Down and Out

Lew and Anne Goddard

© Copyright 2020 by Lew Goddard

Photo of a wreck in snow.

This is a fictional story of what can happen in the winter where there’s snow.  Where, you may never make it home if the roads are covered with snow. Snow will pile up to six feet at times. When the wind blows in a blizzard, if your car is outside it can be totally covered before the storm passes.

Tim was a just a few miles from home and about eight miles out of the city. And it was dark at six o’clock. He lived at Arcola Lake on a small acreage that he nurtured in the summer and plowed snow in the winter. The property was purchased after his home in the city had been sold.

He was close to fifty but he didn.t have a full-time job. At twenty, he had joined the City of Redmond Police Department and graduated to the homicide division fifteen years later.

A few years ago, he was helping his partners capture a suspect who was a person of interest in a rape/murder. It was late at night in the summer and they had determined that the man had gained entrance to the flat top roof of a local Bank. Twenty stories up and with little light as he ran along the edge of the roof and miscalculated when he turned the corner and flipped head over heels off the roof. Fortunately, there was an addition as part of the building about fifteen feet below and he landed in a hurtful manner. His left leg was a mess, multiple fractures and part of a bone was sticking out.

He also had a concussion and spent a month in hospital. His body healed well but this mishap was very telling and sometimes he thought he would be better off dead. At home he hardly smiled and the yard work, that was his way of destressing, did not give him any joy seeing a planted garden grow and the lawn looking like a green carpet. He was lost, nothing appealed to him at home and if he received a call from the Police Department, he didn’t want to talk and relive his accident.

One day, the Redmond City Police Chief came to see Tim. Some of his buddies and friends would call him “Timid” to bug him. But he had been far from timid with the outstanding career as a policeman and homicide detective extraordinary. That was in his former Lieutenants talk with Tim. He advised that the department needed an individual like him. No, he couldn’t function full time but he could consult to the Police Department and sit on task forces when they convened.

The Lieutenant left that day and Tim found himself becoming interested in what his superior had told him. Actually, it couldn’t be much better, he could still look after his home and spouse, plus be in the action that he had been so used to. A couple of weeks later, Tim set an appointment with the Lieutenant and went to the city for the first time in six months. It was invigorating and he advised his boss that he would accept the offered positions.

Since then, he has been on a disability allowance and pension. Because he was previously instrumental in many investigations and arrests, Redmond Police Department often called him to be a member of a task force and be their consultant.

He was close to fifty, in good health other than his wounded left leg. And for that he had to use a cane everywhere he went. His hair was receding and his face was etched with concentration lines. His vision was still acute as was his hearing and he believed that he would continue to have a good long life.

In taking his usual shortcut so he would make it home by the time he told his spouse, he found that the snow was in ruts which were more than six inches in depth and the snow was quite wet and hard. It was difficult to maintain his vehicle in a straight line. He thought to himself that it had been a good idea to purchase a four by four when he moved to the country.

Headlights behind him were approaching close at times during the last mile and it was disconcerting. With the vehicle only about fifty feet behind, he slowed down and pulled over to the right as far as he could.

The other vehicle almost immediately passed and for a scary few seconds, Tim found himself in a white out. Nothing could be seen with the blinding white snow.

He realized that it was a truck that was used to haul grain and it had a trailer constructed in the same size as the box behind the tractor. The truck could haul hundreds of bushels of wheat.

Tim uttered out loud to himself, “Stupid jerk,” and he thought other names as well.

There were glimpses of tail lights and as they approached the road into the valley where the lake was located, Tim slowed down. The bank was steep and in order to allow motorists to gradually move down to a more level road, there was a curve to the right that flowed gradually down the side of the bank. There was still a great deal of snow in the air but it seemed like the truck had disappeared as it maneuvered the slope.

Suddenly, Tim realized that the trailer at the back end of the rig was sideways across the narrow road and indeed, it was headed down over the edge into the heavy forest. It appeared that the driver had lost control and the tractor took off in one direction and the trailer followed.

Tim slammed his brakes and came to a stop close to where the truck was lodged. First things first, he thought, phone 911 and he did.

Tim grabbed his Maglite and extracted himself carefully from the cab and stepped to the edge of the road. The truck was about fifty feet down the steep bank that Tim realized that a person could not navigate the slope without a dangerous fall.

He shone the light on the truck cab and he noticed a motion. The driver’s side door was under the cab and the man was in the process of crawling out the passenger door.

Tim yelled at him and asked if he was hurt.

The man answered that he was hurting from the bouncing he had endured and that he would have bruises.

Thank God, Tim echoed, you are a lucky man.” The driver then tried to climb up to the road. The trees and shrubbery have been swept clean by the truck and trailer and there was nothing left to hold onto. So, all he could do is try to dig in, but it was extremely difficult.

Tim let him know that he didn’t have a rope to throw down to him and he wasn’t able enough to help him.

Why don’t you walk to the rear of the truck and see if you could get up at that point.?

The man answered that he would and disappeared into the forest. A few minutes later, he was heard to say, “It’s not that much better here. The snow is so deep and I can’t seem to get through the shrubbery.”

Well, keep trying, Tim hollered, the fire and rescue are on their way.”

When the fire crew arrived, they had to help the driver onto the road. He was out of breath and could hardly speak. He said in a breathless voice “that the truck was leaning against the trees but there have been some more breaking because of the weight.

The Police arrived as well and wanted to know what happened when they were introduced to the truck driver.

Constable Hamilton, his name tag on his uniform, asked, “And what is your name, address and occupation?”

The driver replied, "that before I give my information someone should check the car that ended up under or near the truck.”

The officer looked at him and turned to the rescue people, “Did you hear what he said, there’s a car behind the truck?”

One of the rescue team immediately grabbed a long rope and strapped a belt around his partner and decided that he should go down directly to the truck and if not too dangerous, move around the truck and check the car and its occupants.

The Constable turned back to the driver and said, “Now, I need all your personal information and tell me what happened.”

The driver gave his name, Reg Earnshaw, and all other personal items. Then he hesitated, and said, “I came down around the curve and my rig jackknifed to the left the box and trailer quickly followed the tractor. The trailer hit the small car and I guess it pushed the it all the way down there,” he pointed.

"How fast were you going?”

I really don’t exactly know, it wasn’t very fast and there was a lot of snow,” Earnshaw related.

The searcher radioed back from the other side of the truck. “It is not good; I’ve located the car and see there are two people in it. They are both alive, but not sure if they are hurt. I don’t know how we are going to get them out because, the truck box is virtually covering the car. There is just part of the back window visible., besides the snow is deep down here and we will have difficulty moving and preparing to extract the people from the car.”

The Fire Chief answered and asked the searcher to return to the road.

The fireman pulled his way up the hill. “Chief, I don’t know how we can get them out of the car until we move the truck. If we were to cut through under the truck, it might, I mean it will, probably drop further.”

The Fire Chief and Constable Hamilton said, “We need a big tow truck.”

The ambulance with it’s lights flashing came to a stop near the other vehicles.

When they mentioned a tow truck, a man came forward that no one had noticed because of every person’s attention on the car and all the lights that were flashing, “I’m here,” and showed his vest.

The Chief looked back at the tow truck and immediately said, “That’s only a three or four ton and we need one much larger than that.”

The tow truck driver spoke into his radio and then reported that there were two tow trucks coming out from the city in about thirty minutes.

The Constable suggested that they look at the driver and introduced him. To the driver, he ordered, “You will give me all your information at the rear of the ambulance. And if they say that you are not in any danger, you stay anyway.”

Earnshaw said, “Yes sir,” and left with the ambulance EMT.

In the meantime, the Constable organized the vehicles so that the large tow trucks could maneuver. Two of the Chiefs and the two new truck drivers collected what they needed to either cut open the car or crack one of the doors. They slid down with a rope and harness on each.

I’m not sure that the tow trucks can get situated on this narrow road, I guess they’ll figure it out.”

Shortly after the two massive tow trucks arrived. The drivers came forward and met with the Chief and the Constable after he had finished with Earnshaw.

They agreed that for the moment, there was to be no configuration to raise the truck out of the ravine, but just lift and hold it off the car.

It was determined that indeed, the truck and trailer were full of grain. That made the GVW at about 53500 kgs (34000 lbs.), Both tow trucks would have to have a line on each end of the trailer and one underneath to keep it from sliding further down the hill.

They maneuvered their trucks into position.

The drivers loaded their cables on their back and fastened themselves to the one passage that led down to the truck. Once there they struggled to get a strap over each end and connected one to the frame. Once back on the road, they began the treacherous pull on the cables.

The Fire Chief had set up large LED lights to be able to see the entire attempt.

Every person held his breath and was standing and observing as the cables from the tow trucks started their grind that slowly began to move the trailer. Sharp sounds emanated from below, obviously breaking the trees and the creak of the trailer.

The EMT who was near the trailer and car radioed up that if they could lift the trailer another six feet and hold it there, they would be able to open the car.

With this done, the noise of a metal saw could be heard and the sparks spread ghostly light in the forest. Then all was quiet.

The Chief’s radio buzzed and informed him and the rest that both of the occupants were alive and the extent of their injuries was being investigated.

The next time the EMT radioed, he said that they would have to have some kind of a sled that they could strap the female occupant to and securely hold her legs because her left leg was broken.

One of the firemen collected their flat board and placed extra straps on it plus a hard cover for the patient and slid this down the hill on a rope beside the rope that was already there. One could see the EMT come around from the trailer and take this equipment back to where the car was located.

He also, radioed that once the female was in the ambulance, he needed much the same kind of sled because the male, the driver, had a head wound that looked quite serious.

After an hour and a half, both patients were loaded in the ambulance and it took off for the hospital.

Before, the Constable released them he obtained their names and addresses. He found that they did not have the same name. The man’s name was Ron Gibson and the female’s name were Lynn Armstrong. Both lived in Redmond City.

The car was left where it was and the tow truckers determined how they would bring the truck up first. One of them slid down on the ever-present rope and worked his way to the trailer hitch. He felt that if he could disconnect the trailer from the hitch, they could bring it up and the tractor and box afterword He had taken some equipment like huge plyers and hammer and a couple of other things and the pounding of metal was loud in the wilderness. They all waited on the road, it wasn’t very cold but it had started snowing again.

The rescuer who had gone to disconnect the trailer radioed and asked for someone to help him. One of the other firemen went to his partners assistance, not long after he had gone down by the truck, a radio call came back and the trailer was disconnected.

They now moved the straps and chains so that the trailer could be pulled up. They left the strap under the trailer in the middle and started the slow motion bringing the structure up on the road.

The unit slipped well on the snow and after a half hour they had the trailer on the road. To move it out of the way, they unhooked both trucks and used one to lift the front of the trailer and place it back on the level road leading back to the city.

The process started all over again to bring up the tractor and box. Carefully so as to not damage the tractor, two chains were attached in appropriate locations. Long soft straps were wound around the box and the ascent started with both trucks pulling in unison. Under the lights, it appeared that they were going to be well on the way to the road, and then, one of the cables or the connection snapped with an earie whistling sound flipped over one of the tow trucks. Fortunately, no one was injured and there was no damage to the vehicles.

The tractor and box shifted quite a bit and there was some remedial re-designing of the tow lines. Men slid down, came up, tried to pull straight, and went down a few times until it was safe to pull the tractor up on the road.

When the truck was in place, the driver crawled in and it started immediately. From there, he hooked up the trailer and turned around. Tim had no idea where he was headed but it was in the direction of the city. Not that it mattered he thought to himself. He decided to stay and see them pull what was left of the car onto the road.

While most of the tow truck men cleaned up straps and chains and other equipment, another hoisted the car to the surface with ease.

Tim went over and looked at the car. He stood, six feet in boots and the top of the car was just waist high. “Incredible, he voiced to the other men, it’s really a miracle that those two people survived.”

The car was raised behind one tow truck and it headed off to the scrap yard.

Tim walked to his truck and continued on home. Now that he was late, he had some explaining to do.


For a few months after the accident that Tim had seen as a witness, he spent time in person and on the telephone from the attorneys who were either prosecuting or defending. As it turned out both spouses of the couple who were stranded in the car under the grain truck, sued for divorce. Apparently, they were having an affair and by chance were found out and quite badly physically hurt, and mentally stressed.

One day when Tim stayed at home, he uttered to his wife, “Whew, I’m bushed. Can you believe how much the situation developed and lasted several months.”

He received “that look, that’s just the way with you, always involved!”

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