All week long a line from Del McCurry’s version of the song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” has been running through my head. Why? Because when I married Dan Arp, I knew he could do all kinds of things, but I didn’t realize those things could be dangerous. I have several reasons to feel this way.
Let’s start with the concrete lifting company Dan once owned. If you are unfamiliar with the term, concrete lifting uses concrete inserted with pressure to level various things: building foundations, sidewalks, driveways, etc.
At this particular job, the company was hired to level a customer’s very steep driveway. Rather than attempting the driveway with the heavy company truck, a truck loaded with tools and a concrete mixer, Dan left the truck at the bottom of the hill and delivered the concrete to his crew via his backhoe bucket. He’d drive to the bottom of the driveway, fill the bucket with concrete, then back up the driveway delivering the concrete for his crew’s use.
This had gone on all day. As Dan made yet another trip down the driveway, the backhoe popped out of gear. Because the backhoe’s transmission was hydrostatic drive, it could not be put back into gear while it was moving downhill.
The backhoe began picking up speed, headed towards the company truck. Still able to steer and hoping to contain the problem as much as possible, Dan steered the machine off the driveway and towards a terraced area of the yard. Next, Dan planned his escape, understanding he needed to jump uphill to avoid the backhoe’s wheels while also being careful not to snag his loose-legged shorts on the gear shift knob.
After his successful jump, Dan watched the backhoe head towards the terraced area, then make a sharp left turn, going back across the driveway, and becoming airborne before crashing into a tree, landing with a boom and a puff of smoke. One of Dan’s workers turned to another and said, “Dan is dead.”
When Dan came home from work that day his greeting was, “Well, I almost died today.”
There are more examples. There’s the time my father and Dan were trying to jump start an old John Deere tractor. They tied a cable to daddy’s truck and attached the other end to the tractor. With Dan on the tractor and daddy gunning his truck, the cable came loose, whipping around and almost hitting Dan.
There’s the time Dan was helping out a cousin by clearing an old amphitheater on the cousin’s property. In order to cut away a huge log blocking a portion of the amphitheater, Dan used his backhoe to lift another log out of the way. Unexpectedly the backhoe grapples loosened, and the log fell, landing on Dan’s leg.
I was nearby and fortunately Dan could access his cell phone. He called me saying, “Come up here quick as you can.” I raced to the site and Dan gave me step by step instructions on how to operate the backhoe to lift the log from his leg. We were both shaking when that was over.
As we all wander down the highway of life, our guardian angels surely sit on our shoulders; always vigilant, blocking perils noticed and unnoticed. I think Dan’s angel must be exhausted.
“He will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11-12).
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.