Log Cabin Chronicles

Royal Orr

Then the truck began to fishtail


The highway into Montreal is treacherous this time of year. From one mile to the next, you just don't know what to expect. The terrain has a lot to do with it - up and down hills in the mini-alpine range of Orford, across flatlands as bare and exposed as the Russian steppes closer to the St. Lawrence.

Last week, I headed into the city at about eight in the morning one day. Just past South Stukely the road dips and then climbs a long slope to the top of the ridge east of the Waterloo to Knowlton highway. I caught sight of a big, red Dodge 4X4 pickup in my rearview mirror coming up fast in the passing lane.

The road surface was partly snow-covered but it seemed okay. The big pickup streamed by me as we started up the grade. When it was about 50 yards ahead, it started to fishtail. The truck was rolling along at over 100k. It slid back to the right-hand lane then flipped, turning turtle as it went over the bank and into the ditch.

I'd begun to slow down as soon as I saw the vehicle slew in front of me. As I braked, I could tell that the road surface had suddenly become very slick. I rolled to a stop, grabbing for my cell phone. I'd always told myself that this was precisely the kind of situation that would justify the expense of one of these mobile nuisances. Predictably, that was precisely the moment when my cell phone battery was dead.

I got out and looked at the truck in the ditch. It was right upside-down with the cab buried so deep in snow that you couldn't see through the windshield or the side windows. Cars were streaming by, even though my lights were flashing and the overturned truck was clearly visible. I started waving at passing cars, gesturing that I needed someone with a cell phone to make an emergency call. After a couple of minutes, two people pulled over.

Conditioned as I am by every movie chase scene that I've ever viewed, I'm expecting that the truck will burst into a fireball at about this point. But the thought of somebody in that cab, upside down with its windows burrowed out of sight, put that Hollywood scenario out of my mind. Or nearly so.

While one of the guys called in the accident on his cell phone, I grabbed a shovel from my trunk and climbed down beside the cab. The snow was well above my knees as I started to dig. I figured at the very least whoever was inside would hear me digging and scratching at the door and window and know that somebody was trying to help.

But as I dug down, I could see that the truck's cab was jammed into the V-shaped bottom of the ditch so that the top of the doorway burrowed into the sod. I cleared the snow from the window, then plodded around to the other side of the truck and dug again. Same problem.

By this time another man had stopped, a kind of a rough-looking young fellow. Unlike the men in suits with their cell phones, he barreled down into the ditch beside me. He had the idea to go in through the back. We cleared some snow from under the tailgate and then we scooted in under the overturned pickup bed right to the back window.

There were two people inside, a man and a woman, and they shouted that they were okay. The other fellow took my shovel and bashed the rear window out. We cleared stuff from the back seat of the king cab and then helped the man and woman slip out under the tailgate. We all struggled up to the roadside.

I was soaking wet and starting to shiver from all that horsing around in snow up to my waist. The young guy who'd bashed his way into the cab slipped away to his car. As they climbed into one of the plusher cars to wait for the police and for a tow truck, I shook the man and woman's hands and wished them whatever good luck they hadn't already used up that day.

And that was that, except for a long and very damp ride into town.

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