Unloading Pipe

Updated: Dec 4, 2018

As my final year in high school was winding down, a close friend, Rick, came to me one Saturday afternoon asking if I wanted to make an easy $25. I said sure and we drove out to a place in The Breaks where an eighteen wheeler loaded high with 30+ foot lengths of 4-inch diameter pipe waited to be unbound and moved to the ground alongside the trailer.

The trucker instructed us to go up and undo the snap binders and chains holding the load on the trailer. Always eagerly proactive in my approach to any job, I scrambled up on top of the pile and immediately began figuring out to unlatch the snap binders. I had never seen one before and as soon as I popped the lever out of its latch ring it sprang up and backward in an instant with considerable force. I was still holding onto the lever with both hands, so naturally I was flung backward right off the top of the load of pipe and landed flat on my back in the dirt. I remember seeing it puff up around my legs and feet when I landed, just like a cartoon scene. Fortunately, I instinctively slapped the ground with both extended arms as soon as I landed, helping to absorb a lot of the impact in them instead of making my spine take the brunt of it.


I didn't lose consciousness and shortly saw my friend appear above me with deep furrows of concern raked across his face. The trucker appeared over me next with equally expressed worry and they both asked loudly and in unison if I was okay. I nodded, just a little bit breathless from having the wind knocked out of me and started to get up. They both urged me not to move for a bit while I figured out how badly I was damaged. But I sprang to my feet and began dusting the red dirt off of my pants, assuring them I was fine–just embarrassed as hell at my demonstration of stupidity. I promised not to be so eager and wait for instruction from the trucker as I climbed back up onto the load.


We carefully loosened then quickly unloaded the pipe without further incident and the trucker paid us, throwing in a nice tip and compliments to boot. He asked again if I was feeling okay. He had watched me closely while we unloaded the pipe and I know I didn't exhibit any signs of being in pain, which I wasn't at all and never was afterward. I think that satisfied him and I know it amazed Rick that I hadn't broken my back in the fall.


We drove back to town and Rick dropped me off at my grandparent's house. I suspected that would be the last time he asked me to help with another odd job and it was, but we remained good friends.