In 1968, on a warm summer day, my mother looked out her kitchen window facing Minnesota Highway 75 and was horrified to see my little brother, only 3 years old, hanging onto the back of one of my dad’s electrical service trucks, which was just pulling out onto the highway heading south.
Screaming at the top of her lungs, my mother ran out the front door and onto the busy highway, arms flailing and screaming at the top of her voice as she flagged down the first car that was traveling north and coming toward her at a very high speed. The driver slammed on his brakes as she grabbed the car door and jumped in while ordering him to turn around and save her son.
My little brother had sort of wandered out of the house. He liked to utilize his newfound climbing ability to hoist himself up onto the back of the service trucks. My mom was usually careful to spank his little butt whenever she caught him doing stupid things — I’m sure most us have been on the receiving end of those “corrections.” This time, however, she was distracted, and he made the successful climb onto the rear of the truck.
But the truck, well, it was a 1964 International with one of those steel service bodies that you slide the top to the back and down to lock on the short tailgate. So, when he climbed up, there was no way to jump into the truck, and he just stood on his toes on the bumper and grabbed onto the hinge at the top. He could barely hang on while standing on his toes.
Yes, there is a God, because the car that my screaming mother jumped into was a green U.S. Border Patrol car, and the driver did a power spin, squealing tires in a blaze of black smoke as he accelerated up over 140 miles per hour thanks to a powerful police interceptor motor. Six long miles they travelled with lights and sirens blaring before they caught up to the service truck, my 3-year-old brother still on his tiptoes hanging on to the 3/8-inch hinge for all he was worth.
My mother, running from the car, scooped him up as the officer told the driver what had happened. Iver had been one of my dad’s electricians for a year or two and couldn’t believe that kid had hung on for six miles on a state highway. He was one thankful man that day. And so was everyone else in that little town 14 miles from the Canadian border.
I came home from school on my bicycle, put the kickstand down and came into the house to find my mom holding my clinging brother in her arms. Upon hearing the story, I was impressed that the little squirt had hung on for so long. I was only 13, and had more important things to worry about, so I didn’t think much about it until much later in life. I look back now with nine kids of my own and marvel — and yes, thank God for angels holding onto the back of that truck with my little brother.
We don’t think David was scarred too much from the incident; he seemed to grow up mostly normal according to his four brothers. We still kicked him around a little and kidded him, but hey, that’s what brothers are for right?
I’m still very careful anytime I park a car or truck. I like to park so I don’t have to back up when I leave, and yes, I always check the back to make sure no one’s child is hanging on to the back.
I like the practice used by utility companies and many service companies of putting an orange cone at the back of the truck every time they get out of it. This forces the driver to walk to the back of the truck and pick up the cone before driving away. What a great idea. Maybe you might want to add this safety feature for your trucks.
I think I’ll send my little brother an orange cone for his birthday this year. I wonder if he remembers that day? I know I do.
Be safe out there.