When Jim asked me to tow the stock truck down off the mountain where it had broken down last summer, I told him I’d never towed a vehicle before. He said that was fine, there was a first time for everything.
Me, Jim and six-month-old baby Grace hopped in the company pickup and drove five miles of two-track dirt road up the mountain to the injured stock truck. We (Jim) got the pickup maneuvered into position and chained to the stock truck. Jim told me that I could probably drive 15-20 MPH and put it in second gear on the straight stretches. He said the brakes weren’t very good on the stock truck, so I might have to go a little faster to stay far enough in front of the stock truck so it didn’t come up the chain and rear-end me.
At least, I was pretty sure that was what he said.
Jim climbed in the stock truck, and I climbed in the pickup with the baby sleeping in the backseat. I shifted into first gear and pressed on the gas pedal, looking into the rear view mirror to check on my husband like a good tow-truck driver. We were on a steep hillside and the road was covered with loose rocks, so I crept along until I felt the chain come tight and the stock truck started to follow me down the mountain.
As I picked up a little speed, so did the stock truck. Remembering what Jim said about the brakes and needing to stay out in front of it, I accelerated. So did the stock truck. I accelerated more. So did the stock truck. Worried it was going to rear-end or possibly pass me, I stepped on the accelerator.
When I glanced in the rear view mirror, Jim’s hands were moving rapidly back and forth across the steering wheel. The stock truck bumped, lurched and jumped over rocks as Jim fought to keep it straight on the road. I was glad he was driving the stock truck and not me – it looked very difficult, requiring a higher level of driving skill than I currently possessed. I thought, Man, my husband is really talented! To be able to perform all those fancy steering maneuvers so quickly while coming down off this mountain while being towed, wow! I was super impressed. Quite proud, really.
When we got to the bottom of the steep part, Jim signaled me to stop. He stepped out of the stock truck and walked up to my window.
“What is wrong with you?” he asked.
“What do you mean? You told me I could go like 15 miles an hour.”
“When I’m back there hitting the end of the chain and the truck is bouncing all over the road, you’re going too fast,” Jim explained. His voice was low, and he seemed to be holding something inside.
“Oh. Ok,” I said. “Sorry. I’ll go slower.”
He walked back to the stock truck and we continued down the mountain, this time at about 7 miles per hour. Progress was marked by the irregular thunk……thunk thunk…..thunk of the stock truck hitting the end of the chain. Periodically, I glanced in the rear view and side mirrors to see if Jim was having trouble (because obviously I was really good at recognizing the signs) or signaling me to do something. Otherwise, I tried to keep my face in the safe zone directly in front of the steering wheel where Jim couldn’t see my reflection in either of the mirrors. I didn’t want him to see me laughing.
I laughed all the way to the first wire gate. I was trying to improve my tow-truck driving skills, but thinking of Jim’s hands flying back and forth over the steering wheel made it hard to keep a somber face.
We made it through two wire gates, and then we were on the straight, level part of the road. I accelerated smoothly and steadily, then shifted into second. I looked in the rear view mirror, where Jim immediately stuck his hand out the window and held up a single index finger. I slowed and shifted back down into first.
When we reached the long, slow descent that ended in dropping down the last steep part into the canyon where the house and shop were, Jim signaled me to stop again. He unhooked the stock truck from the company pickup and said he was going to take his chances rolling down the last hill on his own.
Looking back, I think I got fired from my first unpaid job as a tow truck driver. I think I should have gotten a raise instead – without me, how else would Jim know how talented a driver he really was? That’s my wifely job, to bring out the best in my husband. He’s a lucky man, really.
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I remember signals like that!
Wonderful post, as always, Jolyn! It makes my day when the e-mail comes in saying you’ve added a new one! 🙂 It is amazing to me the “unique” driving situations that develop on ranches! From blowing through 6-inches of alkali dust pulling a goose neck trailer and having to use the windshield wipers just to “see”, to slipping through the mud when that same alkali turns to grease (just add water!) trying not to turn the stock truck on its side by turning too sharp! I agree with you–it’s wonderful to have husbands who are very talented drivers! 😉