One day my dad took me fishing on the Yellow River. The spot he picked was far down the river, so we drove there in his old red Ford truck. We bounced along a rutted dirt road until we came to a steep hill. The road near the river was red clay. We eased down the hill and to the open area near the river. Not long after we started fishing, a rain shower dowsed us. No big deal. We continued fishing until the afternoon sun beat down on us and the fish. They quit biting and we decided to head back. We loaded up the truck and headed up the steep embankment. About halfway up, the truck slid back down. The shower had turned the red clay into a slick surface.
Several attempts later it was clear that our truck wasn’t going up that hill. My Uncle Henry didn’t live far from where we were, so we walked to his house. When he heard our predicament, he said, “I’ve got just the thing.” Henry grabbed a chain and sheet of plywood, loaded us in his truck and away we went.
Henry assessed the situation. His plan had been to chain our truck to his, but the chain wasn’t long enough, and he knew his truck would get stuck if he tried to drive down the slick clay hill. So he went to ‘plan b’. He pulled the sheet of plywood from his truck and placed it under Dad’s back tires.
“You drive over the plywood while I pull you up with the chain,” he said. Henry didn’t mean he was going to pull us with the truck. He was going to pull us with his body.
I didn’t think that could work. I don’t think Dad thought much of the idea either. But Henry insisted on trying it, and since there weren’t many other options, Dad gave it a try.
Now Henry was a big man. He’s probably the strongest man I’ve ever met. He didn’t work out. All his strength was born of hard labors and genetics. But I was certain that even Henry couldn’t pull a full sized truck up a rain slicked clay hill. But he insisted that he could.
His plan was simple. Dad was to put the plywood under the back tires and drive over it while Henry pulled the chain hooked to the bumper. That would keep the front end from sliding sideways, and he would pull so the truck wouldn’t slide back down. I was about eight at the time and even I could see the flaw in this plan. But Henry was going to give it a try.
Henry’s face turned red as he pulled with all his might and dad accelerated. The truck drove over the plywood and began spinning its wheels.
“Okay, George,” Henry said through his grunts, “now move the plywood back under the tires again.”
Dad moved the wood, climbed back in, and inched the truck forward. Henry strained and the truck slowly moved uphill until the plywood was behind the tires again. Dad got out, moved the wood, and started forward again. Henry grunted, huffed, and pulled. Inch by inch, foot by foot, the truck slowly moved up that steep hill. How Henry found the energy to keep pulling for so long amazes me to this day, but for at least an hour, maybe longer, he kept that chain tight to keep the truck from sliding, and he pulled with extra effort when the truck was trying to climb. He did this until at last, the truck crested the slick hill and found enough traction to drive on its own.
Note to self. Don’t make Henry angry.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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