I searched for you for two years before I bought you sight unseen off the internet.
You were an older model Ford F150, nine years old to be exact. You looked like you had been well-cared for and sported low mileage. I’d saved up the cash to pay for you in-full at the dealership.
My heart beat rapidly as I drove you home for the first time. I was so afraid to crash my “brand new” vehicle—this much dreaded accident would take place seven years later. Up until that moment of impact though, I could not have asked for a better truck.
The reason for your purchase was intimately tied to my lifelong love of horses. From hauling hay to hauling a horse-trailer, there are some things a truck can do that a four-door sedan can’t. You became a regular part of my horse-owner lifestyle. A silent witness to some of my life’s most cherished and most solemn events. In the background of so many photos of my horses and me, I see you quietly hooked up to the trailer. You patiently waited in parking lots and open fields while I enjoyed all manner of equine events. From trail rides to clinics to horse shows, you helped my horses and me arrive safely and get back home again.
I remember one weekend, in particular, from our years together. I’d loaded one of my horses and drove you for almost three hours in the pouring rain to a competitive horse event that I had long practiced for and anxiously anticipated.
On the final day of competition, Spice and I won first place in our division. I remember feeling so proud of my horse and I as I drove you down the driveway of the venue towards the exit sign. I happily waved to a fellow competitor out your driver’s side window as we left and relished the freshly minted memories of the weekend as I guided you towards home.
When I followed my husband cross-country due to a job change, you helped me haul my horse-trailer up and over the Colorado Rocky Mountains. That was definitely a white-knuckle experience for me, a flatlander.
I’m still not sure what possess people to build roads through mountains rather than around them. I thought that I-70 with its never-ending series of steep grades was the most challenging driving experience with a trailer in tow that I’d ever had.
Then, traffic was diverted off of I-70 due to a backup.
When I realized that the diversion was a switch-back with no guardrails leading to the top of a 10,000 foot mountain peak, I pulled off the side of the road in a panic and considered my options. Turning around and heading back to Indiana seemed impractical, so I put you back in drive and headed up the incline. I remember thinking that if we went over the side that we would at least die surrounded by spectacular landscape glory.
But you never faltered. Even with my shaking hands on your steering wheel, we made it to the top of the mountain summit and back down the other side. We eventually safely reconnected with I-70 and completed our journey.
Then there was the time you gave my very first horse his very last trailer ride.
When I couldn’t get Blue to eat his breakfast, I called the veterinarian and quickly hooked you up to the trailer to transport him to the vet clinic. At the end of a very long day, I recall driving you home while you pulled the now empty trailer. We were leaving Blue behind after releasing his soul from a pain-racked body. It is one of life’s saddest events to arrive with your horse and later leave without him.
On the day of the accident, the accident that I feared on that very first day we met, you saved my life.
What an odd thing it is that life and death is separated by so little. A few inches. A few seconds. The timing and placement of the impact alone can determine where you fall on this divide. It is the difference between moving on with life or having your life stopped in its tracks. It is the difference between telling the story of the accident or having the entirety of your story ended and told for you.
After the ambulance ride to the hospital and receiving treatment for an injury, a friend picked me up and took me to the yard where you had been towed. I felt an eerie calm immediately after the crash. I wasn’t panicky or upset. I was mostly grateful to still be walking and talking.
But what I saw in that yard broke my heart.
Your front left wheel smashed in at an unnatural angle. The windshield shattered and the airbags deployed. The hood lifted up in a V shape. That was the first time after the accident that I felt emotional. You took the brunt of the impact when the semi-truck ran the red light. You would be declared irreparable, and I would never see you again after that day.
In the weeks after the crash, I thought a lot about the driver who hit us.
I know that no one wakes up in the morning planning to cause a vehicular accident. I also know what it is like to make poor decisions and regret my action. I am intimately acquainted with the travails of being a flawed human being.
I chose to forgive the driver that hit us. I don’t hold any grudges.
My forgiveness doesn’t change the fact that the crash caused the loss of you, my trusty truck. But sometimes two seemingly incompatible things can be true at the same time. Grief and forgiveness can go hand in hand.
So once again, I am saving up the money for another truck. It has been so painful to lose you and to lose out on all the horse-related experiences in which I can’t participate without your help. When I am driving down the rode in my four-door sedan, I sometimes start to cry when I see one of your sisters. I cry harder if she is a similar year and color as you.
You started off as a witness to and a companion during so many meaningful experiences in my life. Ultimately, you held my life in your metal hands and allowed me to live to see another day. I don’t think I could ask anything more from you.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
About the Author
Mary Lynne Carpenter is a backyard horse-owner who lives in Indiana.