Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: FOLLOW THAT TRAILER!
Many years ago Bob Oliva and I made monthly trips to Aberdeen for meetings. The trips were usually uneventful, miles filled with stories of golf and insurance. This trip was different. Much different.
We left Pierre in the dark that January morning. It was cloudy and cold, and by the time we reached Aberdeen, it had started snowing. Agents attending the meeting were nervous about the developing winter weather, and by noon, the snow was coming down hard and being blown sideways by a howling north wind.
The meeting was cut short and the agents who lived short distances from Aberdeen quickly left for home. Our manager encouraged Bob and me to stay in Aberdeen, but we wanted to get home, so we decided to test the roads to Redfield then make a decision to stay there or continue on.
The road was fairly clear all the way to Redfield, but the visibility was iffy, so we decided to stay in Redfield that night. That was until we saw a pickup going west, pulling a big gooseneck trailer with two round taillights mounted high on the rear gate. I made the mistake of commenting on how we could follow that trailer and have no trouble seeing those taillights all the way to Miller. Bob made the mistake of telling me to “go for it.” So I did.
We headed west out of Redfield with the wind whipping the snow across our windshield, making everything white except those two big taillights. I told Bob I would be glad when we started south again so the visibility would be better. About then a chilling thought went through my mind. What if that trailer doesn’t turn south? We could end up in Faulkton or points west, or on some gravel road. It seemed an eternity before we saw the trailer turn south. At last! We would now be able to see, with the wind coming from behind us. That’s not the way it worked out. The road was snow packed and we could barely make out the edge of the driving lane. Worse yet, we were traveling so slow that the blowing snow came over the roof of my van and settled on the windshield. The wipers could not keep the windshield clear and before long I had only a small porthole of clear glass to look through. Bob was chattering the whole time, his words coming faster and faster, not being able to stop being a backseat driver, giving me directions, curses and encouragement. I kept rolling the window down, trying to reach the windshield with a small scraper, accomplishing little.
It was dark by the time we followed the trailer into Miller. When we realized we were there Bob and I uttered a big sigh of relief, just as the trailer came to a stop in the middle of the road. My van skated into the back of the trailer, gently bouncing off the tailgate. We followed the trailer into an implement dealer’s driveway, got out to see what damage had been done. There was none. In fact, the driver of the pickup didn’t even know we were ever back there.
We drove to Lip’s Café, where I stopped in the entry, using the payphone to call home. Bob went inside. He really needed to go to the bathroom. I assured my wife we were alright, then went inside, finding Bob sitting at the bar with a drink in his hand. He laughed and said he didn’t make it to the bathroom yet. He needed a stiff drink after that ride!