I made several routine runs to the south, sometimes loading at Ocala, or Ft. Pierce, Sebring or even Orlando. (Orlando in those days was a really small town and very quaint and attractive. Not anymore. It used to be surrounded by orange groves…not anymore.)
Every trip was different in one respect… you never really knew what was gonna happen. For instance on one run, I was returning with a load for New Haven, and I had gotten only as far as northern Georgia, and cruising along 301 at about 60-65, and you really become part of the machinery after a while. That’s when danger sets in. You get too complacent. This one time woke me up fast.
Now realize that 301 was a two-way highway, with a driving lane each way. And not overly wide. There was no traffic to speak of and as I sped north bound I noticed an old car moving slowly in the road ahead of me, and I assumed that he was traveling my speed. There appeared a small whistle stop gas station (2 pump), and a convenience store with a rickety looking wood veranda and steps, and large ESSO metal sign swinging out front. I took it all in as part of the scenery, and then noticed that I was gaining rapidly on the old car, so I backed off a bit, and I suddenly realized that he was stopped. … waiting to make a left turn into a small side road that I’d not noticed, but he could not move due to opposite traffic coming in the other lane and blocking him from making the turn.
For some reason I didn’t really focus too well and suddenly realized when I saw two little kids in the rear seat looking at me barreling down on them that I was going to run them over. There I had it … decide what move to make… I couldn’t stop in time, and there was nowhere for me to go. The store on my right and the family in front of me, and he was stalled there. I chose the store and ripped hard right, drove thru the front porch of the store and whipped around back to the highway just past the stalled car, but in the process there was a huge banging noise… I had hit the swinging Esso Sign with front face of my trailer and left it spinning around on its axis like a piece of cardboard. I floored it then and swung back out onto 301.
I looked back expecting to see carnage, but luckily I had missed the porch by inches, cut a huge rut in the ground in front, and walloped the sign… otherwise… no problem. I never looked back again. Just kept going. Now how could one predict that? I think that I began to get a bit jaded because I wasn’t particularly upset at a near disaster.
And on another occasion, again in the deep south, it was growing dusk and the lighting was diminishing, so I turned on the lights, and there were several areas where small rivers cut under the highway, and had small concrete faced bridges across them. In every instance however, the roadway was flat but the area around the bridges was embanked right up to the traveling section of the highway. In this instance I noted the bridge, but it was routine and I just kept driving…nothing looked out of the ordinary. And just as I approached the far
end of the bridge a large pig that apparently been eating something there, stuck his head out past the concrete abutment and I was right on top of him before I realized and reacted… but there was no time for a reaction. I felt and heard a solid thump, and I was past the bridge, I looked back in the mirror, but saw no sign of the pig. I can only conclude that the impact of the truck hitting his head knocked him back down the embankment and killed him instantly. I made mention of this later in my talks with other drivers and they said that the farmers let their animals wander loose and they get worse things than that happen to them. Still it was unsettling for me, but I never could imagine what I should have done differently. Yeah it was hit and run, but there wasn’t a soul around that area.