It was a classic battle of the sexes, played out in a dirty, hot field north of town near high noon. The day had started out like any other during the busy planting season. Hubby spends four or five hours in a field, then we spend one or two hours of quality time together moving to the next field, only to repeat the entire leapfrog/hopscotch routine to the next field again tomorrow.
I readily admit, other than being the gopher and bookkeeper, driving a pickup in circles from “up north” to “over west” may be about all I’m good for as a farmer’s wife. Last Thursday’s episode put a cherry on top of all that.
A nice fall day’s drive time was punctuated with a flat tire on the new truck, a 1974 GMC that started out life Husker red 45 years ago. It’s now a muted pink, duller than Pepto-Bismol and not a lot brighter than Georgia mud.
The rear driver’s side tires are a set of duallies, with 10 lug nuts piercing both wheels, also circa 1970. Of course, it was an inside tire pancaked against the soft dirt in a field 10 miles from the nearest small town and with a split rim, most local tire repair shops won’t work on them, because they’re too dangerous.
If it were me, I’d have called AAA or the trucking service that isn’t afraid of duallies with split rims and proceeded to finish my Coke and read my book while I waited. But, not my big, strong man.
On the first attempt, a bottle-jack rated for 30 tons, but about the size of a two-liter Coke bottle, was strategically placed under the truck’s two-and-a-half-ton frame. My job was to corral the lug nuts — 10 from each tire, two tires. Yes, they were all 20 accounted for.
Then, with both tires off one backside of the little truck and a new tire being wedged into place, the aforementioned 10 lug bolts were catching on the outer rims of the 10 holes on the new wheel. Hubby grimaced, I scowled heavily and we paused to admire his handiwork.
Suddenly, BEEP, BEEP AND KABOOM — 15 tons of truck and seed wheat decided to spontaneously back up off the jack. We leapt back, one of us much quicker than the other.
Having taken this opportunity to make a graceful exit stage left, the entire truckload landed on the edge of the holes in the rim and balanced there precariously.
I asked — no, I begged we call a truck service now, but the grizzled veteran farmer could not be bested by a truck much younger than he. He examined the truck’s underside from several angles, most of them too far underneath the carriage to make me comfortable, before agreeing to call the closest neighbor and ask for help.
I retreated, still shaking, to the opposite side of the friendly single-ton pickup I drive only for such special occasions. Once my begging subsided, I tried to simply look the other way, but each creak and groan of the springs on the machine parked 10 feet away, pulled me back into the situation.
It wasn’t pretty, and I didn’t intend to be either. I increased my volume with a strong suggestion to call in a professional, but to no avail. I’m fairly sure it was one of those time when the male of our species develops selective hearing.
Minutes later, our friend brought his even smaller hydraulic jack to the scene, along with a dozen breadboard-sized bits of lumber and the two men tried again to jack the truck up high enough to crawl under. Yes, I said to crawl under.
The men shooed the dog away, but the older, now much-less-attractive one shimmied under once again.
By this time, I was in tears. A little hangry at the time, I wanted to scream, but instead I cried. Silently, I ugly-cried and then I sniffled, which is equally ugly.
Finally, I called my daughter in Denver with the crazy notion she could help. Sorta like the time she called me for help when her old car quit inside the carwash in Lincoln. She talked me down off the ledge and we both sat there, helpless once again.
Soft dirt, heavy truck, little jacks and flimsy boards. It seemed like a recipe for disaster, but the two men labored cheerfully in the noonday sun. And, eventually the truck rose another inch into the air, literally, and they were able to get the first wheel bolted back onto the axle.
The second tire quickly followed, and they let the truck down off the inside jack, pinning the larger jack between the truck’s frame and the dusty, powdery clods beneath. Freeing the second jack was a small task compared to the harrowing incident we’d just endured, but the hubby remained cool.
Once we were back in the pickup and headed to town for one very large chicken-fried steak, I paused to take stock of our feelings. “Ed,” I asked. “What are you feeling now that it’s over?”
“Shuck-ey darn,” he grinned. Shuck-ey darn, indeed.