BROTHER ED’S ACCIDENT
Early one Monday morning Ed Zeller, a farmer near Prattleboro, was pulling his stock trailer down the road, taking a few steers to the stockyards at Loquacious. Feeling drowsy all of a sudden, he decided he’d better get out and walk around a bit—and he saw a good place to pull over not far ahead.
As he slowed down and pulled into the siding, he saw a Department of Highways truck pull away. A brand new litter container sat on a post at the edge of the road ahead of him. Ed nodded his approval. Maybe there won’t be so much trash blowing around now, he thought.
However, as he drove closer a gust of wind tore the container off the post and tossed it in front of his truck. Ed swerved a bit and bounced through a pothole, but couldn’t avoid hitting it. He felt the crunch as his wheels hit the rigid plastic and heard thumps as the steers were jostled around by his manoeuvres. As he stopped and reached for his door handle, several unkind thoughts flashed through his mind about the Highways Department’s ability to bolt something down properly.
At that instant his cell phone rang and he paused to answer it. A local realtor was wondering how interested he was in that piece of land he’d been looking at last week and if he’d consider it at a lower price. Ed gave the man his attention for a moment before getting out to check on things. After all, the damage was already done; a minute more wouldn’t make any difference.
While Ed was on the phone one of the steers bumped against the back door and it swung open. Deciding they’d had enough of this ride—and maybe a mite suspicious about their ultimate destination—all four of them jumped out.
They were heading into the ditch when Ed caught sight of them in his side mirror. He ended his call and jumped out of the truck. Hurrying behind the vehicle he glanced toward the crunched litter container, then back at the open trailer door. He shook his head. “Now how did that happen?”
He said a silent prayer as he surveyed the steers grazing in the ditch. Lord, I’m going to need a miracle here. There’s no way I’ll get those critters back in this trailer again unless You send some angels to help me.
Looking over the situation again, he resigned himself to the probability of losing those steers one way or another. Thankfully they were in the ditch right now and would likely head into the field beyond. If they didn’t, his best hope was that someone with a rifle would come along so he could shoot them before they ran out onto the highway and caused an accident.
Ed took off his cap and ran his hand through his graying hair. Dragging dead steers wouldn’t be easy, either. He wasn’t so young anymore.
Ed was standing at the roadside wondering how to begin when another pickup drove into the siding and stopped just behind the crumpled litter container. A friendly-looking young fellow got out of the truck.
He came and stood quietly beside Ed for a minute before he spoke. “See you have a bit of a problem.”
“You said it.” Ed shook his head. “I don’t know how they got out. Surely the weight of a steer wouldn’t pop the latch?”
“Fairly new trailer you got there, right?”
“Yeah. I haven’t used it much yet.”
“I was reading an article in the Equine Chronicle lately. It said you’ve got to watch out with some of these newer trailers; the latch may slip out of place when you go over some bad bumps. Apparently one horseman lost a valuable stallion when his trailer door opened after he’d hit a rough spot in the road. The horse jumped—or fell—onto the highway and was hit.”
“Oh, my. Well, thank God that didn’t happen to my steers! It was that litter can. They’d just installed it. I saw the truck drive away as I was pulling in.”
“Probably didn’t do the best job of bolting it down.”
“Let’s not go there. I may express more sentiments than I should. But still, this was a pretty small bump to shake a latch loose.”
The stranger kicked a stone with the toe of his boot. “Did you come through that patch of construction about three miles west?”
Ed mentally retraced his route. “Yeah, I remember bouncing over some bumps back there. Once I was past I never thought any more of it.”
“Could be that’s where the latch slipped out, or the shaking maybe loosened things up and this was the stick that broke the donkey’s back.”
“Maybe. Sure glad I was off the highway when those steers decided to test it out.”
Ed remembered how he had felt sleepy all of a sudden, the reason he’d made this stop. Thank You, Lord, for that, he prayed.
“Anyway,” he continued, “then I got a phone call. This time it’s really true, that bit about the phone ringing at the worst possible moment.” He gave himself a mental kick for taking the time to answer. Had he only known…
But now what? He took a few steps toward the steers and they looked up from their grazing. He moved closer and they turned and trotted away, just far enough to let Ed know they weren’t going to give up their freedom.
Ed stopped. “I have a rope behind the seat in my truck. Think you could get it for me, young man?”
“I’d be happy to oblige, sir. Do you fancy holding a rodeo?” The young man chuckled. “I can see us chasing them beasts to kingdom come and back.” He waved toward the open field behind them. “But are you sure you’re up to that kind of a run?”
Ed’s gaze swept over the field. “No, I guess not. Got a rifle in your truck? I’d phone my son but by the time he gets here, they could be back and forth across the highway a dozen times.”
“Yeah, I do—if worst comes to worst.” The young man was quiet for a moment, obviously contemplating the pros and cons of that solution. Then he grinned. “You know, I’ve got a few bags of feed oats in the back of my pickup. Why don’t I grab one and maybe we can lure the steers into the trailer?”
Ed grasped the ray of hope. “It’s worth a try. If you’re willing to part with your oats, we’ve got nothing to lose. I’d gladly pay you for a dozen bags if we could get these steers loaded.” He opened the trailer doors wide and slid out a thick board he used as a ramp.
“Let’s give it a shot then.” The young man ran back to his pickup, jumped in and hoisted a bag of oats over the side toward Ed.
Ed grabbed it and carried it to where the steers were grazing. The animals looked up with interest as he tore the bag open. Ed poured out the oats in little piles, closer and closer to the trailer, and the animals followed, chowing down as they came. He poured a pile on the ramp and the steers pushed each other to be first at it. When he poured a bunch on the floor of the stock trailer the animals ran up the ramp and into the trailer.
Ed nodded and the young man jumped forward to slide the ramp back into the trailer. He shut and latched the doors, then went around to open the side door and let Ed out.
Before Ed left the trailer one of the steers managed to give him a hard kick in the leg. Revenge, he decided, and felt like kicking the beast back, then reminded himself that temper’s a weakness one should never indulge. Yes, he’d be limping for awhile, but the steers were loaded and he was ready to roll. He’d take his lumps and count his blessings.
Next Ed pulled out his wallet and paid the young man for his oats, then shook his hand. “Didn’t get your name yet.”
“Tyler Stafford. I live two miles north and four miles west of here, down by Pleasant Vale.”
“Well, Tyler, when I saw what I was facing I prayed the Lord to send an angel to help me. I guess you filled the bill.”
The young man laughed. “Well I could be—probably should be—a lot more of an angel than I am, but I’m glad to have helped you out.”
“God is good and forgives us when we admit our faults. If you remember that, you won’t go far wrong. Now I’d better get these animals to Loquacious.”
He dusted off his jeans. “If you’re ever near Prattleboro, Tyler, stop in. You can ask around for Ed Zeller. Everyone knows me. I’d be glad to repay this favour somehow. Come for a barbeque some night—and bring the family.”
“Sounds good. I may just do that.” Tyler headed back to his truck, dragging the litter container off the road as he passed. “I guess the Department of Highways will be able to see they didn’t fasten this thing well enough,” he called over his shoulder.
Ed laughed and got back into his truck. Before starting the engine he looked up into the blue sky. “Lord. You are downright amazing!”
Since I recently published an article on Getting the Facts Straight, I decided to post this story, in two parts, for your enjoyment and to further make my point. 🙂
This is one of the stories in my upcoming book Silver Morning Song and I welcome your comments. But remember: it’s undeniably, absolutely, irrefutably, inescapably COPYRIGHT MATERIAL.