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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Dreams

Published on 30 January 2019

We did get loaded before we got “darked on.” By the time we made it to the Hill City, Idaho scale, we were being snowed on. After we loaded, I retrieved the pot of chili from the cab of the truck and the propane camp stove.

When the chili was hot, Ron Henney said he thought seriously about pouring his portion into his boots to warm up his cold feet.

We should have forgone the chili and “beat feet” for home. The road to Mountain Home was mostly downhill but had a handful of hard uphill pulls. We made it as far as the last hard uphill pull and spun out.

I installed the tire chains and discovered they were not adequate to start the spun-out truck and trailer on the upgrade. The temperature was about 30 degrees, and we’d received about 6 inches of snow with about 2 inches of packed snow on the roadway. The last thing I did before officially giving up until morning, hoping a gravel truck would come by and gravel the road, was to ask someone who stopped to see if they could call my home when they got to town so our wives would be able to sleep soundly knowing we were just stranded and not dead.

This was about 1975, so we had no cellphones. That call was never made.

With the engine idling and the four-way flashers on, I climbed into the truck to discover Ron had climbed into the sleeper berth and had no inclination to give me a turn to lie down.

The diesel truck of the 1968 vintage, when idling in sub-freezing temperatures, put out precious little heat for the occupants of the cab. With my insulated coveralls and coat I was able to stay warm enough to doze off – just barely.

And every time I did, I’d soon wake up dreaming the truck was sliding backward downhill. I’d wake up with a start, let out a war whoop and jam on the brakes, it taking me several seconds to realize the truck had not moved an inch. Ron told me to stop waking him up.

About daylight, I noticed traffic moving the opposite direction had beaten a track through the snow down to bare pavement. The temperature had warmed enough the packed snow was no longer frozen to the road, and with my shovel I cleared tracks from my tires into the opposite lane. With a little more snow cleared behind my drive wheels, I was able to back the truck up onto bare pavement, then start gracefully, and then ran without incident up the wrong way the 200 yards or so to the top of the hill and then on downhill and home.

Dreams happen

Dreams happen, I’m told, during that interval when one is falling into deep sleep or just about to wake up. The REM (rapid eye movement) period of sleep is when real rest occurs. This is a dream-free time, according to the big boys. They say most dreams aren’t even remembered upon rising, but awaking mid-dream usually leaves a vivid memory of the dream.

If one has something going on that interferes with getting soundly to sleep, like a painful injury, then one seems to have more dreams, since the pain (or whatever) keeps you from falling into the deep, restful sleep.

I’ve helped people move hay since, but I haven’t had my own truck on the road since 1992. However, when shoulders, back or knees keep me “almost asleep,” the dreams that come have to do with me and the old yellow hay truck – usually in one of “those” situations.

Occasionally, it’s a dream of heading into a gentle grade and pushing down on the throttle to maintain speed as the engine slows down to the 1,600-rpm spot where the torque maxes out and the truck seems to hold or even gain speed, accompanied by the rise in the sweet whine of the turbo and the increase in the throaty rumble of the exhaust.

I’m about to put on my nightstand a sign that says, “Go back to sleep. You don’t have a hay truck.”

Because more often the dream is along the lines of being led down a muddy track into an area with no chance of turning around and having the one who ordered the hay directing me to unload the hay on the truck there beside the road. He doesn’t need or want the hay on the trailer, leaving me (if I do unload the truck) with an empty truck to pull a loaded trailer through a muddy unknown to get out.

Then, without knowing how I solved that dilemma, I’m headed home on a just-barely graveled track through rolling hills, and as I head downhill toward the worrisome uphill pull, I see those folks farming that land have disked the hillside and, for whatever reason, also disked the narrow, barely graveled track leading up and over the hill. Knowing speed is my only ally, I bring the truck up to about 80 miles per hour as I start up the now-disked-over road. With the truck bouncing and roaring, I make it about three-quarters of the way to the top, and it looks like I have even odds of getting out when ….

Somebody wakes me up. And I never know if I made it.  end mark