“Proving Gravity”

Roger Clark
April 2024

As you know, Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity. Or maybe apples. But it was me, almost three hundred years later, who proved the theory of gravity. It happened near Victorville, California, where I was locked out of my T600 Kenworth. 

Noting there was a glass porthole in the bottom of the passenger door, I reasoned that a flying kick with steel-toed boots just might dislodge it. Indeed, that worked, but I then found myself stretched out and four feet above the ground. Instantly, of course, I hit the ground hard enough to break my glasses, shatter the cigarette case, and empty my pockets.

 Working for a Joplin-based carrier in the early nineties, I often passed a quiet little airfield near Mt. Vernon. Most weekends skydivers were floating blissfully over the interstate, and I finally took the bait in 1991. As a dues-paying member of Freefall Express, I too was granted permission to exit a perfectly good airplane several thousand feet above the earth. 

In sport parachuting, which is what devotees prefer to call it, there are two kinds of malfunctions. Minor ones, such as a line twist, and major ones like collapsing canopies. A minor malfunction can be corrected in mid-air, and that’s what happened to me. In the event of a major malfunction, which I’ve never witnessed, the jumper is so preoccupied trying to fix the problem they sometimes hit the ground without knowing it.

 Often times the blissful ignorance of gravity can be funny, like the time I was following a station wagon down a get-on ramp to I-44. I noticed there was a ten-foot ladder on the roof but did not observe the four human hands trying to keep it there. Suddenly the ladder broke free, at sixty miles an hour, and crashed to the pavement directly in my path.

Within a second, I mangled the ladder so bad that it took out my lower radiator hose, spilling bright green anti-freeze across the roadway. By the time the dust and paperwork settled, the station wagon owner was billed for repairs and wrecker service, instead of spending five bucks on a tie-down rope.

 Trucking across U.S. 36 in Missouri, I came up behind a pickup truck hauling household goods. Piled on top was a mattress, and upon the mattress was a woman trying to weigh it all down. I reckon that’s moving day in redneck country. The good news is, there wasn’t a tragedy. The bad news is, at 60 MPH, airflow lifted the mattress and crashed her into the ditch anyway.

From all appearances, alcohol may have been involved, because they offered some to me, but I’ll bet even Sir Isaac didn’t know Bud Light’s effect on gravity. He might have missed class that day. Or the apple, anyways.

 But there is a trucker alive today who did, in fact, recently defy the laws of gravity. On Friday, March 1, an un-named female P & D driver with Sysco was crossing the Clark Street bridge in Louisville, Kentucky, when she became collateral damage in a multi-vehicle crash. Her rig went off the bridge, but the trailer got pinned, forcing her tractor to dangle 130 feet above the Ohio river.

Thanks to Louisville EMS and six-year veteran firefighter Bryce Carden, she was rappelled to safety in a forty-minute rescue. There aren’t enough good words to describe her bravery and his courage, both of which made national news for several days. Ain’t it nice to brag about good things in a business we work so hard to promote and protect!