Friday, April 26, 2013

Band-aids Save Lives

Multiple years ago, my husband bought me a truck. (You know how it is; 50 years is silver, 75 years is golden, years 1, 2, and 3 are like rock, paper, and scissors, no one really knows what year four is and then year five hits you and BAM!!! rusty old truck year). The truck was a 1966 Ford F100, which he actually bought for the truck bed. He inherited a 1966 Ford F100 from his grandpa and his unfulfilled dream is to restore it. A neighbor smashed into it, so naturally he had to buy a second truck with a bed that was in better shape to replace the damaged bed on the first vehicle.

Fast forward to the second child, which we all know is one too many to fit in a car seat in a cab of the truck. For that reason, it became necessary to buy a third 1966 Ford F100, but this one a king cab/dump truck. For several years it sat as a yard ornament until one day, child number three was born and it was no longer possible to fit in the cab, even illegally.

So as it currently stands, Mater, as we've nicknamed the truck, runs smoothly, has a flatbed with wood sides, and as any dump truck should, has a working hydraulic system to dump the load it carries. The dumping feature is a recent innovation as far as the truck goes, so while I've heard the theory many times, I have yet to put it into practice; until today.

I helped my mom prune the hedges and ended up with a full load of branches and green waste. We loaded it into the truck, tied it down, and I made my way, with the three children, out to the landfill. All went well during transport and even as we arrived in the designated dumping area. Then I realized we had piled the branches over the back and I couldn't lift the wooden panel to open the back end.

I pulled out a few branches, but the day was warm and the children restless. Impatience won out and, completely ignoring the laws of physics, I went to the cab to hit the switch to raise the bed. As I said, I've never actually done it, just heard about it. By connecting a couple of wires, the bed began to rise up, just as it should. When it peaked, it stopped. The branches, secured by the back panel, remained stationary. I reversed the switch and nothing happened. I tried again; again nothing happened. Amazingly, despite my over-sized body weight, the hydraulics were stronger and my hanging on the sides did nothing to cause the bed to lower.

At this point, I called my husband at work. He was unreachable. I tried the switch again making different connections, all resulting in differing sounds, but no lowered bed. I called his cell phone, which went to voice mail. The children were now hungry and seemed to have no insight as to how to remedy our mechanical situation. I called again and finally he answered.

From a distance of over 30 miles, he tried to talk me through it. It seems that the wires I connected in the cab were not the only loose wires. There were also some beneath the bed on the actual hydraulic system. He explained he had not connected the wires because he didn't want the children messing with the bed and raising and lowering it. (Does that make me one of the children?)

He asked first if I had moved back the hitch. I glanced at it. Looked fine, so I made a nondescript grunt. The second task was to engage the switch and then get under and find another wire, which I did. I was told to ground it to the frame. I did so. There was a minor spark (a lot like many of my first dates) and then nothing happened. I repeated the steps, but had only one hand available to me as the other was holding the phone to my ear. Again, nothing happened. He told me again to engage the toggle switch and to ground the other wire beneath the bed. I tried to argue that it didn't seem safe, but he insisted that was what needed to be done, so I again repeated the entire process. I searched through the truck finally finding some stickers that had once been attached to my apples. Using them, I secured the wire to the frame and backed up. Nothing happened. Checking my line, I discovered that the stickers hadn't held. I looked through my purse and found a band-aid. This I used to secure the wire to the frame, where the bed made all sorts of whirring noises, but didn't go down much at first.

I flipped the toggle switch in the cab. Somehow the planets aligned and for but a moment, the bed began to lower. I jumped out of the way an saw my entire life flash before my eyes. I tried to explain this to my spouse, who said the bed would only lower part of the way, and that I had to jump on it while holding the wire to the frame to drop it fully. Uh. . . what?

By this time, one  of the children had to go to the bathroom. He's young and can't hold it. Although it was nearing closing time and I was certain being watched, I got him out and had him drop his pants to take care of business. This seemed the ticket for escape and the other two children suddenly had to go as well. I told them to wait. They were still hungry, so I told them to eat the remainder of the loaf of bread not consumed at lunch time.

This put me with a partially lowered bed, three hungry children who had to go to the bathroom (at least two of them) and a full load of green waste. I again began pulling at the branches and removed enough of them to lift the back panel. Logic, reason, and rational though should have led me to pull the remaining branches from the load and drive home. But what point is there in owning a dump truck if one is unable to cause it to dump?

I again engaged the switch in the cab, that lifted the bed. I pulled forward and the entire load was deposited. Now I had only the issue of lowering the bed. Fortunately, I paused at this moment to think. I had to put the wire beneath the bed onto the frame while the toggle was engaged without getting smashed by the bed. It didn't seem doable. It was at this point I realized I could access the necessary wire from beneath the truck rather than only between the frame and the bed. If the bed were to drop, I wouldn't be crushed, just startled; a better option all around.

Also, as the truck was facing downhill, by lying behind the back tires, I didn't run the risk of being run over. Granted a sudden lurch could send my three children careening down through a chain link fence, but they had all been buckled in at one point, they should be fine.

I climbed beneath the truck and slid the wire across the frame. Little by little the bed dropped about 3/4 of the way. At that point, I wedged the wire into a loose weld and climbed into the bed to jump on it to force it into the lowered position.

Round trip, the excursion only took an hour and a half. Not bad considering the landfill sits no more than seven minutes from my house.

My spouse came home later that night and inspected the truck. I helped him fix the hitch I'd bent, and then we discussed the intricacies of the afternoon. He seemed quite distressed by the fact that I'd been between the bed and the frame, even after I explained to him that I had done just as he'd said. Finally, seeing the discussion was getting us nowhere, I said, "I guess it's good I have a dead dad watching out for me then." He thought a moment and replied, "Yes, but your dead dad still owes you a pole to the head."*

*A couple of years ago, while helping my brother install a swingset constructed of steel, I didn't counter balance the "leg" when we went to move it. Consequently, my pole slipped lose and plummeted to the ground taking my dad with it. Other than in movies, I've never seen anyone drop like that. He was quite forgiving, but I can't help but think I may have knocked out at least two years of graduate school with that blow.


  1. Lol. Glad you didn't die. Next time, don't put yourself between large metal objects that might squish you.

  2. I too remember the pole to the head. It was terrifying and slow-motion, and I like to think he liked me a little more than you, because I wasn't the one who did it.