I had just turned 16 years old on Dec. 24, 1956. I had to wait until Jan. 3, 1957 to get my N.C. driver’s license.
I was working for my uncle at his sawmill, turning logs, moving sawed lumber from the saw, loading the lumber onto the truck to go to the lumber yard in Hamlet, which was about 6.5 miles from the sawmill. When the truck was I was to drive it to the lumber yard, unload it and get paid for the lumber.
It was Good Friday April 19, 1957, about two in the afternoon. The truck was loaded with the last load for the week and I left to deliver it to the lumber yard. We had loaded it with 14-foot-long 2 X 8s and 14-foot-long 2 X 10s, rough cut from the sawmill. I had gotten only about 1.5 miles from the sawmill when I saw a 1955 Ford car backing off of the highway in front of me off Battley Dairy Road.
This was at the intersection of Hatcher Road and Battley Dairy Road. The car was about two-thirds of the way off of Battley Dairy Road and about one-third of the front of the car was in Battley Dair Road on the right side of the road.
I was driving about 50 or 55 mph when I knew if I hit the car, I would probably kill the young lady who was driving. So what I did was wrong but I turned the steering wheel to the left and crossed the center line in the road — which was a mistake as far as driving decisions go, because you are not to pass at an intersection.
I tried to move the truck back into the right side of the road and continue on, but in trying to regain control the chain that was holding the lumber gave way and let the lumber shift. That caused the truck to turn over on the right side and come to a stop in the side ditch.
I don’t know how, but I ended up between the gearshift and the seat cushion of the truck. If you know anything about a 1951 Ford (6) wheel truck you would know when the gearshift is in fourth gear there is only about four inches between it and the seat. And that is not enough room for a person 5-foot-11 and about 160 pounds to get between them.
I had to reach up with my hand and push the clutch in and move the gearshift and switch the truck off. Before I could get out — you see, my head was against the right-hand door, which was against the door — I had to pull myself with my legs to the open window and through the window of the left door, which was the only way out.
You, the lumber had come through the back window over the seat and across the steering wheel and out the windshield. If I hadn’t been between the gearshift and the seat, the lumber would have cut off my head at the shoulders. But by the Lord taking care of me, I am still alive. I believe that He had something for m e to do here on earth. I just don’t know what.
After I was out of the cab and sitting on the side of the truck, trying to get my head and mind together, my aunt drove up and came over to check on me. After she saw that I was okay, she said that when she saw the wreck she thought to herself there was no way I could be alive and out of the truck. In fact, her son could have been here with me but he had gone fishing that day.
The Highway Patrol came out to investigate the wreck. The patrolman gave me a ticket for passing at an intersection and gave the young lady one for failing to yield the right of way. If I remember right, the ticket and court cost was $11 for each of us.
What came from this was I got a date with the young lady. We went out only once; we found out we didn’t have anything in common other than the wreck.
Howard Richardson is author of the boo, “My Life Retold.” He lives in Rockingham.