miles of the worst roads is the state and it’s a blizzard out there? Apparently not!

Have them call Bob’s. Bob’s is the local truck shop, he is better suited to repair an over the road problem { but he’s also the guy years ago that taut me two things, How to fix Trucks, and how to curse like a sailor, Not in Tune! }. Pretty quick they called again, Bob’s nor Vandegrift will help them, What now? Ok tell them to call a wrecker maybe in Montrose, We don’t even have snow tires on our service truck!

Again a while later the phone rings. They don’t know where he is, can’t get his cell phone to connect, the state highway won’t help and nobody will help them unless they locate the truck! We stared at each other for a moment and my wife said we will handle it, I’ll call you back and hung up the phone. Ok I said, I know the road, I plowed snow up there, but I also know how bad it can get. I also ain’t about to let someone freeze to death on that lonely mountain.

I grabbed the phone book and called the Cascade highway station, No answer. They’re all out plowing snow! I know I’ll call my old state highway partner in the Rockwood patrol station and asked him how come there’s nobody at Cascade station today. I got a hold of him and he said he would call them on the radio and have them call me back. I went out to the shop and loaded up the service truck with chains and empty 5 gallon cans. When I got back in the house the Cascade guy on patrol had talked to my wife and told her that there was a truck pulled off in the slide area past upper Lime creek corner and nobody was around when he checked, but he’s going to check again! Ok see ya! I’m coming too my wife said, I have a funny feeling about this!

We got in our coveralls and hit the road. We got a few breakfast sandwiches and coffee for the driver and 25 gallons of diesel in the cans and toped off the service truck with fuel in Durango, then headed up the mountain. It was slow going, more from visibility than anything, the snow wasn’t sticking to the road to bad. By the time we toped out Coalbank pass the snow had lighted up and it was beautiful. We found the truck right where the state employee had said.

A light snow was still falling as I pulled our truck in front of the 18 wheeler. He was loaded with rolls of steel, probably 82000 Gross weight on a flat deck. Kenworth with a condo sleeper. All listing to one side, he sure could have found a better place to park! I guess easterners don’t know about snow slide areas either! I Grabbed my cell phone and looked at it, No Signal! How on Gods green earth did this guy call for help from here?

I Rapped on the cab door, not knowing what to expect. Much to my surprise out of the sleeper and bounding out the door into the snow came a skinny black man with a great big smile in a tee shirt! A smile such that he was not concerned that he would freeze to death, but a smile like he had just jumped on stage for a tap dance routine! Sorry it took so long to get here, we drove 70 miles though the snow I said. That’s ok, I Knew you would come, He said. I gave him an inquisitive look, Not yet tuned into the scope of the situation. He said the plow driver stopped and told me you where coming, Ok then let’s get you some fuel and you tell me what happened. As I started pouring in the 25 gallons of diesel he told me he couldn’t find a station in Durango that would take his fuel card so he headed on his proscribed route though Silverton to Salt Lake city, figuring he could find some fuel. Then when he came down Coalbank Hill, he ran low on air so he pulled over to buildup air, then he ran out of fuel. I told him even this 25 gallons wasn’t enough fuel to get to the next fuel station, your aimed at the meanest 40 miles of road that you ever will see! With this weather we are going to turn you around and go back to Durango, I don’t care what your dispatcher said. I walked around the front of the truck and bled out the fuel lines to the filter, He jumped in the cab and with a little coaxing the 400 horse power roared back to life.

We all three jumped in his cab to warm up. In the drivers seat I looked down in the cup holder at his cell phone, the screen said searching for service. I asked, so you called for help this morning? Yes he said, I talked to my dispatcher when I woke up, but I didn’t have a signal before or since! A shutter went down my neck again. The truck had built up air so I jumped out and gave all the brakes a visual inspection for malfunction and adjustment. I walked up to the cab and told the driver to hold down the brake pedal so I could check for leaks. I walked and poked around but couldn’t find any air leaks to cause him to loose his air last night. I hopped back in the cab and told him everything checked out fine so we would get him turned around and follow him off the mountain and reached for the door handle. My wife { obviously more in tune than I was yet } said you ride with him, I’ll drive our truck. Ok, We might have to go to the top of Molas Pass to turn around with the snow. We all played musical chairs and got rolling, just around the corner, about a mile the driver and me decided we could turn around at a wide spot, but my truck was nowhere to be seen.

As we started down the mountain he shifted up to 5th gear. He had yet to turn on the jake brake, and the engine was starting to tach out. Turn your jake on, I said! But I don’t want to make a snowslide! He said. Your not the first truck to go over this mountain this winter, turn on your jake and I reached over and turned it on for him. He let it on for a few seconds and as my heart started up my throat he reached for the shifter, pulled the range lever up and started for the next gear. I yelled look, I’ve driven trucks a million miles back and forth over these mountains and with this load, trust me, this is the gear you want! He looked at me and started pumping the brakes the way I do if I’m wanting to drain the air to test the air system. I yelled again, What are you doing now? Let your feet off everything and relax, let the Jake brake do it’s job! I think he was mystified by the fact that he could actually descend a mountain so effortlessly.

When we got to the bottom of the hill, and I got my heart back in my chest I said where’s your CB radio? I need to call my wife and see where she is. He smiled at me, reached up on the dash, patted his open bible and said I don’t have one, this is all the communication I need! How could I have missed that! Suddenly this whole scenario made since! We where the hired angels for a change! That’s how he called for help! That’s why me and my wife instead of someone else had to rescue this guy, he would have been turned loose to kill somebody with his mountain driving skills!

On the way up Coal Bank pass I discussed the finer points of driving a truck in the mountains. Along with how I thought that God had pinched off his air line last night so he would stop. The decent of the north face of Coal Bank pass is a walk in the park compared to the road into Silverton. Steep road with hairpin corners towering over 500 foot cliffs, with decades of wrecked vehicles at the bottom! By the time we reached the summit he was a mountain man! He needed no new input from me to navigate that 18 wheeler off that 8% grade.

As we got off the steep part of the road it started to hit home with him to, He knew how in over his head he was last night! As we pulled up to the fuel station and set the brakes we both had tears streaming down our cheeks. He said your not going to send in a report on me so I get fired are you? I need this job! I grabbed him by the shoulder and said, This one’s between you, me and God! You’re ok now. Just remember what I taught you today. He said nobody had ever explained mountain truck driving to him, he just took it for granted.

The fuel station wouldn’t take his fuel card either so we bought him 500 dollars of diesel, Showed him on a map the best route to Salt Lake City and waved Goodbye. Some days are like that!

Being a God chaser is fun, I just need more days like that!

One Response

  1. Grace 3/22/2011

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