I grew up around construction equipment and trucks. In the 60s when I was in high school Cecil Lewis ran a fleet of dump trucks. Among other things we had the contract to haul the blasted rock from the Pure Stone Quarry out south of Marble Falls back to the crusher in town.
Even as young and as small as I was at 14 or 15, I commonly and single-handedly pulled transmissions and replaced clutches in those old dump trucks and did brake jobs.
I knew how to do all that then. Now I have trouble putting a spare tire on if I have a flat, much less understand the working of today’s cars and trucks.
One day Cec sent a couple of trucks loaded with building stone down to Lake Livingston in east Texas. When they dumped their loads and headed back, one truck lost an engine. Both drivers returned in a single truck.
The next morning he and I took off for Onalaska, Texas a distance of near 250 miles. Seeing that nothing we did would bring the truck back to life without a new engine, we hooked a 3/8” x 20’ chain to it and dragged it back to Marble Falls behind a 1/2 ton Ford pickup. I wouldn’t have been old enough to have a commercial license.
Only if you ever rode with Cecil Lewis can you really understand what a feat it was to make it back alive. Not only did he drive fast but he didn’t always pay attention to the road. He didn’t know what coming to an easy stop was. With that truck on behind didn’t change any of that.
Mind you, this being about 63 Chevrolet 5yd Dump Truck, it was equipped with hydraulic brakes that didn’t need air as with some of the other trucks we had. They were good brakes too, For that reason I just had to pay attention at every second. If not, I’m likely right up in the middle of that pickup with the dump truck.
By the grace of God we made the trip with everything in tact, perhaps except my nerves being a bit frayed.
I credit the training I got on this trip and many others, with my lightening fast reflexes that have keep me from being involved in many collisions.
I have no way to know how many miles I’ve driven during the past almost 50 years since my last at fault accident, but I’ve estimated it to be we’ll over 3 million miles. In September of 1971 in rear ended a Williamson County Road Maintenance Truck in Liberty Hill. It was well before daylight and I drifted off to sleep, waking up about 1/2 second before the moment of impact at about 60 MPH.
I walked away from that wreck with no real injuries, but messed up the front of that Ford Automobile. The County Truck was barely damaged. The toughness of those old trucks and a big pipe welded across the back made it hard to destroy.
To date that was the last wreck I caused. I’ve had a few, where I’ve been rear ended or sitting and been run into, but no more at fault wrecks.
But tomorrow is a new day. We never know what will happen. Wish me luck.
2 thoughts on “We Did Things Much Differently Back Then”
Your story of driving the truck in back while towed by a chain took me back to Vietnam in 1970. I had the day off, so rode with the supply truck up to Dalat, where there was a PX (the fire support base where my engineer company was located was too small for such). There were two trucks that day. Something went wrong with one of them, so they were “hooked together” with a chain for the trip back. I was not the driver of either, but realized somewhere along the trip that this was not a good situation. But, hey, probably nobody on that trip was more than 19 years old. We did crazy things back then.
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It was an everyday occurrence for us.
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