Oh, winter. How I despise you. Although this season is always the slowest at the clinic and therefore allows some breathing room between appointments, the freezing temperatures are enough to cause vaccines to solidify in my pocket and the skin on my hands to chap and crack. Worse, though, are the roads in wintery weather.
Although the old Ford F-250 has four-wheel drive and is heavy enough to usually get good traction on slippery streets, the occasional slick spot on the road is enough to cause any driver in this weather a heart palpitation or two. For the amount of time I’m out on the road, I’ve been lucky. There’s only been one time I’ve had a run-in with ice.
It was in January. I was returning from a routine appointment to examine some sheep. During the visit, it started to sleet and by the time I was out on the road driving to the next farm, the roads were sloppy. With the temperature hovering around freezing, I made my way down and around the country roads. Around one fairly decent downhill bend, my truck started to slide toward the right. The bend and hill were such that on the right was just the down slope without a guardrail and only trees to block someone like me who was barreling straight for it. Panicking, I turned the steering wheel to the left, once, twice, three times. Fishtailing over the ice, I over-compensated and now started to slide to the left. Although my speed slowed considerably, I still had little grip on the road and in what I later described as the slowest, most graceful crash ever, I ended up in the ditch with the hood crunched up against a tree.
Shaking and with heart pounding, I sat there for a few minutes with my invoices, supplies, and various other odds and ends thrown askance around me. The truck was tilted to the left and I struggled to open the door without everything, including myself, falling out into the snow. When I finally made it out and observed the damage, I had a bent hood and dented grill and a slightly twisted body frame, but everything else looked ok. I wasn’t hurt (well, nothing but my ego), and there was not a single other soul on the road. I remember standing there, forlornly looking at the truck, dreading calling my boss with the news, and being acutely aware of the silence around me, noticing only the tick-tick-tick of the falling sleet as it hit the road.
As luck would have it, as I was standing on the side of the road waiting for assistance, a client drove by. I wasn’t too sure where I was, but turns out I was close to their farm. Within minutes, they were at my aid with a sturdy pickup and a winch. To my astonishment, they were able to pull my truck out of the ditch, and to my delight, I was able to drive off, with only a moderate delay to my next appointment. Showing the next client my dented hood, they excused my tardiness.
After a few weeks, I was able to get the truck in for a replacement hood and the frame wasn’t bent badly enough to need repair. As the truck was pulled from the ditch, I recall seeing the dent it made in the tree on impact. I can’t say that I got the tree as bad as it got me, but I made my mark. And thankfully, that’s the worst the ice has on me.
Dr. Anna O'Brien