Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Little Truck That Could (Almost...)

Here in Liberia the contractor who built this village is finished with this phase of construction and is finally moving his equipment and left over material. All of us at the site are glad that we can say good bye to the construction crowd and the mess that has seemed to accumulate as a by-product of their labors. One of the things that needed to be removed was a container. It was used to lock up tools and valuable items. It has been an eye sore for as long as we have been here, prominently positioned in the middle of the facility. Today all that changed! We got the word that the truck had left Monrovia (10 a.m.), and would arrive to pick up and move the container to the contractor’s main office on Bushrod Island. Bushrod Island is the harbor area next to Monrovia where all goods are unloaded off the cargo ships. Everything comes into this country by ship! Bushrod Island is always bumper to bumper with trucks and cars.

So the truck finally arrived at about 4 p.m. The drive to Bushrod usually takes about 1½ hours by car. Of course it would take a little longer with a truck, especially when the driver does not want to chance getting a ding in his paint job or bumpers. Maybe someone can help me figure out exactly what year this truck is (or was), but my best guess is that I was about 10 years old when it was new.

This fine vehicle (‘58-‘60 Dodge?) came with a driver and 3 attendants. One of the fellows worked the crane. He sat behind the cab, in between two huge gears that were part of the crane that was mounted on the back of this trusty vehicle. One of the other guys would crawl underneath and engage the power take-off when needed. The third fellow was responsible for hooking up the cables. A well oiled machine!

Finally it was backed up to the container and cables were being hooked up. This was an arduous process as the turning radius is huge because the front wheels do not turn very much. Also, the clutch was wore out, or maybe it was because of all the oil going past it; anyway, six of us had to push when it was in reverse because the truck could not move on its own power. Woe unto you if you were down wind when the engine was put under a load; the smoke was breath-taking!

O.K.! We got it now. Small problem though: now the truck will not go through the sand with it’s load. Every able man on the site had to push to get it this far. Well, except for the three helpers! They had to sit on the front bumper in an effort to keep the front wheels on the ground. At this point, just when one thinks this is not going too bad, the truck runs out of diesel. Not to worry, there is more in the can behind the cab. The main fuel tank is sitting on the passenger side floor board. Why it doesn’t get filled before it runs out is a mystery; nobody knows! Now the injector pump needed priming; a 30 minute ordeal.

Well, it’s only 6 p.m. and the truck is cadillacing down the main street of the village, heading toward the main gate. The security guys have the front gates opened w-i-d-e. We are close, so close, to getting rid of this thing.

After a 16 point turn through the gate, it is on the road. Note the wheel that is off the ground as they pull onto the county road. That is the tire that had all the cords showing. This is how they will most likely keep it from wearing out on the way back to Bushrod Island.

This silhouette of the container going down the road is a pleasant sight for us. One has to wonder though, with it going to be very dark in one hour, and no lights on the truck or container, what are they thinking? Two weeks ago, Babs and I were coming home from the internet café and came up behind this very thing in the dark: an unlit container on a truck. Fortunately, the car in front of us saw it and then we saw their tail lights. If per chance one of his three tires that were down to the second layer of cords blows out, they will park it in the middle of the highway, since there is no shoulder to pull off on, and return in the morning to deal with it. Such road hazards are the norm here.

The Rest of The Story:

After months of talk, we were promised that by Sunday the container and all the debris would be removed from the village. The container left Saturday evening, and most of the debris had also been hauled off. It is now Sunday morning, and after church we left town, and headed inland out of Monrovia. The joke was that I should be careful not to run into the back of a blue container that may have been dumped in the middle of the road. Well, sure enough, we were not quite to Red Light Junction, (named for the red stop light that used to blink there before the war) and there it was! They seemed to have had some tire issues and now the truck will not start. They made it half way home (10 miles) in 18 hours. I have no doubt they will make it the rest of the way. The people of Liberia are hard workers and very resourceful with what they have to work with. My heart goes out to them; this has been a hard way to make $200, but that’s trucking. Been there, done that!