Shut up and do it!

By Helen Row Toews

May 18, 2017 12:00 AM

Valuable lesson learned from behind the wheel

When the countryside starts to dry up in spring, and cattle are moved out of their wet, sloppy pens into a pasture of new, green grass, I always reflect back upon my days driving a truck for Bulldog Corral Cleaning.
As soon as possible, we were hard at work from dawn till dusk; travelling from farm to farm clearing barnyards and fertilizing fields.
It was, perhaps, an unusual sort of job for a woman; particularly one who didn’t leave the house each day without lipstick and earrings, but I liked it, and have fond memories—mostly.
People often asked me how I could work at such an occupation; spending each day motoring about the land in a truck filled with steaming piles of muck.
However, it was nothing for a girl who grew up with manure on her boots and a Charolais cow in her heart (the cow part is a little overstated, but it’ll make dad happy).
Dave Wasyliw, the man who owned and ran the company, took pride in a job well done, and insisted on a high level of service for his customers.
He was pretty particular as to how we handled the trucks too, since foolish mistakes could be dangerous as well as costly.
Dave was good at what he did, and earned our respect.
I learned to back a tandem truck into places you’d think twice about pushing a wheelbarrow through, and each day presented a challenge I grew to enjoy. 
The men I toiled alongside were a jovial group and there was a lot of fun poked at the new woman on the job.
Nonetheless, I proved myself equal to the task, and was accepted without question until one cold November day shortly after I started.
Our wheels crunched through a fresh skiff of snow as we rolled into a farmyard built around the top of a massive hill.
We helped Dave unload the CAT and he trundled off towards the corrals to scope it out and determine the best means of attack.
A slippery business
Driving a vehicle on cow manure is a slippery business, but if you add in a steep slope and four inches of snow there’s bound to be trouble.
Finally, Dave’s confident voice boomed over our truck radios: “OK people, I want you to back through the gate at the bottom of the first corral facing east. Make sure you get up some speed so you make it up the hill and don’t slide and crash into that shed at the bottom. Aim towards the gate at the top on a 45 degree angle, but before you reach it, you’ve got to turn towards the south to get through it; and be damn careful because it’s narrow, and I don’t want any scraped up trucks! You can’t stop to make the turn so you’ve got to do it while you’re moving cause you won’t get a second chance. Alright, now back down the passageway about 50 feet and out another gate that’s even narrower. Gear down before it and watch your speed, because it’s straight downhill and there’s a helluva drop on the left, so look where you’ve got your wheels. There’s a sharp corner through the gate at the bottom and I’ll be waiting around the curve so get a move on.”
He took a deep breath, “Oh yeah, and DON’T GET STUCK!”
I slumped in my truck, gripping the wheel with whitened knuckles.
What did he say?
Surely I must have heard wrong.
I went over it all again in my mind, every miserable detail etching itself into my brain.
The man made this obstacle course sound like a bloody stroll in the park!
I watched as the first truck roared off at the prescribed angle and disappeared behind weathered gray slabs.
It flew up the grade, motor revving; fighting against the deep slop which pulled it inexorably towards the shed which hunched in a cesspool at the bottom.
Finally reaching the summit, it turned abruptly and shot through the next gate. 
“Slow down!” Dave yelled in agitation. 
All too soon it was my turn.
With clammy hands I backed up to the starting point and surveyed the mountain of sludge behind me.
One truck had already been dragged from its final resting place in the pit of despair after it had slid sideways down the slope, barely missing the shed, and now me—peachy.
This was where I made my critical error.
Before thinking of the consequences, I snatched up the radio and shrieked, “You have GOT to be kidding. This is impossible.”
There was silence for a few moments and then the taunting remarks began.
I took a lot of guff over my hasty words—for days.
Turns out it wasn’t actually impossible, and I successfully roared through it repeatedly over the next few hours.
Ultimately, this experience taught me not to flaunt my weaknesses, lest I be ridiculed without end.
More than that, it imparted a valuable life lesson, because now, when difficult situations present themselves—as they always do—I think of this incident and know there’s no use whining or complaining when the going gets tough.
It’s best to grit your teeth, hold your head high, shut up—and do it.
Thanks Dave, you were a good man.

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