My plan to outrun him backfired.
August 14, 2013
Eons ago, I was driving down a street that passed near a gasoline refinery and soon noticed in my rear-view mirror that a large tanker truck that hauled the gasoline to service stations was hot on my back bumper.
The tanker truck was following me so closely that I am sure it appeared it was pushing my car, which, in a way, it was. It was pushing me by trying to intimidate me to move on down the street, although I was driving right at the speed limit. Didn’t want to go faster because that area of the street happened to be a place where the police liked to lie in wait for speeders. You know, make their quota.
I was driving my first car, a silver 1937 Ford. It had four-in-the-floor, although they did not call it that then. Stick-shift was the terminology. In today’s parlance, I suppose my car would be called pre-owned. Or, more accurately in the case of my car, pre-pre-pre-pre-owned. It had been around the block a few times. Probably a few blocks. And then some.
Anyway, the car was paid for, bought with money I had saved over more months than I care to remember by working all sorts of odd jobs after school and on the weekends and during summer breaks.
That day, some of the car’s long use was catching up with it. It began to spit and sputter, cough and choke. It was as if something would momentarily block the flow of gasoline though its fuel system, cause the engine to conk out, then suddenly clear and start running again for a brief time, then conk out again.
I was having a major problem keeping it running. It would slow a bit and the engine would die. Then it would roll a bit further down the street and the engine would fire up again. I was frantically doing everything I could to nurse it to the mechanic’s garage not far away.
And all of this at the time that that big gasoline truck was hotly breathing down my back bumper.
But he would not pass.
He seemed to be taking great glee in tailgating me.
I tried again and again to persuade him to pass my troubled car.
All I could see in my rear-view mirror was this massive gasoline truck hurdling down the street as if welded to my vehicle.
Then it happened.
My ’37 Ford suddenly jerked wildly, coughed, choked, — protested, really — then shot out a massive, black, sinister cloud from the tailpipe. It engulfed the front of the tailgating gasoline truck.
Then I saw sparks. Lots ‘n’ lots of sparks. A fireworks show would have had nothing on me.
Then came the thunderous finale: A scary, gigantic ball of fire. Bright orange-red fire. The kind that bellows and screams, run!
Run for your ever-lasting life!
My car had backfired, big time, like a giant motorized belch.
To this day, in the mind’s eye, I can see that smoky, fiery, threatening tailpipe eruption; to this day I can hear the ever-louder spewing and popping — peeesssuuuuuu, peeessssuuuuuu, peeeeesssssuuuuu — of the gasoline truck’s airbrakes.
In a split second, my tailpipe had done what I had been unable to do – convince the driver of the tailgating gasoline truck to get off my back bumper, to pull a hasty retreat.
In my rear-view mirror, I saw the truck slip farther and farther and farther back.
The truck driver finally was convinced he should surrender to me a Texas-size bit of road space.
Such a display of wisdom.
And to this day I’d wager the price of my ’37 Ford — hard as it was to earn the money to pay for it — that, since then, he’s willingly and courteously granted that same bit of consideration to every last driver he’s come across while out on the road.
Roger Summers is a journalist and essayist who spends time in Texas, New Mexico and England and in a world of curiosity and creativity. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please click the book cover to read more about Heart Songs from a Washboard Road, a short story collection from Roger Summers.