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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Airplanes

Brad Nelson Published on 22 March 2010

Years back, Leo and I would occasionally hear the drone of what we assumed to be someone flying the night mail. I suggested to Leo, one time, that as discouraging as things were at the moment, it might be in order to sell the hay trucks, buy a twin Beach airplane and fly the night mail. Leo pondered it for some time, and then replied that in all the years he’d been involved in things powered by motors, he had yet to find one that would not eventually need to have a mechanic called to it.

The problem, he went on, with flying the night mail was that he had never seen a phone booth in the sky. We tabled this suggestion and went about getting our trucks out of the mud.

Back in the late 1970s a used truck dealer in Boise, Idaho flew me to Fort Worth, Texas to pick up a used truck and drive it home to Boise. The flight down was uneventful until we had circled the Fort Worth airport about 20 times. There was a rather icy air inside the plane that I, at least, took to mean something was not right.

My suspicions were confirmed when I saw the staff move a young mother and child to a rear-facing seat at a bulkhead normally occupied by airline staff during landing. I doubt I was the only one in prayer at least once while awaiting the outcome. The plane finally made its shot at the runway. We noticed fire trucks lining the plane’s path and chasing after us. We touched down in what seemed to be a normal manner, other than that once on the ground, the plane seemed to roll a much longer distance without any brakes being applied.

When the brakes were finally applied, it felt like a single hard application that jerked the plane to a stop. The pilot’s voice came on the intercom. He announced we were on the ground and stopped and he was glad we were there. He told us that the plane had experienced a complete loss of its hydraulic system. He also told us buses were on the way to get us off right where it sat. They would deal with the plane later.

Needless to say, I felt safer driving the 48-miles-per-hour top speed of the near-antique mixer truck I was the proud operator of. This was the same trip where I stopped for fuel in Texas, drug my 6-foot-4-inch frame out of the truck, yawned, stretched and looked around. The fuel jockey asked what I was looking for. I told him I’d never been in Texas before and was just looking for some of those big Texans I’d heard stories about all my life. It must have been in how I said it, but all 5 foot 8 inches of this little Texan proceeded to stomp, snort and bellow. I can’t imagine why.

One of Leo’s nephews had previously agreed to help his uncle throw hay bales in return for being taught how to drive the big trucks. He had returned to Colorado, driven truck for awhile and now visited us again, complete with his new wife. Ray stated he was minding his own business driving the truck down a fairly straight stretch of the highway. For no apparent reason, his new bride screamed, covered her face with her hands and then ducked her face into her lap. Ray, who had been driving along in la-la land, was now wide awake and trying to figure out what he had just run over or was just about to run over. A quick review indicated there was nothing wrong with the truck or the road, so he asked his bride why she was screaming. She hysterically motioned out the window that a plane was going to crash and she couldn’t bear to see it so she covered her eyes.

About this time, the plane she was sure was crashing pulled up abruptly just ahead of them. It was a crop duster. Ray said there was not an earthly thing he could do to keep from laughing. Unfortunately, Ray’s young bride, having never been around crop dusters, required an intense amount of consoling to calm her down. It seems that when you marry a city girl things like crop dusters need to be explained to her before they observe one so, unlike poor Ray, you don’t end up in the dog house.  PD

By Brad Nelson