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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Communication

Brad Nelson Published on 27 February 2015

I don’t think there is a city block in Tonopah, Nevada, that is level. Tonopah is rich in silver mining history – complete with historic old hotels and at least a couple of parks full of antique mining equipment. The town sits a-straddle a high ridge with large flat areas of land on both the east and west sides.

One reason may be to protect the town from the vigorous gusty winds that can make the non-vigilant driver change lanes on the highway.

U.S. Highway 6 enters Tonopah from the northeast, where it joins Highway 95 on to the west for 41 miles. From Tonopah, Highway 95 goes on by itself to the south, eventually finding Las Vegas. Coaldale is now a group of about 10 abandoned buildings that once were hotels, gas stations and whatever.

Coaldale sits on a downhill slope just before the Coaldale junction, 41 miles west of Tonopah, where Highway 6 and Highway 95 part company. Traffic turning off onto Highway 6 has to wait for oncoming traffic to clear and then turn left.

A few days ago, I was traveling toward this junction driving a hay truck loaded to at least Nevada’s maximum of 129,000 pounds of truck and hay. The wind was from the west and very gusty. I caught up to a large motorhome pulling an SUV, which seemed hard-pressed to maintain 55 mph on the 70-mph road.

As luck would have it, I was too close to the junction where I needed to make a left turn to justify passing the motorhome before the turn.

I keyed the mic on the CB (civilian band) radio to let the truck following close behind me know that we were now behind a slow motorhome, and that I had to make a left turn just ahead. There was no response.

When I was about a mile from the turn, I turned on the left turn signal, at least giving following traffic a visual signal of my intentions. I made the turn without the traffic following me either running into the back of my hay truck or of attempting to pass while I was preparing for a left turn.

Twenty-five years ago, most trucks had working CB radios, and the drivers kept up a chatter with passing trucks as to road conditions, weather, dangers on the road, location of enforcement personnel, etc. My guess is that about 10 percent of trucks on the road today have a serviceable CB radio that is turned on.

It would have been nice for the driver following me to have heard my warning of my impending turn and acknowledged it. As it was, I had no idea if he knew my plans and was driving accordingly, or if he was about to do something to cause a wreck.

Three weeks earlier, I met a truck coming down a steep grade whose driver flashed his lights repeatedly as he passed by. A half-mile on up the hill, as I came around a corner, there were half-a-dozen police cars on one side of the road and at least one wrecker on the other side, all dealing with a car crash.

I grabbed the CB mic and called to the truck following me that there was a wreck just ahead of us. This truck chose to pass, and we went through the wreck site two abreast, with a very irate state police officer exhibiting his wrath toward the other driver as he passed my truck.

Communication sent must be received and understood to be effective. When I hand a grandson the male end of an extension cord when we need to power a light or a tool, and tell him, “Go find a current bush,” he knows that it’s electrical current we need and finds an outlet to plug the cord into. The uninitiated will stand, looking at the cord he’s just been handed, and say, “Say what?”

“Count the tires,” is a common request made of kids riding with me when we stop for any reason on a trip. I have explained the need to make sure we still have all the wheels on the vehicle we started out with and that they are all in working order.

The intricacies of the English language can make everyday conversation colorful and fun. Once a dairyman asked me if the hay I was bringing him had been rained on. I replied, “Just enough to rinse the dust off.”

Miscommunication can be disastrous. The common classic miscommunication happens when someone bales hay that is both too wet and too dry – wet enough so that the stems (or knuckles with timothy or grass) are loaded with so much moisture that the haystack will brown, mold or even catch fire, and dry enough that the leaves are all falling off the stems and being left in the field.

Make sure that what you meant to say is what the other person thinks you said. It comes to mind the fellow who showed up with a black eye; he explained that what his wife had said was, “Shut up,” and what he understood her to say was, “Stand up.”  FG