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A LONG DAY

Story ID:10079
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Middleburgh New York USA
Year:1979
Person:George and myself
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A LONG DAY
By Fred Wickert


I had been working all day, driving a ten wheeler dump truck on a sewer line job. I had returned to base, which was at a trailer park in Middleburgh, New York. I was putting oil and grease and other supplies in the truck I was going out with in the morning, before going home for the night. It was 8:P00 P.M. George, my close friend and company mechanic came over and said the boss wants to see us in the trailer.

We went in the office trailer and the boss informed us there was a big problem. We had a truck, the Ford semi, broke down in Canandaigua, NY. It had just picked up a load of wine and had broken down. A broke down truck is bad enough but this one was especially bad news because of the cargo. It had a load of wine aboard and the Feds kept close track of them. If it did not reach each check point in a reasonable length of time there was some explaining to do. This system had been set up because so many trucks hauling booze were prime targets for hijackers.

George had to take the station wagon loaded with all the tools and supplies. The Brockway was in Syracuse. There was a trucking Company there that was leasing it, but the lights were not working. The plan was for George and I to go to Syracuse. George was to find out why the lights were not working on the Brockway, and fix the problem. Then I was to drive the Brockway to Canandaigua. Fuel was to be transferred from the Ford to the Brockway, the trailer loaded with wine to be unhooked from the Ford, and hooked to the Brockway. Then the Brockway could pull the load of wine to its destination in Western New Jersey.

When the Brockway was on the way to New Jersey with the wine, George and I could get the Ford running, spend the night at a truck stop motel and then bring the truck back to Middleburgh the next day.

When we got to Syracuse, George said before we get the Brockway, he wanted to book our room in the motel. He didn’t want us to get back there in the middle of the night to find all the rooms were full and no vacancies. We went to the truck stop motel and paid for our room and got our key. Then we went to the garage where the Brockway was. In a very short time George determined the reason the lights were not working on the Brockway was that the ground cable was not properly attached. We were in a hurry and he didn’t have the proper bolts to attach it with. George took a pair of vice grips out of his tool box, clamped the end of the cable to the frame and told me to try the lights. They worked.

I drove the Brockway, following George with the station wagon to where we were told the Ford was. Sure enough, when we got there, the Ford was parked in the road adjacent to a shopping center parking lot. The first thing we had to do was get it out of the road. George said it would be nice if we could manage to get it under one of those big lights that lit up the parking lot. By that time it was after 10:00 P.M. and all the stores were closed so there were only a few cars. I spotted a light post that had a box attached to it. We walked over and checked and the box was a weather proof electric outlet with four female plugs. We had to get the Ford together with 30 foot trailer loaded with wine, from the road to that light post.

There was one large problem. The brakes on those trucks are air brakes. They are designed so that when the air pressure drops below a certain point, the brakes automatically go on and lock up. To release the brakes, one must start the engine which in turn runs the air compressor by means of a belt. When the air compressor builds up enough pressure the brakes will release. In this case there was a problem. The engine on the Ford was not running. No engine means no compressor, and no compressor means no air and no air means no brakes released.

George and Emil, the driver determined the only thing to do was try to pull it, sliding on the pavement with the locked wheels. None of us knew if it was going to work but we had to try. In the mechanic’s station wagon was a sixteen foot log chain with a large hook on each end. I backed the Brockway up to the Ford and the chain was hooked. Emil got in the Ford to steer and George told me to try it.

At first, the Brockway strained and I could smell the clutch starting to burn. I stopped. George told me to try it again and to give it more throttle. I did as he directed and the truck started to move. “Keep her going,” George yelled. Then he hurried to the entrance to the parking lot. He motioned me to go in the left lane to swing wide enough. He positioned himself to stop traffic if there had been any and we kept it going slowly, right up to the light pole. George signaled me when to stop.

The Brockway was parked beside the Ford. A 12 volt pump and hose were rigged to begin the process of transferring fuel from the Ford to the Brockway. The Brockway fuel gauges said we had a quarter of a tank when we left Syracuse with it. It had to be full when it left with that trailer full of wine. We were commenting on how nice it was that we had light to see what we were doing, when somebody noticed there was a place of business in the row of store fronts that was lighted and still open. It was a Krispy Kreme Donut shop! Not only did they have donuts, but more importantly they had the life blood of all truckers – coffee.

George was carrying a stash of money the boss had given him to cover our expenses. He took some of it out and handed it to me to go get us all a big cup of coffee and a dozen assorted donuts. I was happy to comply.

After about an hour the fuel had been transferred and we unhooked the trailer from the Ford. We pulled the Ford ahead with the Brockway so we could hook the Brockway to the trailer. George advised Emil about the vice grips holding the ground cable to the frame to keep the lights working, and Emil drove away with the load of wine.

George worked the rest of the night on the Ford and on in to the morning before he finally got it running. Several more trips were made for coffee and donuts to keep us going. I had nothing to do, so I sat in the station wagon running the engine and using the heater. I kept the window open so I could hear George if he needed something. Finally George told me to see if the Ford will start. It did. He said, “Okay, let’s get out of here.”

We arrived in Syracuse at the truck stop. It was 11:30 A.M. We wanted to get a couple of hours sleep before we headed back to Middleburgh. The motel people refused to allow us to even take a shower. They said it was past check out time and if we wanted to use the room we must pay for another day. We refused to do that so we hit the road back to Middleburgh.

We were about 26 miles from Middleburgh and the Ford ran out of fuel. I remained with the truck while George went after some fuel. When he came back with it we poured it in to the tank. Then George had to work another half hour on the truck to refill the filters and prime the fuel lines and fuel injectors before it could start and run. When he got it running we stopped at a station and put fuel in it. Finally we arrived back at the trailer park and parked the vehicles and reported to the boss in the office. I had a little over a half hour to drive home yet. I had reported to work the morning before at 5:30 and it was now 5:00 P.M. the next day. I had been on the go for 36 hours. It was a long day! It was a long day for George too.

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