Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Wreck kills three teens

You could see how it happened. That was the easy part – the four-way highway intersection, the Stop sign ignored or dared.
HUGO, Okla. – Three Rattan High School students were killed Tuesday afternoon when the pickup in which they were riding was in collision with a loaded gravel truck, Oklahoma Highway Patrol officers said Wednesday morning.

The students killed were identified as Timothy G. Dawson, 17; Kimberly J. Smith, 16; and Melissa A. Allen, 16. All were from Rattan, said Highway Patrol officer Gaylon Jeffords. Dawson was a senior at Rattan High School, while Smith and Allen were juniors.

Jeffords said the accident occurred when a 1998 Ford Ranger pickup, driven by Dawson, heading west on East 1960 Road, apparently ran a stop sign at the intersection with Oklahoma Highway 147. The Ranger was in collision with a northbound Chambers Co. Gravel Co. truck, driven by Billy F. Boyd, 37, of Hugo.

Boyd, who was injured in the accident, was treated and released from Choctaw Memorial Hospital.

Funeral services for Dawson, Smith and Allen are pending with Loman Funeral Home in Hugo.

And there you have it. A boy driving a pickup with two friends from school, a warm afternoon, and … What? He didn’t see the stop sign? He didn’t know the stop sign was there? He wasn’t paying attention?

Here’s what the accident location looked like: A normal paved intersection, stop sign east and west. Trees a distance from the highway, but not presenting visibility limitations.

Two days after the wreck, the intersection showed skid marks in the northbound lane, slightly angled to the west, indicating the driver of the gravel truck had a split second on the brakes before impact, and the same split second to try to turn the fully loaded truck. Both actions were purely reaction, of course. The truck probably was going 55 mph or more, given the terrain at the site. There was no way the truck would miss the Ranger pickup, no matter what the driver tried to do.

The area northwest of the intersection was sand, with short pine trees beyond. Thursday after the wreck, the sand had a plowed appearance, probably from remains of the Ranger pushed across the sand and toward the trees. The trees were blackened from a fire. Trooper Jeffords had not mentioned a fire, but a fire was logical, given the mass of the gravel truck smashing into and through the small pickup, crushing the pickup, rending it into small pieces, splitting the gas tank and the fuel spilling.

You have to figure the pickup was not dawdling, but traveling at least the speed limit – 60 mph. My two years’ experience with Oklahoma drivers was this: My pickup, the one with Texas plates, was the only one doing the speed limit; every Oklahoma-plated car or truck either rode my bumper or passed me at the first opportunity. You know the gravel truck didn’t dawdle. Gravel trucks went as fast, and were as dangerous, as log trucks. Most drivers of gravel trucks paid little attention to speed limits. Fifteen mph over was normal.

Not that it would have mattered how much over the speed limit the gravel truck was going when it hit the Ranger. The gross weight of the gravel truck was what, 50,000 pounds, 60,000 pounds? Or more?

The wreck was a matter of timing. For the broadside impact, both the pickup and the gravel truck had to be traveling at a specific speed, relative to each other.

You can get into the luck or fate aspect of the incident, but that does no good. It happened. The why …

Maybe the driver didn’t see the stop sign? I drove east on 1960 Road, the same road on which Dawson drove west. The terrain was level. No trees obstructed visibility of traffic on Highway 147. At more than one-third mile the stop sign was visible right of the road.

It happened. That’s all. Nothing else is explanation.

I headed back south on Highway 147. Thoughts of the gravel truck and the pickup had been my entire focus for thirty minutes or so -- images of the pickup entering the intersection, the gravel truck almost at the same place on the road, and everybody involved suddenly … Realizes what is about to happen? I don’t know. Sometimes the mind is not that quick.

A gravel truck turned in front of me, 50 yards away, a right turn into a quarry, plenty of room.

I flinched.
The wreck happened in 1999. I did not write this then because the three high school students were too newly dead. Relatives and friends tend to anger when you write a story concerning people who die young and your focus is not what great kids they were.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kinetic this, dude

Nobody really gives a rat’s patooie about the US bombing a little snot out of Libya. It’s not like a Republican president ordered/approved the air strikes and cruise missiles.

For one thing, the Democratic president said, Americans are not in any real danger. “Obama has also argued that the conflict does not count as ‘hostilities’ because Gaddafi’s forces are so battered that they pose little threat to American air crews.”

Let me tell you how many bullets it takes to bring down a modern multi-million-dollar airplane: Hold up one finger. Thank you.


From nine days ago: “Air Force and Navy aircraft are still flying hundreds of strike missions over Libya despite the Obama administration’s claim that American forces are playing only a limited support role in the NATO operation.

“An Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday that since NATO’s Operation Unified Protector (OUP) took over from the American-led Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 31, the U.S. military has flown hundreds of strike sorties. Previously, Washington had claimed that it was mostly providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and tanker support to NATO forces operating over Libya.”


But then there is administrationspeak: "’The US role is one of support,’ the official said, ‘and the kinetic pieces of that are intermittent.’"


“Kinetic pieces” is a new phrase to describe bombs falling from American aircraft.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why Larry moved to Texas

A couple of years ago I was visiting Larry, my best friend in high school and 1967 participant in the Greater Southeast Asia War Games, 9th Infantry Division. Larry was born in Alabama and spent his first 12 years there. During the visit, Larry said, “Did I ever tell you why we came to Texas?” I said he had not.

Preface to story: Larry’s father, Grady, and my father worked at the steel mill in Lone Star. Grady previously worked at a steel mill in Alabama.

Story: One day at the mill in Lone Star, two men came up to Grady. One said, “We were just wondering. What’d you get run out of Alabama for?” Grady said, “What? What’re you talking about?” The other man said, “Well, everybody we know here from Alabama got run out for something or the other. We just wondered why you got run out.”

At the Alabama mill, Grady ran the overhead crane in the blast furnace, moving the big bucket up or down the mill as required. When the bucket was in its proper place, Grady moved the crane out of the way. For some reason, Grady’s foreman had it in for him. He would say to Grady, “I know what’s going on. You’re sleeping in that crane. One of these days I’m going to crawl out there and catch you sleeping.” Grady reminded the foreman that it would be a dangerous thing, crawling along a beam, and who knows what might happen.

One night at dinner the foreman was really on Grady, again saying he knew Grady was sleeping in the crane and he would catch Grady and have him fired. After shift was over, the foreman followed Grady into the change house, again repeating his intentions. He was behind Grady at one point, and Grady turned around and gave the foreman a knuckle sandwich -- laid him out. Grady then got in his car and went home. When he got there, he told his wife, “You know, some people used to work here been writing, telling me I ought to go work at that mill in Texas.” Mrs. Grady was an un-Reconstructed Southerner of the highest degree, and she had no plans to live outside Alabama, which was the pride of the South and keeper of things anti-Yankee.

Then Grady said, “In the morning there’s liable to be people looking for me. You tell them I said I was going Up North to De-troit, see could I get a job in a car factory.” Mrs. Grady said she would do as her husband said. Grady then packed a few clothes and left.

Next morning, two deputy sheriffs showed up, with a warrant for Grady’s arrest for assault. Mrs. Grady told them what Grady had said. The deputies left.

Three days later, Grady returned, and that night the family packed what they could in the car – Mr. and Mrs. Grady and four boys -- and headed for Texas.

Way back when, this kind of story was repeated over and over, people leaving wherever they were, often with cause, and heading for Texas. They still are.