One Sunday afternoon I was on my way home from Bill Booth’s house in Rutherford County. On a remote section of US-221-N, I passed a recent accident. The injuries were limited to small cuts, bruises and mild shock. One of the two vehicles, a van, had rolled after the collision into a deep ditch – about chest high to me. One corner of the van had jumped the ditch and was resting on the other side, canted down at a steep angle. It occurred to me with a small surge of excitement that this was an opportunity for me to play Ranger Bob!
As I slowed down and turned around, I reviewed my clothes to see if I looked the part. Hiking boots – check. Tight blue jeans – check. Bright red wool shirt with leather elbow patches – check. Forest green and tan baseball cap with a picture of horses and the name or a western hunting outfitter – check.
I pulled to a stop beside the van and got out to greet my fans. The four ladies in the two wrecked vehicles, and the four other ladies in a following vehicle that was carpooling with the wrecked cars, gathered around. They asked me many earnest questions and entreated me to help. I used my cell phone to call the Sheriff.
I then set to work hooking up my logging chain to my Bronco tow hooks and the back of the van. One of the wreck passengers, an adolescent girl, seemed anxious to help. So I recruited her to assist me in finding large rocks and piling them in the ditch. We made a bridge for the tire on the far side of the ditch to have a way to roll back over the ditch without sinking to the bottom.
I turned on my external front axle locks, put the transmission in four wheel drive low range, and eased out the clutch. The van front wheel rolled into the ditch and the rock bridge settled. The van frame now rested on the dirt and lost its ability to roll on its tires. I felt the resistance and pushed in my clutch, just long enough to assess the situation in my rear view mirror. I did not want to lose my momentum, but I did not want to keep jerking the van if things were out of balance, and maybe tear something up. After about a second, I could see the van, chain and my Bronco were in decent shape, so I popped the clutch and stomped the gas.
My big, new, deep tread mud grip tires spun for about a quarter turn. Then they dug past the dry sand on top of the road and hit the moist, heavy dirt underneath. They started gripping. The van walked right out of the ditch! I hit my brakes to keep the Bronco from driving into the highway and encountering passing traffic.
The main headache, then, was that my Bronco had stopped. But the van, still in neutral gear, kept rolling…and rolling…and rolling…right up to the Bronco back bumper. I had to hit my gas and move forward twice to keep from getting rear-ended. Then, when looking under the van to remove my chain hook from a hole in the frame, I found that the Bronco had jerked it so hard that it tore the frame metal (which is pretty thick, strong stuff…). The hole in the quarter inch steel had been peeled back about four inches.
I packed up my gear and departed to accolades and fond farewells all around.