Funny True Stories short stories

Monsoon driving in a Haulage Truck

Teaching monsoon driving in a open pit copper mine

I have been a teacher, not in the traditional sense, but I have taught in many of my occupations. This is about one of those teaching experiences that maybe went not quite as expected.

First off, let me explain something about haulage trucks and rain. These are two entities that are polar opposites. When the rains come to the mines, one thing is true, all haul truck drivers are in for an adventure. While the rain keeps pouring from the sky, haul trucks drive just fine, but when the rain stops and the dirt on the road becomes more like clay, it is like driving on ice. There is no feeling like sliding down the road in a machine the size of your house with no true control. Just as one tops the hill and is ready to head down the other side, the driver tenses up, especially in the buttocks’ region. There were many times I thought I might actually have to call out mine rescue to remove the seat from my butt. After about six months or so, it becomes more of a game than a total fear of life ending drama.

Monsoon clouds

There are still times, no matter how many years you drive one of these big machines, that you will have that scare put back into you. Here in Arizona, where I drove in the mines, we have a monsoon season every year. Sometimes the monsoons aren’t too bad, other times they are downright fierce. This instance is during one of the bad ones.

I trained a lot of haul truck drivers during my time working in the copper mines. Almost all drivers taught, but I taught more than the average amount. I’m not sure if it was because of my ability to talk to almost anyone and find out what works best for them, or maybe I just had a death wish. Some trainees would get behind the wheel and scare the trainers. I only had this happen to me one time in twenty years teaching to drive these trucks. I may and probably will write about that time in the future. This post however will be about the teacher scaring the student.

Whenever we got some new drivers in the mine, one thing we always told them, was if they made it through the monsoon season, they would be alright as long as they wanted to do this job. Once every couple of years. It seemed like we would get a new batch of students during the monsoons. This was the times the students truly got thrown directly into the fire. Learning to drive a haulage truck in the worst possible circumstance is very difficult, not only for the students, but for the trainers as well.

One day at work I was told that I would be training John, (truth be known, I can’t remember his name. This was many years ago). The rains had been bad for a week or so and the mine roads were a complete mess. John was excited to get started. He told me that he had driven many types of equipment, but never in a mine setting or anything as large as a haul truck. I explained how the rains affected the trucks and how bad the roads were right now. It didn’t seem to phase him. Maybe this guy will do alright, I thought. I have, and still do believe, the only way to learn to drive one of these monsters is to get behind the wheel and do it. I never allowed a trainee to just ride around all shift watching me drive. The first day it’s ok to ride and watch for half a shift, but after that, it’s time for the student to drive. This day was the exception.

I believe there were thirteen students that showed up that day. All the driver’s that would have trainees with them, including myself, decided, the students would just ride today. This was going to be a suck your seat up the butt kind of day. If the students didn’t quit today just by riding, then maybe they would make it through training. When the experienced drivers were worried, then I could just imagine what the students were going through. These poor trainees were going to have the ride of their lives and didn’t even have to buy a ticket!

Open pit copper mine

The first half of the shift was a circus. Drive up the hill, slide down the hill, and hope you didn’t hit anything. The bosses all parked their pickups at the top of the mine to watch what was happening below. There was no way in the world they were going to be on the road with us, doing everything we could to keep from playing bumper cars! I was doing fairly well keeping my truck out of the ditch, which was quite the challenge. I told John once that it was his turn to drive, and his eyes got huge until I said that I was just kidding. With a sigh of relief, he said under his breath, “Oh, thank God!” I laughed and told him that even I wasn’t that big of a jerk.

Maybe six hours into our shift, one of the shovels went down, and they had to start another one up. This wasn’t that big of a deal except, the road to the shovel hadn’t been worked on all day and I knew it was going to be extremely slick. The rains were turning on and off all day, keeping the roads in terrible condition. This road hadn’t been worked on today by road crew because they had their hands busy with all the other roads. Dispatch told me to let them know the condition of the road, so they knew whether they needed to pull someone to work on it. I knew It was going to be bad, but I didn’t know it was going to be that bad.

I stopped at the top of the hill, looking down the other side, and told John, this is going to be the best ride in the park today. John let out a small groan, which is what I would’ve done if he weren’t here with me. I have to keep up good appearances for the student, I thought to myself. Slowly we started down the hill. I knew it was going to be slick. I knew we were going to slide. Furthermore, I knew that my butt would try to eat my seat. Furthermore, I also knew that I had a trainee in the seat next to me, and I had to play it cool, so I didn’t scare him into quitting on his first day. What I didn’t know was how awful it was going to be and how hard it would be to keep my cool for John’s sake.

We started down with a small slide toward the driver’s side. This soon turned into a very large slide. One thing kept popping in my mind, stay cool for John’s sake. So I started explaining what I was doing to keep us on the road and out of the ditch. I explained every turn of the steering wheel, how much brake pressure I was using and how to watch what the road was telling me with the dips and potholes we were navigating over and around. I explained these things all the way down the hill towards the shovel we were heading for. Furthermore, I even told John that was the shovel as we passed the shovel, still sliding for another three hundred yards on the flat and heading towards the berm! The truck came to rest about fifty feet from the berm. I locked the parking break and took a deep breath. John looked as pale as a ghost, and I wasn’t sure that I didn’t as well.

Mine shovel with bucket on the ground and man standing out front

Over the radio came a familiar voice of my ole buddy Pat, who was running the shovel. With a small laugh, Pat said, “Hey Billy, the shovel is over here, come on over and get loaded.” I answered back, “John and I are going to step out for a small break and clean our shorts out first!” I smiled at John to let him know everything was okay. Truth be told, even though I had to play it cool for John, my heart was running about ten times faster than I was letting on. I asked, “Are you okay, John?” He said, “I didn’t mind the sliding and all, but I guess what bothered me was how you explained what you were doing as we were coming down the hill.” I answered, “What do you mean? I just wanted you to get the idea of what I was doing to keep us out of the ditch.” He said, “Ya, but you were looking at me the whole time!” John, I said, “Actually, I was looking at the road, it just happened to be out of your window!” This did not sit well with John, as his pale white took on a light shade of green. Maybe that was not what he wanted to hear, but it was the truth.

We got through the rest of the shift without incident, and I assured John that today was not normal and tomorrow would be better. He shook my hand and thanked me for everything. The next day came and as my shift was beginning soon, I asked my boss where John was. The supervisor told me he was one of the five students that quit today. Well I hated to see John go, but it let me know that he probably wasn’t right for this job anyway.  Yes, it was extreme conditions, but that is part of the job.

We all have our limitations. As for John, I hope he found a great career outside the mines. I’m not sure if he just didn’t have the stomach for the job, or if maybe he was just smarter than the rest of us that continued with this line of work. Sometimes you just have to find the right place in life for you. Oh, just to set the record straight, I only lost one other student during training in the mines, and he was the one that scared me, whom I talked about earlier.

Take care, enjoy what you do and remember, we are all in this together.

Funny True Stories short stories

Dad did doughnuts in my car!

This is an adventure I had with one of my friends that I ran around with in my teen years. Kevin and I were and still are good friends. Unlike me, he is still in the Missouri Ozarks. This is a place I have great memories of and miss a great deal. In the area where we lived, it was almost impossible to get to someone’s house without driving on a dirt road. My house was no different. We lived at the bottom and in between two hills. One was steeper but shorter, the other was quite a bit longer but not as steep. This longer route was the one that was used the most because it emptied out on a blacktop road. The other went into another dirt road before it hit blacktop. The shorter of the two was also the wrong way to go in the winter because it was so steep and snow and ice would make it incredibly slick.

All of us at the time did a lot of engine work on our vehicles to make them faster than stock, and Kevin’s truck was no different. Of course, at our age, getting on dirt was a reason to spin the tires. Asphalt tears up tires, but a good dirt road is fun without the cost of tearing things up, usually. We all worked on our own vehicles and helped each other out when we could. Kevin was very good at mechanics, so his vehicles always ran top-notch.

Up at the top of the hill, close to the paved road, there was a man that lived in a ground set trailer. It sat back, maybe two acres off the dirt road. He kept pretty much to himself, except he really didn’t like when we drove past his house kicking up dust. I kinda considered him more of a city man instead of a country man. He really didn’t belong there. I never really had many dealings with him because he didn’t do any kind of farming, and he didn’t want to have anything to do with us farmers. Like I said, he didn’t fit in.

Chevy pickup on a dirt road

I’m not sure if we were coming home from school, but that is how I remember it. On this day, when we pulled off the paved road onto the dirt road, Kevin gave a little more throttle to his Chevy than was needed, and it caused the truck to slide sideways.  It wasn’t a full on rip up the road kind of thing. It was just enough to make the truck “fishtail” to one side and make us both laugh. I was a little upset that he didn’t give it more gas then he did. We headed on down the hill to my house. My dad was out front working on a tree he had just planted. Kevin and I went into the house to get something to drink.

Policeman explains the complaint he received about our driving

It was maybe fifteen minutes later and my dad yells for us to come outside. We went out and there was a cop talking to my dad. Oh no, what’s going on?, I thought to myself. This officer asked why we had been doing doughnuts at the top of the hill. Kevin and I looked shocked. We both denied it. Kevin told the officer that maybe he was going faster than he should, but we weren’t doing doughnuts.  I agreed with him and said if we were doing doughnuts, the tire tracks would most definitely show. The officer told us that he knew the guy at the top of the hill was a grouch and for us to please slow down going past his house. We said we would, and the cop shook our hands and left.

After the cop left, my dad looked at us and asked what we really did. I had probably the best dad ever. Anybody that knew him would agree that he was one of a kind. Kevin and I both told him about the small fishtail we had done and dad just said don’t do it again. It wasn’t long after that that Kevin went on home. After Kevin left, my dad asked me again what we had done. Again I told him what had happened and said if he wanted to, we could go up and look at the tracks. He said, “ok, let’s go.” This came as a bit of a surprise to me, but it is what it is I guess. We went to the backyard and got into my Ranchero and I drove us up to the spot, so my dad could look at the tracks. We both got out and looked. It was a little worse than I thought, but it was still a fishtail to one side like we had said. Dad told me to get in the passenger side, so he could drive. I got in and dad got behind the wheel.

Inside of old 60s Ford vehicle

Then it happened, my dad put the car in first gear, slammed on the gas pedal, let out the clutch and did three perfectly executed doughnuts in the middle of this dirt road, directly across from the man’s house that had called the cops on us. After, he stopped the car, he got out and yelled at the man. “Hey stupid! You see that? That’s a doughnut! Now call the cops you moron!” We went home and I was in awe of what my dad had just done. He told me that we were wrong to spin the tires like we had done and not to do it again. I answered, “Yes sir, but what about what you just did?” Dad explained, “I just wanted to make sure that idiot knew what a doughnut was!” Then he smiled and said, “Maybe next time he will come talk to me so I can handle it, instead of calling the cops like we live in the city or something.” That man never called the cops and he made sure to always wave politely anytime we drove past. I guess he figured he didn’t want to mess with dad. Kevin and I kept our promise to the cop and to dad, we never spun our tires in front of this man’s house again. Oh, we wanted to real bad, but we didn’t.

Front fender of 1960's car

I hope you enjoyed this story from my youth. I have many more to come in the future. Sometimes I wonder why I ever grew up. These were good times, but the past is the past, and we must move on. Take care and remember, we are all in this together.

Funny True Stories short stories

Teenage years can be interesting

One of my friends that I ran around with and got into trouble with was Eugene. There were a few others, however Eugene seemed to be the one that helped me create some of my greatest, craziest and fondest memories.

To say my teenage years were interesting would be an understatement. I grew up on a farm in Missouri during my high school years. We didn’t have all the luxuries kids have today, like cell phones and computers, so we had to come up with things to do. This is what happens when you leave farm boys to their own devices…

I’m going to give you a little background into my life, so the pieces will fit together. My family had some property up on the highway a few miles from our house. The property had two large buildings on it. In the smaller of the two, we had a convenience store called “Linda’s Nut House.” I know that’s a funny name, and I will probably write about how that name came to be in a future post. The other larger building was an auto shop that my dad ran. Since I had the availability of an auto shop, all the tools that you could think of and of course snacks from the store, I had friends come over to work on their cars after hours quite often. One of the main ones that showed up a lot was my friend Eugene and his ’65 Ford Mustang.

Front right side of Ford Mustang

It was Sunday afternoon, and I was in the shop alone tinkering on my ’66 Ford Ranchero, when I saw that Eugene pulled up. He came in and told me that he had bought a new steering wheel for his car and asked if I would help him install it. “Of course” I told him. I had him pull his car in, and we went to work. I had changed out the steering wheel in my own car not too long before and knew exactly how to do it.

I gathered the tools we needed, and we removed his original steering wheel. I told him to get the new one. He reached in the back seat and pulled out the box with the new wheel in it and handed it to me. I set it aside and said that I needed the adapter box first. Eugene looked at me kind of funny and asked, “What adapter?” I told him the one that you put on the original bolt pattern, so his new GT steering wheel would bolt to it. “I don’t have an adapter” he said. “Well we can’t put it on without it” I explained.

There was only one auto parts store in our little town, and it was now closed. It wouldn’t be open until tomorrow, but we had school in the morning. Even though we didn’t live but about two miles apart, down a couple of dirt roads, we went to different high schools. This meant I wouldn’t be able to drive him to school, and there was nobody else around that neck of the woods that went to school with him. He absolutely refused to ride the school bus.

As we walked around the car, I was making fun of the situation, He did not see the comedy in this. I told him that we would just have to put the old one back on until he got the adapter we needed. He sat down in the driver’s seat with the new steering wheel in his hands and seemed to get an idea. This worried me. It always seemed like when he got an idea, I was about to get into trouble. He took the new steering wheel and stuck it onto the shaft. He then proceeded to turn the wheel back and forth, feeling the front tires turn under him. “Can’t I just drive it like this?” He asked. “I guess so, but there’s nothing holding it on but you. Any little bump and you’re going to be going down the road with it in your lap!” I answered with a laugh. My laughter soon turned into concern. He’s seriously thinking about this!

“It ain’t no big deal, Bill, I can get the adapter tomorrow and put it on tomorrow night.” He said. One thing I knew about my friend, when he decided to do something, it was going to happen. So he left the new one on there, fired up the Stang and backed it out of the garage. “Let’s take a run down the road and see how she does.” He said. “Why not?” I said. I got into the passenger seat and away we went.

Front end of a 1965 Ford Mustang

I fully expected to be in a wreck, but I’ve been in worse situations. We went down the road a piece, and he held nothing back. Full speed ahead and worry about disaster when it happens, I guess. After going maybe five miles, he turned around and headed back. Maybe two miles back down the road, he told me it was working great and asked if I wanted to drive. “Sure.” I said. I figured he just wanted a second opinion. Going down the road at maybe fifty miles an hour, he pulls the steering wheel off and offers it to me! “Put that damn thing back on!” I exclaimed. It took him a couple of seconds, but he got it back on and said “Cool!” “Are you crazy?” I exclaimed. He laughed, which made me laugh. How I kept my underwear clean in that few seconds, I will never know.

A couple of days later, he did it to me again. “You haven’t got that adapter yet?” I asked. “Nope, having too much fun and besides, nobody can steal my car. Hell, I just take the steering wheel with me,” He said with a crooked smile.. He always had a way to make sense out of the dumbest things. After about the third time he did this, I didn’t panic anymore. I would even take the offered steering wheel, act like I was driving from the passenger seat for a second or two and hand it back to him to put back on going down the road. We actually got perfect at it and decided this would be fun to mess with other teens.

We were at a bonfire party where we met a couple of girls. Eugene asked if they would like to run to the store with us to pick up a couple of things? They said they would. So we piled into his car. We made the girls sit in the back seat. Our first victims! Going down the road, Eugene asked if I would like to drive. Of course my response was, “sure.” He pulls off the steering wheel and hands it to me. I made a couple of quick gestures like driving and handed it back to him. He puts it back on and everything was great! Well, except for the blood-curdling screams from the back seat, of course! It was kinda of funny, for a short period of time, these girls wanted to kill us. But after it was all said and done, they wanted to kiss us, and of course we let them. For some reason, girls like to be scared as long as everyone is okay afterwards. We used this tactic a couple more times on girls and sure enough, blood-curdling screams and then kisses.  Oh, life was good!

The final time we used our little ‘you want to drive trick’ was with a guy we knew. His name was Floyd. Floyd drove this bright yellow beat up Ford pickup, and he was always running out of gas. He carried a five gallon gas can in the back of his truck all the time, so he could go get gas if and when he ran out. We never understood how one person could run out of gas so many times, but Floyd always was.

Eugene and I were running down a side road and there was Floyd. He had his pickup parked in the ditch and standing on the side of the road with that five gallon can of his. Eugene pulled up and asked if he was okay. Floyd said he ran out of gas and was wandering if we could take him down to the station and back. Eugene told him that he would. I opened the passenger door and pulled the seat forward so he could get in the back seat. Now Floyd was a mountain of a man and if you have seen the back seat of a ’65 mustang, you would know, there’s not much room at all. Floyd had to squeeze himself in and sit across both seats just to have enough room for his massive body and gas can which he sat in the floorboard.

Paved road going through woods

We took him down to the filling station where he filled up his can. He set the can in the floorboard and crammed himself back in there. Eugene couldn’t help but to laugh on and off through this ordeal, and he had a very interesting laugh that made me laugh. On the way back to Floyd’s truck, Eugene smiled at me, and then the words came. “Bill, do you want to drive?” I gave the proper response, “sure”. Eugene pulled the steering wheel off and handed it to me. I did my little number, handed it back to him, and he went to put it back on. This time, it didn’t work! Neither one of us had thought about it, but before when we had done this little trick, it was either on a flat dirt road or the US highway which was also fairly flat. This time we were on a back paved road that was not flat. It was convexed. They design roads like this in cold climates to help snow and ice run off. When Eugene tried to put the wheel back on, he couldn’t because the shaft it goes on was turning since the wheels were following the drop of the road! We were heading into the ditch, and this was no small ditch either. Just beyond the ditch was a barbed wire fence that was coming up on my side in a hurry! Into the ditch we went and up the other side. Just before we hit the fence, Eugene was able to get the steering wheel back on and turned as hard as he could. This slung the car away from the fence back down to the bottom of the ditch where the car came to rest.

Eugene and I both bailed out of the car and because we had been involved many times with stupid things like this, our full focus was to check the car. Our health and well-being was never even a thought. Looking around both sides of the car and underneath, there was no damage. We always called this a successful wreck. By the time we got to the front of the car checking for damage, it dawned on me. I looked over the hood from my kneeling position and asked, “Hey Eugene, where’s Floyd?” We both looked back through the windshield. No Floyd. Did he get out? Neither one of us seen him get out. So where’s Floyd? We both got up off of our knees, walked back and looked into the back seat. There’s Floyd, this mountain of a man, bent over hugging that five gallon can of gasoline, tears streaming down his face. Eugene was the first to speak. “Are you okay, Floyd?” He asked. Floyd yelled,”You crazy A**h***s, we could have blown up!”

Now, let me point out before I tell you what I told Floyd at that moment.  My dad was a mechanic. He taught me that it’s not the gas that blows up, it’s the fumes from the gas that causes explosions. “Floyd, is that gas can full?” I asked. He yelled, “Of course it’s full, you seen me fill it up!” “Well then you are safe because it’s the fumes that blow up and if the can is full, heh, no fumes.” I said with a half smile on my face. This did not help him feel any better. He squeezed out of the car, (which was like watching a hamster give birth to an elephant), grabbed his gas can and started walking toward the direction of his truck. “Hey Floyd, it’s still two miles to your truck. Are you sure you don’t want a ride?” Eugene asked with that undertone of his funny laugh. All we heard out of Floyd was a grunt as he kept walking. The next time we saw Floyd out of gas and offered him a ride, he refused. We never did our little trick again. I guess Floyd took all the fun out of it.

Years later after my time in the Navy, I went back to visit my friend Eugene. I asked if he still had the old Mustang. He raised the garage door and there on jack stands was the old girl herself. I had told alot of my shipmates about our adventures and a thought came to me. I walked over to the driver’s side of his car, reached in the window and grabbed the steering wheel. And guess what? It came off with a slight tug. My friend never did get that adapter kit. Good Ole’ Eugene.

I have many more stories of my adventures with Eugene along with some other friends that I will write about soon enough. We may be the reason they say don’t try this at home on those crazy television shows.

My friend Eugene is in Heaven now due to a boating accident years ago. I would like to dedicate this story to him. I miss you, my friend.

Picture above clouds with sun shining symbolizing Heaven

I hope you enjoyed this. Take care of yourselves and remember, we are all in this together.

(Floyd’s name was changed to hide his identity)