My closest calls


One bright, sunny summer day almost 30 years ago, I was driving my brother’s grain truck along a quiet country road near Spring Valley, Ohio. About a quarter mile ahead, my Dad drove his own truck, leading the way to where we would be collecting a load of hay. Our trucks were big, 6-wheeled, lift bed grain boxes, about 10 tons each, and Dad was always leery about moving too fast on those old back roads, so we were just taking our time.

Just a few miles from our destination, a cement truck whizzed past him in the oncoming lane. It was the big kind with a small, metal cage for a cab, a long barrel with the engine trailing behind, and large balloon-like tires. I heard his voice over the CB radio warning me to beware as it approached. Barely a moment later, I was eye to eye with the driver as suddenly an explosion of glass, tearing metal, and a cloud of dust engulfed me. Our two massive steel machines had collided, left front fender to left front fender, and the sound was like nothing I can adequately describe.

It was over as instantly as it had happened. What only seconds before had been a clean, powerful machine, and the center of my brother’s livelihood, was now little more than a pile of scrap. I had done what I could at the instant of impact to stop the vehicle. But, it was no use, the pedals were no longer connected to anything — neither was the steering wheel. As it came to rest, the truck’s lower frame plowed into the asphalt, like the Titanic’s bow crashing into the ocean floor. The cab and running board were severely damaged, the mirror shattered, and the door was caved in. The front axle and wheels were gone and the steering shaft snapped off. Moreover, there was no sign of my assailant. The cement truck was gone!

Behind the motionless, dead hulk of my truck, in a hay field, nearly a quarter of a mile away lay the twisted wreckage of the cement truck. It had telegraphed off of my truck, slamming into my frame multiple times, rolled behind me at full speed, and snapped off a power pole at its base — leaving a transformer suspended in mid-air by its cable. Then it spun out of control, careened down a long hill, and came to rest, upside down and backward. By some bizarre miracle, the driver, wearing no seatbelt and, according to the police investigation, moving twice my speed, had managed to survive relatively unhurt, as did I.

Oddly, the casualties were limited to the two trucks and my Dad’s wits — as in frightened out of. He had to watch it all happen to me in his rearview mirror. By the time my truck had come to a stop, he’d bailed out of his and was running toward me yelling my name to see if I was OK. I was far more worried about him, though.

I’d never seen him that shaken, out of breath, pale. When he saw I was unhurt he seemed to calm down. I was busy tossing my belongings out of the open, or rather, shattered, window, and trying to figure out how to get the door open. Once I was sure both Dad and I were OK, I told him to go check on the other driver while I used my cell to call for help. A few minutes later, I heard sirens coming up the road, and within moments the county sheriff’s deputies arrived. All would be OK — at least until my brother got there. Yikes! But that’s a story for another time.

I will forever appreciate how fortunate I was that day. I can’t imagine what would have happened had either truck been a few inches one way or another. Life’s a gamble, every day. I think we always need to recognize how quickly things can change direction — through no fault or action of our own. Appreciate the positives, stay strong through the negatives. And remember, to live your best life. You never know what turns it might take one day.

Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at

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