Monday, August 18, 2008

Squatter's Rights

I swear, once I think I've seen it all, then something like this happens. Today, four of us were on US36 in eastern Kansas headed for St. Joseph MO. We had 14' diameter tanks, which are a bit larger than we usually haul (12' normal). So, three of us had some double drops, which had us around 15' tall. One of us had a single drop, which had him close to 16' tall. There were a lot of overpasses we had to go under the closer we got to Missouri. Some, my buddy could "ramp." That is where we get off on an exit and jump back on, not even trying to get under the overpass. It is supposed to be a general rule that all underpasses under 17' clearance are posted, but clearly some of these weren't.

So, for the ones he couldn't ramp, he had to do a bit of agricultural driving. He had to take the shoulder and half drive into the ditch, thus leaning the tank over and dropping it enough to clear the overpass. My job was to guard his "six" by blocking traffic from the rear by being right in the road with my flashers on. This was working swimmingly well until we got to one overpass.

A hitchhiker had himself and his belongings parked at the edge of the pavement. Exactly where my buddy needed to drive. He told the guy he was going to have to move, because he needed to drive there, and explained about clearing the overpass. The guy didn't move, and M got tired of the waiting game. He eased forward, I watched his clearance, and I told M he was clear and to go on. I then saw the rail thin, dirty, gray haired and scraggly bearded hitchhiker running downhill into the bottom of the ditch. M had also ran over his bedroll or whatever it was as well. He wouldn't look at me when I drove by.

I don't know what the eff his problem was. He sure didn't have title to where his butt was parked. M couldn't tell where he was or if he hit him. I think M might have bumped him and sent him sprawling down the ditch. He had plenty of time to move his stuff and get out of the way.

I think he was just being stubborn and foolish - no one was gonna make him move. We had heard earlier there was a county cop talking to a hitchhiker under an overpass. Another trucker, apparently having traveled through there several times today, said the old man had been there all afternoon.

I'm sure this guy was probably mentally ill and really should be institutionalized. If you think you can stake your claim to a public right of way and no one is gonna make you move - well, the laws of applied physics vis a vis trucking just might come out ahead.

So, another story is entered into our trucking lore - it will be recounted wherever some truckers meet and get to talking about weird things that have happened. I'm sure I'll be giving M some crap about rousting homeless people in the future.

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