Josna Rege

1. Letting Go of the Clutch

In 1970s, Stories, United States on February 28, 2010 at 6:28 am

Dan always used to joke that he had never been the same since the clutch of our milk truck had fallen on his head. Andrew and I had a 1950 blue-and-cream International Harvester milk truck, and we needed to drive it from Massachusetts to New Mexico to bail out our friend Michael from hospital. But first the truck needed a new clutch, and Dan and Andrew set out to install it by themselves. Somehow, because Dan was strong and  hunky, he got under the truck and heaved the clutch into place. But somehow, either it slipped, or Andrew let go, or Dan himself let go,  and this massive chunk of metal hit Dan on the head. If we were 24 and 25 at the time, then Dan was only 22. And ever since, he said for years—joking but perhaps not altogether—he’s been a little off his head.

But our trusty milk truck, with its just-installed clutch, trundled all the way to Albuquerque and back, at its 50 mph maximum speed.  It ran amazingly well, considering its age; and as we approached St. Louis, the city of its manufacture, it kicked into some magical new gear and began running like a dream, more smoothly than it had ever done before.

Tell Me Another (Contents to Date)

Chronological Table of Contents

  1. The image of the milk truck hurtling across the country — and having something of a rebirth when it approaches its city of origin — is very pleasing. But I, too, wince at the mention of a head injury, in part because I’ve had some bad ones myself. Like Dan, I joke (and wonder) about my alternative self, who had no such bumps on the noggin. For Dan’s sake, I’m glad it actually was the Ford Falcon’s clutch and not the International’s. (If one really must pick, that is!)

    p.s. I’ve resolved to catch up on your blog by reading sequentially from the beginning. Am limiting myself to one a night, lest I be tempted to stay up all night reading here. This will be my end-of-the-day ritual and bedtime treat.

    • Looking back with Dan on how the whole thing unfolded, I’ve realized that that accident probably happened because for some reason we felt the need to leave in a rush, and to work on the clutch during or just after a rainstorm, which might have been the reason why it slipped and fell. Whatever urgency we felt at the time could not have been so very pressing as to risk people’s–in this case Dan’s–safety.

      The white Ford Falcon (a manual transmission with “three on the tree”) was my first car ever, in which I took my first trip across America, with Andrew and our adventurous friend Peta. But the milk truck–now that was in a class of its own and deserves its own story.

  2. Scary!!! Head injuries are very troubling…(and my noggin is constantly being bonked against some very unforgiving objects, though I haven’t tried a clutch!)

    • This very first post of mine turns out to be the one in which my memory has played the most tricks on me. Both Andrew and his brother Dan confirm that it wasn’t the clutch of the International Harvester milk truck but the transmission of my old Ford Falcon that fell on his head. He said that if it had been the International’s clutch he wouldn’t be here to tell the tale today! I’m still hoping that he or Andrew gets online and tells their version of the story (undoubtedly the more accurate one, since it was they who were under the car at the time). xx J

      • Amazing we lived through our youthful adventures. We had a mail jeep at one point, only seat was the drivers seat. I think Jim fixed an office chair in the passenger side and the small children sat in the back on the floor. No seat belt laws in those days. Maybe you could interview Andrew and/Dan about their memories of that event.

        • That’s amazing, Kristin! It was the same with the milk truck as it was with your jeep–it had no passenger seat and, like Jim, Andrew fixed a chair, in our case a rocking chair (one of those old rockers in which the seat is made of carpeting) in the passenger side. If he had braked suddenly the passenger could have gone flying through the windshield as if from a catapult! There weren’t any seatbelts in it either. Your children were probably safest on the floor in back. I didn’t much like sitting in that rocker; instead I used to like standing up behind the driver’s seat while Andrew was driving.
          I think Dan has probably told me all he wants to tell–it’s not the most pleasant memory for him! But you’re right, if I want more details I’ll have to conduct an interview, and should do so before they fade any further. . .

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