Technically speaking, this is not a quarry story but since it took place on the road to the quarry I figured that’s close enough.
Have you ever ridden on an Army tank? Well, I did once, and that’s what this story is about. Pay close attention, learn, and then don’t ever do anything like it.
It was spring and we had been having our share of rain. The rivers were up and had overflowed their banks earlier in the week. The Walnut River, just south of town, was slowly returning to it’s normal size and we decided to check it out. I was 13 or so and my friend, Jack, was 15. You can get your driver’s license when you are 14 so Jack had gotten himself a job at a neighborhood grocery store, saved his money, and bought himself a 1935 Chevrolet. We headed for the river. It wasn’t much of a trip. From the edge of town, at what I remember was 4th Street, you crossed the Santa Fe railroad tracks and wandered down a country road for about a quarter mile to the steel bridge that crossed the Walnut River. It was one of those fine-looking steel bridges that looked like it had been made from a giant Erector Set.
The gravel road was still a little wet and muddy but we got to the bridge, crossed it, and continued along. About 100 yards south of the bridge was a place you could pull off the road and follow the tracks worn by many other cars to get closer to the river. At this point, the river bank was normally 5 or 6 feet above the river. It was a good place to fish from and we were told by older guys that it also served as a lover’s lane. We decided to check the river so Jack pulled off onto this track that paralleled the road and stopped and we got out. We looked at the river and messed around and finally got back in the car. Jack tried to drive off but the wheels started spinning. He was a good driver but couldn’t overcome the wet grass and mud and the fact that the ground sloped toward the river. I got out and tried to push but it didn’t do any good. We decided to walk back to town and call Jack’s Dad for help.
We got back to town and crossed the tracks and the first building in view at that time was the National Guard Armory. We decided to go in there and use the phone. The National Guard guy that took care of the Armory and answered the phone and did all the chores was a friend of ours named Billy Joe Davis. Billy Joe liked baseball and we had both played catch with him and hit a lot of fly balls and grounders with him. We told Billy Joe our story and asked to use the phone. Billy Joe said there wasn’t any point in making the call and upsetting Jack’s Dad because he’d be happy to pull us out. He said we should go out in the street and wait while he locked up and we could close the gate behind him when he came out. After a few minutes we heard an engine revving up and here comes Billy Joe driving a National Guard tank and yelling at us to shut the gate and climb on. We scrambled up onto the thing and Billy took off across the tracks. It just took a few minutes to get to the bridge and as we approached it, Jack and I looked at each other. Billy Joe may have crossed the bridge many times in a tank but it scared the devil out of us. That bridge looked pretty flimsy compared to this big chunk of iron we were riding on. Billy didn’t even slow down. He rolled over that bridge like it was him and Patton crossing the Rhine.
The rest of it was kind of anti-climatic. It just took a couple of minutes to get to the car. Billy Joe had brought a chain and he hooked up to Jack’s car and pulled us out. We thanked him and waved good-bye and headed back to town. I don’t even want to think of the possible consequences of “borrowing” a tank or running it off into the river. If you’ll excuse me I’ll just say “tanks for the memory”.
October 24, 2013