I wonder how many folks have ridden as a passenger way up high in a mighty tow truck? I did today. I was stranded roadside with my 1,000 beast in tow, literally. It turned out well, all things considered. Jasper must have known, using his horse sense and all, that something was going to happen, because he popped right up onto the trailer, no prodding necessary. “Wow,” I thought. I’ll get to Raleigh in plenty of time for the hoof trimming appointment.”
Then I got into the pickup to start it, but no sound. Just a cluck. Damn. The person living closest to the barn was a daysleeper, working the night shift and I had never laid eyes on him, though he parked his little red mustang really near where my truck was now sitting. I remembered how awful it felt when I had little babies and was sleep deprived. Still, I mustered fortitude and knocked on the door and after a bit, I heard heavy footfalls. He opened the door and I explained that I needed a jump. I don’t have any cables, he muttered. “No problem,” I said, holding the jumper cables high in the air for him to see.
“Okay,” he said as he shuffled barefoot, trousers sagging, to his car. His toes were all bandaged and I felt sorry for him, wondering if he had been wearing ill fitting shoes.
The truck engine started right up with just a second’s worth of jolt from the Mustang’s battery. Off I drove down the long lane from the barn and onto the main road, still with lots of time to spare. We had just climbed the first knoll and were gliding downhill when the engine died. Red lights came on across the dashboard, one message ordering me to “Check gauges now,” and then there was nothing. I steered the coasting truck and trailer into a long driveway and out of the road.
Recently I had joined a roadside assistance program for equestrians, so I wondered if this constituted a full blown emergency. I was within a mile or so of the barn, having just left, but it was clear that my truck was not going to start. The sun was in noonish mode and neither truck nor trailer was in the shade. The black horse was sweating. What to do?
I called the roadside assistance service and Malcolm answered. He was direct and persistent, and once he learned that I was safe, he peppered me with questions relating to my whereabouts, the kind of trailer I was pulling, and whether or not my horse needed water. Now that’s a service worth paying for: bringing water to a thirsty animal. Malcolm explained that it would take him awhile to set the service in action, since it would require towing both truck and trailer. What choice did I have? Once he had everything scheduled, he said, he would call me back.
Meanwhile, I decided to unload my horse and walk him the mile or so back to the barn. Normally I have three saddles and a multitude of bridles in the back of my truck. But not today, because I had cleaned it out to make room for hauling. I didn’t have any riding tack, so it was walking and leading back to the barn, in the middle of the road. My costume is worth noting for curiousity’s sake: Yes, at age 64, I was wearing short running/biking shorts and a halter top. And equestrian boots up to my knees. The only person I expected to see me in this ridiculous outfit was my farrier, and she would not be surprised. I feared that some passersby would find us an odd sight, but they just glanced our way and gave us the rural salute: a mere flicker of the hand. The kind lady whose driveway I had coasted into did come find us in her golf cart and asked if I was a member of AARP, and though I’m not, I assumed she meant AAA, nodded yes, and on she went, saying that she had to go care for the sick.
With the horse safe back at the barn, I walked back to the truck and trailer, empty lead rope dangling off my shoulder. Malcolm called and confirmed that assistance was on its way.
Upon the return to my vehicle I took off the boots that weren’t made for walking and donned sandals. I drank water and waited. The tow truck driver called and said “I’m on my way darlin’.” Normally I would have hasseled him for calling me darlin’ but today is was oddly comforting. It is interesting how politics matters so little when you are at the mercy of the world.
A guy in a pickup truck slowed and asked if I was okay. I explained that help was on the way. His brother, he said, had a tow truck just up the road. Was I sure I wanted to wait, or did I want him to go get his brother and the tow truck? I was confused by my choices. “Sure,” I said, “Get your brother.” I immediately regretted saying that, because the assistance service was paid for already, and this stranger’s brother wasn’t. First come, first served, I figured. That’s when I saw that beautiful gleaming tow truck with lights flashing. It was the one dispatched from the equestrian protection plan. Yahoo, we were in business.
The fellow driving the truck emerged and the first thing I noticed was his upper arm tattoo (he was wearing a sleeveless shirt). It looked like wild seaweed or tame barbed wire wrapping around his arm. He was friendly, and his shorts would not stay pulled up over his buttocks when he knelt or laid across the bed of the truck. I noticed that his rear end was peeling from too much sun near the point where the cheeks met. He did not have all his teeth, but that did not affect his driving. The man knew how to drive a truck! He loaded my truck onto the tow vehicle with dispatch. Then he hitched up my horse trailer to a 2″ ball, a dimension I could never recall until today and now won’t ever forget. The tow truck had it all, the driver Just pulled a lever and the bumper extended the hitch right out to meet the trailer. Amazing.
I climbed aboard, and trust me, it was a climb, as the tow truck passenger cabin was a lot higher off the ground than the cab of a pickup. It was roomy and neat up there. I don’t know my savior’s name, but let’s call him Don. Don took my trailer back to the barn and parked it in the space where the grass was brown from being suffocated underneath the trailer. Exactly the right spot, and he was backing it into a tight space in this massive truck that was carrying my long bed pickup! Don had skills.
The two of us headed off to downtown Raleigh, about 30 miles away to deliver my truck to a mechanic. Hoof trimming would happen some other day. We hadn’t gone far before we simultaneously spotted an oncoming tractor trailer, swerving onto our side of the road. It recovered. A large snapping turtle was in the middle of the road, heading into our lane. I asked Don shouldn’t we stop and help it. He barely hestitated before saying “Yes, we should.” Don carried that savage angry reptile, it twisting one way then another, its long neck striking out at him like a cobra. I had never seen anything like it. I’ve heard lots of stories about snapping turtles but had never seen one in action. Don gingerly placed the turtle in the high grass along the shoulder and got back in the truck murmuring “My hands stink.” Plus the mighty claws on the beast had scratched him across one finger. I dug around in my purse for aloe vera to mitigate some of the stink and discomfort.
We drove the rest of the way into Raleigh talking of Don’s Siberian Huskies, him showing me their photos on his I-phone, mimicking their way of talking, and telling me of their mole digging antics. Then, just as we were nearing downtown, Don turned to me and said, “You know, that big ole snapping turtle I was telling you about, the one with a head this big (Don held both fists together side by side, while still managing to drive). “Yes,”I said, because he had mentioned it to me when we rescued today’s snapping turtle. “Well, my Daddy and me went fishing in a small lake and that turtle ate all our fish and all our bait, everytime we tried to fish. So we got a ’22 and as long as we carried that ’22 down there, that turtle left us alone. ”
“How did he know?” I wondered.
“Dunno, Don replied.
” But then one time we went and he was there and he started eating our fish. The ’22 held 8 shots, and I reloaded it 4 times. We put 36 bullets into him, and he just disappeared under water.”
“What?” I asked, aghast.
“Were the bullets pinging off his shell?” I asked, full of hope . . .
“Oh, no,” Don replied. “They were penetrating, just not gettin’ any vitals, I think. Then a few days later, we saw his shell, turned upside down, like a big bowl, by the side of the lake. Buzzards got ‘im.”
By now we had arrived and Don backed that big old gleaming truck into a tiny bay at the mechanic’s shop with great pride. Rightfully so. He was good.
After I arrived at home, I reflected on the adventure and I think that Don and I would have disagreed on many political issues, but he saved the day. And, when he carried that turtle across the road, its head twisting violently to get at him, and its beak snapping wildly, he performed a karmic act by saving its life. I hope his finger isn’t infected.