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Tales of a Hay Hauler: Is it possible to control ‘luck?’

Brad Nelson Published on 31 March 2013

It started to snow hard. We were on Highway 6 headed southwest out of Ely, Nevada. I was helping a friend move from Washington State to a wonderfully desolate Shangri-La due north from the fabled Area 51 in Nevada.

We were running three trucks more or less together. The Maestro was in the lead truck, the second piloted by a fellow who came along to help if the Maestro would swing back through the Salt Lake City area on the way home and haul some equipment he had there back to Washington, and the author in the third truck.

I’ll call the other driver Wilbur, just to protect his identity. “Wilbur” had not been in a big truck for over a decade but seemed to get along without difficulty.

We had decent CB radios in all three trucks so we could stay in touch in case any of us had a difficulty. The CBs also cut the monotony of a long trip as we shared stories.

Running downhill with curves posted with warning speeds of as slow as 35 mph, and with it snowing hard about an hour and a half after dark, two of us were sharing stories on the CB radio.

Wilbur had to interrupt the conversation with vigor to announce that his headlights had just stopped working. He was close enough to the Maestro to see where the road was, and was advised by the Maestro to try both high and low beams, and then to turn on his four-way flashers.

I pulled the truck I was driving into the passing lane even with the back of Wilbur’s trailers so my headlights would help him see the road.

I asked the Maestro to let me know if we were meeting any oncoming traffic so I could get back into my own lane in a timely manner.

Wilbur’s headlights would come on again for short periods of time, notably (and thankfully) when we met the two sets of oncoming traffic we encountered before we made it to a wide spot where we could pull off and deal with the recalcitrant headlights.

By this time we were about six miles from the turnoff onto the gravel road that leads to Shangri-La. The headlights stayed on for that distance, only to go off again as we turned off the paved highway.

After more coaxing and cajoling, a battery-powered spotlight was attached to the side-view mirror frame and provided enough light to get us to the ranch.

Wilbur made the comment that this was one part of the trip he felt it would be better to not share with his wife. I’m not sure about that one.

My thoughts are that the prayer said at the beginning of the trip that asked for peace and safety was answered that night. The truck with the headlight problem remained at the ranch.

Many years before, my old yellow hay truck showed up with an intermittent starter problem.

While I was down under the truck trying to figure out the starter problem, I noticed that the aluminum front-wheel hub on the passenger side of the truck was cracked about three-quarters of the way around, making a line following the circle of the studs that held the tire and wheel on the hub.

I got a bad case of cold chills as I remembered all of the places I could have gone off the road and into steep embankments the day before on the way down from Fairfield, Idaho, toward Mountain Home, Idaho.

The truck did not move until I located a new hub and installed it. I did share that one with my wife and considered it an answer to prayer. By the way, I could not find anything wrong with the starter, and it functioned perfectly for a very long time after I found the cracked hub.

How much of life is luck? Earlier in Idaho, traveling toward home base with a load of hay in heavy fog in the dark, I was on a road that had a stop sign every mile for about three miles.

Impatient headlights followed me through two of the stops and slow starts. Then, as I slowed to make sure I saw the third stop sign I knew was there, the vehicle (a Volkswagen bus) chose to pass, going around me through the intersection I was stopping at in the fog, never seeing the stop sign.

Had there been opposing traffic, all I would have been able to do was watch and then help pick up the pieces.

I had an email conversation with a Progressive Forage Grower subscriber from Marysville, California, just the other day. He is still a hay hauler and shared the following.

He was on his way toward Yuba City, up a two-lane road with many intersections, some four-way and some two-way stops.

A fairly new Mercedes car passed him after following for several miles. About four miles up the road, that car had been T-boned by a vehicle that failed to stop at a stop sign.

The question was: Would the luck of the Mercedes driver have been different if he had exercised some patience and just stayed behind the truck?

Then again, the oft-forgotten part of “How a stop sign works,” is that traffic on the thru street needs to make sure traffic on the side street is actually going to stop at the stop sign.

A couple of quotes from Paul Akins, the source of the above: “Every fork in the road has a consequence, and some work better than others even when we study the situation and try to make the right choice; timing is part of luck.”

And: “On the other side of the curve, we have all had mechanical things that we caught in time that could have been catastrophic.”

Paul is pondering luck as plotted on a bell curve of life as he concludes, “As I picture this curve, there is some poor soul standing on the far left side that has never been able to make the right decision or guess in their life.

The true Born Loser. On the far right is the person that always beats or misses the rain with three-ton hay in the windrow in a high market, bailed out of the stock, gold, housing at the top and bought farm ground six years ago and started farming.

And then most of us reside in the fat middle. A little more good luck than bad and hopefully at the right time.”

A fellow I know well, who has several businesses, made an observation. “You only have to be right 51 percent of the time to succeed in business.”

An alternative spelling of “Luck” is “Work.” Some things I’ve found to increase “Luck” over the years have been: Get all the education you can. Note that most education does not occur in a formal classroom setting.

Figure out what you like to do, and then qualify yourself so someone will pay you handsomely to do what you like to do. Qualify yourself to be able to make a living in more than one area.

Maintaining my CDL and DOT medical card has allowed me some priceless adventures. Pay attention to the paths you take at crossroads in life; decisions you make may close doors you later need to be open.

Never list on a resumé things you have done in the past that you never want to have to do again. (For me that would have to be catching live turkeys for vaccination.)

And if you choose to harass and embarrass your waitress, at least be smart enough to make sure all of your food is already on your table before you begin.  FG

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