Attention all of you “Billy and Bobby Big Riggers,” steering wheel holders, solar powered truck drivers, and misfits in general. I am going to tell you a true story that happened to me a short time ago and give it to you in two versions. Both versions will contain true facts as they occurred. It’s up to you to figure out which is the most accurate way of interpreting the events, so pay attention. There may be a quiz later.
Early on Saturday morning, about 4:30 a.m., I started my day on top of Homestake Pass in Montana. I spent the night getting the required 10 hours off duty at the truck parking area on top of the mountain. I was scheduled to unload in Portland, Oregon, and planned to get my 34-hour requirement completed prior to unloading on Monday morning.
In the early morning hours I slid off Homestake and down through Butte without any problems and continued westward. In the back of my mind, as everyone does, I thought of things ahead of me such as the Fourth of July Pass, Lookout Pass, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Spokane, Washington. While driving along, I also thought about having to fuel up and where the best place to do that would be in the miles ahead.
As I was making my way past Missoula, Montana, I had not made up my mind about where to buy fuel until the last exit and the last possible moment. I thought that the fuel in Coeur d’Alene would be cheaper than Washington fuel, but probably not any cheaper then at Missoula. The other things I was considering were that I had not eaten, and that Coeur d’Alene was approximately 150 miles way. All of this flashed through my mind as I approached exit 96.
Everything in the story up to this point is pretty mundane, but this is where this trucker’s story gets unbelievably cool.
I waited until the very last moment to make the decision to take the exit, and then as I swung to the right, my truck, by coincidence, quit running. (I have a 379 Pete with a reefer unit loaded for Monday.) I coasted up the ramp and swung to the right at the intersection because the ramp did not have a shoulder. As I was still coasting, and at a rate of 2 mph, I turned into Muralt’s Truck Stop driveway, rolled across the drive, turned left into an empty space, and stopped the truck. Facing me across the street was, of all things, a Peterbilt of Montana dealership!! Now does that rock or what?
Can you believe that? I got out of my truck, and popped the hood to find that the fuel primer pump had broken and it would be a simple job to replace it.
As I removed the old pump, I managed to get fuel on my hands, which wasn’t a problem because I needed to use the restroom anyway. That killed two birds with one stone. Cool. After the restroom, I checked with the fuel desk to see when Peterbilt would be open. He told me I had about an hour and a half to wait, so I went to the restaurant and ate breakfast, just the one other thing I needed to get done while I waited for Peterbilt to open.
At 8:00 a.m., I was the first one through the doors at Peterbilt, and placed my part on the counter. The parts man said he would see if he had one in stock and faced his computer. After what seemed like forever, he said the inventory showed that one was in stock and he went to look for it. After another “forever,” he came back with a box. The moment of truth was in front of me. If the part was not the right one, I would have to layover until Monday. It turned out to be the right part. Just another coincidence.
I paid him and fixed my truck. It fit, it worked, and it started!! I bought fuel as I had planned, and all in all lost very little time.
Now wouldn’t you say that this story so far is a good trucker’s fairy tale? I’ll bet you are thinking, well, that is a good story, but I’ve got a fairy tale that no one will believe. You say you’ve got a better one? Well, we’ll have to wait and see about that.
The second way I will present these events takes a different spin, so I need to provide more background in order for you to get the total impact.
Well, back in March of 1951, oh, I guess I should skip the details until about one year ago. A buddy of mine and I went out on a lake fishing and I came very close to drowning. He saved me from drowning, but while I was struggling in the water, I did not think I was going to make it. I saw my earthly life coming to a quick and unexpected end. This was not the way I had planned on dying.
I am 60 years old, and have lived most of my life doing what I wanted, when I wanted. That close scrape with death set my mind to thinking of who I was, what I still wanted out of life, and most of all, what I had done with my life over the past years. I found I was not very impressed. I started to think about the saying, “you are not here for as long as you are gone.” In that moment of panic, I was 59 years old with death and eternity staring me right in the face.
I grew up in a strong Christian family, and at the age of eight, I accepted Jesus as my personal savior, which made me a “born again” Christian. While it meant a lot to me at the time, as I grew older, I strayed away from God and the church along with everything for which it exists. In my younger years, I experimented with drugs and alcohol, to name a couple of things, looking for something to satisfy me. These empty pursuits were much of the reason why my first marriage failed, and nearly caused my second and current marriage to fail as well.
Over the years I have also become interested in politics and have listened to countless hours of political talk radio. Because of this, I became all too aware of the Middle East and its violent struggles. This ongoing interest combined with the recent developments of the breakdown of countries surrounding Israel, began to increasingly set my mind thinking about Bible prophecy. This global preoccupation along with nearly drowning made me consider not only two realities; I do not know how soon I might die, nor do I know how soon Jesus Christ will return. Both of these events will happen sooner than I think.
Now, add to that mix the oppression our government has given to our way of life with the implementation of CSA 2010. I could go on and on about this, but my brief history with these laws is as follows. Because CSA requires more roadside inspections, the government had to hire more enforcement people. My belief is that these “new guys” are intent on proving their value to society by writing up truckers for anything and everything they can possibly find. Consequently, drivers are under attack.
Last summer, I was pulled over for running 63 in a 55 mile an hour zone way out in the country. The officer said he did not want to write me up for speeding, but instead he wanted to do a Level 1 CSA report. I passed that just fine, so he wrote the violation as speeding on the CSA. Again, I was not ticketed for this. The result was that I was penalized 15 points instead. This set into motion the need for more CSA “law enforcement” and consequently I think I was harassed seven times in five months.
I really am going somewhere with this. When you get pulled over that many times, it starts to depress you, at least, for me it did.
The only other time the CSA was able to find something wrong was at a roadside inspection in California. Even though I had a new air line to replace the one plastic recoil line on my tractor to trailer, they wrote me up and put me out of service on their report. Although I corrected it on the spot, I was penalized another 18 points. The officer said he was out of inspection stickers, and told me to stop at another scale for one, which I did. The actual air line, although it looked worn, was not leaking.
This really wore on me, and continues to do so because I know it affects the company I serve, as well as the other drivers in the company.
For several months the CSA left me alone largely because I was hard to find, even though I was following the law to the letter. While I felt down about my problems with the CSA, I learned that an owner-operator with our company had been missing for several days. He was found dead in his sleeper. He only had a couple more weeks to go, before his retirement would begin because his base plate was about to run out. He was a really nice guy, somewhat older than I, and each time we crossed paths I had a lot of respect for him. This also woke me up to the fact that I wasn’t getting any younger and the reality is I have a fifty-fifty chance of the same thing happening to me because I am on the road every other week.
Arrangements had to be made to return the truck to the owner’s place of residence and to see that the load he had been under was delivered. Arrangements for an autopsy and care of the body had to be made, along with, I’m sure, a list of legal issues from a grieving family. The president of the small company for which he worked, and I presently work, went out to get the truck and return it from some thousand miles away, even after the body had been resting there for some time in the heat of summer. This took great resolve, as the driver was a close friend of the company president and his family. I used to joke about driving until I dropped dead. Retirement is out of the question. I can’t count on the money I have paid into Social Security to be there for me. The closeness of this man’s death really woke me up.
One night last summer, I stopped at the Wal-Mart in Evanston, WY to put in my 10-hour requirement. Being interested in politics, I had already purchased many political books, but that night I walked through the area for books and didn’t find any I wanted. However, I did see a variety of Bibles. I was surprised that they didn’t cost that much.
Most books I bought were around twenty dollars, but here was a small Bible for ten. I remember buying the cheap book. I remember setting in my truck reading it. I was flooded with sorrow over my years of living for myself, and regret over all of the other empty pursuits about which you have been reading. Right there that night I got down on my knees and asked Jesus for forgiveness and surrendered my life to him completely. The days following that night, I was reluctant to speak of what had happened because I wasn’t sure that God would take me back. Yet, many things drastically changed in days to follow, my outlook on life, my language, my desires, etc. I know that the Holy Spirit was living in me and that I have been forgiven.
That was almost a year ago. I’ve started going to church every time I’m home and I look forward to it. As I look back on my life, I remember thinking after a close call “Wow, was I ever lucky.” But now I no longer believe those things were luck at all. You see, I know that over the years, people have been praying for me, foremost my mother, who is 92 years old and has been praying faithfully all of these years, and also I know that God has been drawing me to Himself, and preserving me for true salvation.
So getting back to the story, I failed to mention in the first fairy tale what happened to me two days prior to the breaking down in Missoula, Montana.
When I approached the scale at the Minnesota/South Dakota line, the scale man pulled me in and wanted to do a full inspection on my truck.
Because I had just passed the inspection in California four months earlier, I didn’t feel I had to be concerned. He was one of those “Norman New Guys” and although he was polite enough, he was not going to let me go without finding something for which to write me up, and thereby justify his worth to CSA. He found that the auto slack adjusters on my trailer were 1/8 to ¼ of an inch beyond spec so he wrote me up for that. He put me out of service until I adjusted them. Good for him and the CSA. I told him I would adjust them and he said I could go after I did. I asked him to check the adjusters after I adjusted them, and he seemed surprised by such a request. His surprise proved to me that all he wanted was to justify his new position.
These, along with the other CSA points that had been written up against me, led me to think that it was going to be nearly impossible for me to clear my record. I knew that every time I would drive up on a scale they would punch in my plate number and my CSA record would appear.
This thought made me sick all over again because I had been trying to do everything right but instead I was failing. I was not just ruining my own record but more importantly the record of the company that employs me. It is a small company owned by honest people who I’ve come to respect, and the last thing I want to do is hurt them.
The morning I woke up on Homestake I prayed to God but still I felt that I was a failure and I wondered if I should just give up and quit driving. I had the Hougan scale and the Washington port of entry to get by, and over the years I’ve been harassed at both places. This was weighing heavily on me as I started down the hill. I truly believe that, through the events at Missoula, God was letting me know without a doubt that He heard my prayer and was totally in control.
When I pulled into that parking space facing Peterbilt that morning, I got down and thanked the Lord for showing me He was in control.
Think about it. Of all the exits you drive past in a day’s time, how many have a dealership within coasting distance of the ramp? There are many ramps that provide a shoulder on which to pull over, but not that one. What are the odds that your truck would quit running just as you are able coast to a stop in front of a dealership?
What are the odds that the exit would fulfill all the other reasons for which you stopped, such as food, fuel and restroom?
What are the odds that the dealership would have just one of exactly the right part you needed for your thirteen year old truck and that the dealership would be open when you needed it?
What are the odds that you could break down and be running again without losing a half a day sitting in a shop?
So, in summary, I believe that this story really began when, that night in Evanston, WY, I surrendered my life to Christ. I exited the main road I had been on for years, and chose to follow the road less traveled. It hasn’t been easy at times, and God doesn’t promise that it will be. I’m learning, however, to trust Him and that He will lead me if I have faith to follow him.
I guess the quiz would be, if this had happened to you, would you write it off as a coincidence or would you see and believe in God’s saving grace and ability to lead as I have? Every one of us needs to face these questions. Luck is not part of the equation.
We are not here for as long as we will be gone. Will eternity be everlasting life or separation from God in hell? The Bible is clear that those are the only two options. I can now face death without fear because of Jesus Christ.
What you do or decide to do will not affect me in any way, but let me invite you right now to take a good look behind you and in front of you. I urge you to pick up a ten-dollar Bible or a New Testament, which are in many larger truck stops for free, and spend some time reading for yourself the truth about Jesus Christ in the Word of God.