In the damp and dreary around midnight I was driving down a small hill just outside South Paris on the Hebron road when suddenly I heard a big crash; and then the brake pedal went to the floor. That I was towing a sixteen foot livestock trailer complicated the driving. My truck, an old Dodge RAM, was not in its prime. In fact, it was a junker. I always drive junkers. It's a family trait. I was brought up to drive junkers. And now I was driving down a hill in a junker with no brakes!
But I had knowledge; I had understanding. We are isolated and fearful, but nothing compels us to be dumb. The same isolation that causes us to be fearful protects us. Nothing being out there, what is there to fear? A dark and dreary road must be free of obstruction. On this dark road at midnight what traffic, what to bump into? Besides, there's always the bottom of the hill. And also the distinct possibility that the next second will bring good news. What compels us to invent a worse situation, a steeper hill, an intersection at the bottom, much traffic, a deadly crash?
Why shouldn't imagination attach equally to the positive as the negative? It never seems to: a moment of fearful doubt attaches instantly to the negative. The heart squanders itself by threatening to choke whom it occupies. Death, injury, the end of the world! crash through the windshield. A delicate forehead puts a big dent in the dashboard. When in truth nothing much has happened at all except the imagination received a big shot of adrenalin.
Instead, let's look to facts. Fact is, hydraulic brakes have failsafe built in. There is a large reservoir of fluid to back up what's in the lines. If you understand, you'll stomp the brake pedal to pump some extra fluid in the lines. So you stomp, and then you have pedal again, maybe just a little, but some. Then flip the emergency blinkers on and begin to stop; then tires squealing, pull over. Those are all facts, easy to do, no imagination required, no intellect required.
What's next? Money is a big problem with me. That's another fact. If I called for a tow, that would cost me. And where would I leave the trailer? Beside the road? Not my trailer! It was a miracle and a soft-hearted wife that got me that trailer. Now, take a second, access the facts. Why schmooze with the imagination now? Nothing's happening!
It took me awhile to figure it out. There seemed to be enough pedal, some brake pedal, at least. I went around looking for an obvious fluid leak. There was none. Maybe I could make it where I was going, load up with a ton-and-a-half of grain, and somehow, if I took all back roads and I drove slowly, I'd make it back home again. Could I go, do my thing and turn around and make it home again?
Everything was not perfect. Was there ever anything perfect? I mean in the real world. I had left home with over a thousand dollars to buy grain with. They had trusted me with that money. They were waiting for me to come home with the grain to feed their animals. The emergency brake still worked, too. I could shift down to a lower gear. If I wasn't in too much of a hurry, I thought I could make it home.
Time to put the Dodge into gear and give it a try. It wasn't too bad driving to the grain place, and I loaded the grain sacks in the trailer. Now that the trailer was much heavier, it was much harder to stop. I pulled out of the grain place about dawn. If you start early, when there's less traffic, your chances of making it home again are better, especially if you're loaded. No traffic, nothing to bump into, right?
I wanted to give it a try; you can't tell me I can't give it a try. It was too complicated staying here. I had chores to do; people were depending on me; pigs and goats wanting to be fed.
There was a long down hill on Wilson Hill Road. It's in Auburn just before you get to Lake Road. You probably know the place; it can get pretty nasty a snow day in January. Could I keep my speed under control on that long downhill? I was some nervous. I put the truck in first gear, pressed my foot on the emergency. I still had enough brake on the pedal to keep the truck safe and under control. Relieved that I had managed that obstacle, I was pretty sure I could make it home. From Wilson Hill I turned left up Holbrook. My next big hill would be just outside Buckfield. Hey, I was getting pretty good at this! I followed North Buckfield Road outbound from Buckfield and turned up Paris Hill Road. Now there was a hilly stretch on that road! I spotted a tractor going slowly down the road in plenty of time. I found that if you go slow, even if you don't quite have the equipment you left with, you can make it home again. From Paris Hill it was an easy stretch down Ellingwood to Tueltown to home. When you get home, somebody will be there. My wife said, “What did you do now? Broke the truck. We need that truck. That’s great.” But she opened the door and let me in. My grandson said, "Ahh, she lets you get away with anything.''
The entire passenger side disk on the front brakes had shattered and broken in half, tearing off the pads on the calipers. Hell, there was nothing left! The new parts were a hundred bucks. That's one thing they do for you when you get home: they find the right parts. It's all in going slow. You make the flip. I did my thing and I made it home again. Look at me. I'm nothing special. No big deal. Pretty sure anybody could have done it.