This month, Baxter shares the story of the â€śJunction City Rattlesnake Ride,â€ť in which an unexpected passenger complicates a simple towing job for a husband and wife.
Itâ€™s always a tough choice for a farmer to make when it is necessary to tow a crippled vehicle; should he have his wife drive the towing unit or should she sit behind the wheel of the one being towed?
To tow requires a steady acceleration to avoid jerking. To follow requires an astronautâ€™s sensitivity to slow and brake the vehicle before it smashes into the rear bumper or three point hitch!
Kentâ€™s old â€™58 4-wheel drive 3/4-ton pickup had sat like a statue on top of a hill above their farm in eastern Kansas for years. Tourists might have remarked â€śhow poignant that some farmer had made a monument to his faithful old 4 x 4.â€ť However, the neighbors knew that the pickup broke down up there and was abandoned!
On the fateful day of the â€śJunction City Rattlesnake Rideâ€ť, Kent asked his wife to help him tow it to the shop. Complicating the operation was that the master cylinder was dry, the clutch plate was rusted to the flywheel and the engine didnâ€™t run!
â€śDonâ€™t worry,â€ť he told her, â€śAll you have to do is steer!â€ť
Most farmersâ€™ wives have a blind spot about machinery. The biggest one is, they actually think their husband knows what heâ€™s talking about! The plan was that he would gently push her to the edge of the hill with the loader bucket. How, she inquired suspiciously, would she be able to stop it once she was headed down the slope toward the shop? He tapped his head with his finger to indicate he had already accounted for this contingency, â€śI will have the log chain hooked from the loader bucket to your back bumper to let you roll down easily.â€ť
She gave him a skeptical look as they began. She tipped over the ridge as he slowed to take the slack. The truck picked up speed and never broke a step when the chain snapped like an old rubber band! Down the hill at a racing pace she flew, dodging, leaping, coursing, swerving and sailing in, over and through, cut banks, washes, creeks, ponds, cow trails, down fences and other snarling obstacles as Kent marveled at the old truckâ€™s ability to maneuver. She high-centered on a stack of stone posts and leaped out screaming! He thought sheâ€™d done quite well, actually, and was surprised at her histrionics.
But, it turns out, there was more to the story than meets the eye. Just as the 4 x 4 broke free, she noticed a big shed snakeskin on the floor! With one hand on the wheel and the other frantically hunting for the snake, she didnâ€™t get as much out of the ride as she could have!
Kent commiserated and said, sympathetically, â€śThank goodness ya didnâ€™t have to worry about braking!â€ť