These events occurred on a warm Sunday evening, in the spring of the year 2000. I was off to work yet again, leaving home to deliver my freight. This time it was a load of beer from a brewery in Virginia destined for the dry palates of the good beer drinkers of Atlanta, Georgia
The more things change, the more things change
Leaving to go to work for an over-the-road trucker is different than most other occupations. The run has a beginning, but the return is usually not fixed in time. Things can intervene, things like mechanical breakdowns, traffic tie-ups, changed schedules while enroute. Leaving for the road always involves a degree of uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds stress. The tendancy is to stay home until the last minute, soaking up the pleasure of eating from your own plates with your own silverware, enjoying the company of your family, sleeping in your own bed. The beginning of every trip is a farewell, not just another shift.
Head 'em up, move 'em out!
This Sunday evening had started like any of a thousand others. The staying home too long, the rush to finally get the wagon rolling, settling into the rhythm of the road. At that time I was a company driver, pulling a refrigerated trailer, euphemistically called a 'reefer' in the trade. Drivers identify with their trucks, draw a sense of oneness from them, form a team of flesh and steel. Most drivers have a nickname for their rig. A driver has pride in a faithful rig the way a Baptist preacher draws pride from having a faithful wife. It's just the way things should be. My rig was righteous, never failing, and I had the passenger side window cracked just a bit to hear that low diesel rumble as we ate up the blacktop. My terminal was near Roanoke, Virginia and my route was south down I-81 through Virginia, into Tennessee to Knoxville, where I'd hang a left down I-75 into Georgia and eventually end at 'Hotlanta'.
I started out about 11:00 PM, and had stopped for coffee and a snack on the way, so it was about 2:30 AM as I rolled along, now in Tennessee. I remember I was listening to "Coast to Coast", hosted by Art Bell at the time. Art Bell and his successor George Noory have helped many late night truckers get their job done, kept us awake, kept us alert and alive. I habitually listen to talk radio, trying to keep my brain from totally withering away by exposing it to actual information instead of the insanity of the CB or simply listening to music. I was into the program, enjoying myself as the miles evaporated behind me. I had the cruise control set, making good time , doing the speed limit of 70 MPH.
Don't look now
As I came up to a bridge overpass I saw two small stones in the right lane. They looked like they had perhaps fallen off of a dump truck. They were exactly where my steer tires needed to be, so I shifted slightly left to miss them, not wanting to sustain any tire damage. As I rolled under that overpass, an explosion occurred, not outside but inside my cab. The passenger side windshield was literally blown out with the sound of a hand grenade exploding. Glass and debris showered me as my hands locked onto the wheel, not knowing what had happened. I kept the rig rolling straight, waiting for some telltale to let me know what was going on with the truck. Nothing, no vibration from a blown tire, not a thing but the wind now whistling through that shattered windshield. I turned the wheel right and took to the shoulder, gently braking to a stop. I set the brakes and cut on the overhead light to survey the damage. There was a channel gouged through the metal below the windshield. It became apparent that someone had heaved an object off the overpass as I rolled underneath it. In the sleeper I found a boulder, larger than my head. I have a large head. It had carved the channel through the window and dashboard area, shattering glass, crunching metal and ripping plastic as it finally came to rest in my sleeper.
I got out of the rig and walked about, shaken from the experience. Looking back toward the overpass a car was visible in silhouette, lights off, just sitting there. It slowly started to pull away and slide away into the night. If I had my rifle I would have honestly lit up the night with explosions of my own making. Had I not shifted over, I would have taken that stone right in my face, and I'd be as dead as Julius Caesar. The people in that car had attempted to kill me. They may have thought that heaving a stone into a vehicle off of a bridge overpass was cute, a big yuck, but it was almost a homicide, my homicide.
I got back into my rig and flipped the CB on to mayhem. I was totally oblivious to what had been going on because I had been listening to the AM radio. Eight other vehicles had been damaged in the same fashion, one another big rig, taking a cinder block through the radiator. The others had suffered less damage. I called for help and a deputy sheriff came on and told me to go down to the truckstop about 4 miles south and he'd be along to take a report. I did so and waited almost 3 hours for him to make an appearance. During the wait I had the chance to get the shakes when I realized how close I had come to dying out there in the night. Both that realization and my anger had me doing the shimmy shakes. It turns out that the police had been playing cat and mouse with these felons, trying to catch them. They apparently had a police band scanner which tipped them off to every move the cops made, helping them evade capture. They were doing the old Dukes of Hazard thing, evading Roscoe by running the back roads, giving them the slip time and again.
Making the call
Daylight finally started to tint the morning sky, and I knew that my wife was waking up. I waited until I knew she had her shower and cup of coffee before calling. Our conversation went as follows:
"Hon, you aren't gonna believe what happened to me last night." She interrupted me.
"Let me tell you first about what happened here."
"Ok, you go first."
"Last night I was in bed, sleeping. I heard this huge crash, explosion, something...I don't know what it was, but it was loud. I sat up bolt upright in bed, trying to get myself oriented, figure out what had happened. I thought maybe someone had kicked in the door. I listened for footsteps, thinking if it was an intruder, they'd be coming up the stairs. Nothing, not a sound. The dog wasn't barking. If she had heard that crash, she'd be barking like crazy, but she wasn't. I don't know what in the world that was all about. I stayed up a little while but there was nothing going on, not a single thing out of place so I went back to bed."
I asked "About what time did it happen? Did you check the clock or anything?"
"Yeah, sure. I looked at it and it was 2:30 AM."
"Hold on, girlfriend, and let me tell you my story."
I told her what had happened to me, and also the time it had occurred. She has never had anything happen like that before. I have had several things that I would characterize as psychic or paranormal experiences, so it wasn't as wierd to me.
"Girlfriend, welcome to the Woo-Woo Zone."
Strange as it may seem, there was a link between us that enabled her to partially experience what had happened to me over 200 miles away. Neither she nor I can explain what she heard, or why. We simply know it happened.
When dispatch came in I called and relayed the events of the night. I told them I could get the rig back to the terminal. I headed back north much slower than I'd come south, wind swirling about the cab. It was a very cold trip. In checking for damage to myself there was not one scratch, not a shard of shattered glass had entered an eye, not a single drop of blood, nothing. I thank God for his protection that night. I believe it was His hand that saved me from dying.
The company safety director contacted the police and tried to pursue the incident. No arrests were ever made, no one was ever charged. The theory was it was probably just a carload of good old boys riding around sucking down beer trying to inject a little excitement into their lives. They darn sure injected some into mine.
The rig was repaired, sent back into service. It took a few weeks to order parts, do the body work, get her road ready again. I wanted her back, we'd been through the wars together, but that wasn't to work out.
Another truck, another load, the events faded into the past. Along my hedge rests a stone, a memento to that night, one final reminder of almost being killed on a warm Tennessee evening.
Please, if you ever think of doing a similar stunt, consider the consequences. I almost lost my life due to some bored fool's brainstorm. Tell your kids to not do dangerous, stupid things. Had they been apprehended, I would have pursued justice up to and including having them charged with attempted murder. They could potentially have spent years in prison for a single night's fun.
The story I've related is true in every detail. It happened and I hope to never experience anything similar again. I hope you never experience anything like it either.