Tales from real life
|Well, if they're not true, they oughta be!|
My fifteenth summer was full of sun and freedom. When I wasn’t busy around the ranch, I tooled around the general area in my ’53 Studebaker pickup. My sisters and I took frequent trips to our favorite swimming hole at the Flathead River.
The quarter-mile downhill grade to the river is gravel and covered with washboard bumps. It’s cut into a clay bank on one side with a drop of a hundred feet or so on the other. With its worn-out suspension, the pickup danced over the washboard, rarely in full contact with the road. I always tried to take it slow, but our speed would inevitably increase as we bounced along. Stepping on the brakes had little effect, it just made steering more difficult. The fishtail motion raised my heart rate, but we never quite went over the edge.
The real excitement came one day when I pulled over into the wide spot above the river where we always parked. It’s about twenty feet above the river and graded smooth, with enough room for several cars. My foot went all the way down to the floorboards with no reaction whatsoever from the brakes. There was barely room, but I twisted the steering wheel frantically to the left and felt the pickup tilt precariously onto the right-side tires as we slalomed back onto the road and coasted to a stop.
‘Why’d you do that?’ asked my little sister indignantly.
She thought I was just trying to be funny, and had no idea that we’d very nearly rolled into the river!
It took a few minutes for me to recover my composure and get us turned around, but we went swimming anyway and enjoyed the afternoon. I drove home cautiously, using low gear to slow down and the emergency brake to stop. In the end, it became a learning experience as my dad taught me how to replace the leaky seals in the brake system master cylinder.