Forrest Gump had it right.
Sometimes it can be so obviously stupid there’s no excuse. And if you’re lucky, you get a wake up call with nothing worse than a good scare.
Like the time years ago when I was cruising down what I thought was deserted rural highway, driving an SUV with no brakes.
There it was. My first mistake. Driving a vehicle with no brakes. But instead of telling my boss to find another sucker, I did what I was told. I was young, ignorant and a lot of other things.
And thanks to my dad, I was also not comfortable with questioning authority.
I was also getting a break from driving a tractor all day. I figured I’d drop off the SUV, have a couple of burgers and a shake, and then catch a ride with the guy I was supposed to meet up with back to where I was working that summer, a big corporate farm located in the high desert of Southern Idaho.
Sometimes the thought of a burger and shake can override all reason.
But what I didn’t expect to happen was playing chicken in a vehicle with no brakes with a crop duster that was using a straight stretch of the highway as a landing strip.
So, there I was, cruising down the highway at 60 mph, seconds from running head on into an airplane. I had enough time to know I didn’t want to crash into the propeller. With a twitch of my hand, I dumped the SUV into the ditch on the right, careened underneath the plane’s left wing, and then with another hand twitch, I was launched up the gravel covered side of a culvert that was blocking the ditch, and flew back out onto the road. I was still doing 45 mph. My left arm was still propped onto the window sill. I coasted to a stop, and pulled over to the side of the road and waited there until the shaking stopped all the while keeping an eye on the rear view mirror. I didn’t want that pilot racing up and kicking my ass. I then crept the rest of the way to the repair shop in Idaho Falls and kept my near death experience to myself.
The wasn’t the last time I did anything stupid the summer I worked as a farmhand at Beaver Creek Ranch, but I did learn about the importance of brakes, and the value of luck.
And I still wonder from time to time how that pilot might tell his side of the story:
“Well, see, I was flying crop dusters in Eye-dee-ho. It was that summer Nixon resigned. We were using the highway right near the fields we were working as a landing strip. You know, to refuel and load fertilizer and pesticides and such. So, I come in for a landing and this crazy sonofabitch, instead of pulling over to the side of the highway and letting me pass like any right minded Christian would do, well, he comes right at me like we were playing chicken or something. I didn’t have enough time to get in the air. Just closed my eyes, if you wanna know the truth of it. But at the last goddamn second, that fucker turns into the ditch, and my wing goes right over the top of him. Clipped his radio antenna. I figure he had to be one of those long haired draft dodging hippies on drugs or something. I near shit my pants. . . ”