Janet Hommel Mangas: Racked by ratchet troubles

There are actually a semi-load of reasons, but one specific example last week ruled out any inkling of possibility of my ever having a career in over-the-road trucking.

Driving our Ford pickup truck to Piqua, Ohio, to save a $240 delivery fee seemed prudent. I actually like driving if I’m not in too big of hurry, and it’s always a bonus when I don’t get lost.

It was an easy five-hour, 290-mile round trip. It felt empowering to be driving our Ford-150 amongst the 18-wheel rigs, trucks and trailers full of cattle, and other work vehicles. I was picking up a few rolls of landscape fabric and a bundle of 1.4/inch, 40-count 10-foot long bamboo stakes — the reason for the large delivery fee.

After backing up into the loading dock, a nice fellow taped a red warning flag to my bundle as my load was sticking out over of my truck tailgate a few feet. Of course we all know that Indiana regulations note that “any load that projects more than 1.2 m (or 3.93 feet) from the back of your vehicle or trailer must display a warning device.” I was legit and ready to roll.

I thanked him and pulled away, deciding to “Sally Safety” my haul with a strap and ratchet, which we keep in the back seat for such occasions. The problem occurred when I remembered helping unload a few semis forty years ago and how I’d always enjoyed tightening the ratchet straps after the load or unload — but the ratchet was already attached and ready to ratchet.

About 10 years ago, I asked my “Handy-Husband” to walk me through the step of putting the strap into the ratchet and tightening it.” Unfortunately for me on this day, “Handy-Husband” had an office full of patients and I couldn’t remember the details of my decade-old lesson. So on my way home, I looked back in my rearview mirror after driving about ten minutes and even though I thought I had tightly cranked the ratchet, and double checked it, I saw a wimpy loose strap.

For the life of me — 62 years to be exact— I’ve never been able to fasten these correctly unless they’d been pre-fastened.

On the way home, I pulled off the interstate into two different rest stops trying to fasten that stinking ratchet, but within minutes of being back on the interstate I felt like a loser amongst truck drivers as my strap loosened and the strap waved itself proudly like a country flag.

I, on the other hand, felt judgement from my fellow truckers who flaunted their tight loads as I imagined them shaking their heads when they looked with disappointment at mine. The weight of the bundled bamboo stakes wrapped tightly in a protective breathable fabric really didn’t move an inch, but I just wanted to be on the safe side.

To balance out my inability to work a simple strap and ratchet system, I can indeed design a garden, plan a school auction, lead a state-wide junior high speech meet, run a backhoe, bushhog a field, or change a tire and the oil — I just didn’t want you to think I was totally inept. You might be impressed (or not) to know that back in the day I could lift the hood of my 1974 AMC Gremlin, (that was not the good part, the impressive part comes next) unscrew the carburetor lid and take off the top, stick a pencil or screwdriver in the small flap which held it open and magically start the car when it was flooded.

I was unable to figure out the strap and ratchet, but I did get out the rope we conveniently store in the truck and tied a perfect bowline knot and made it safely home with my haul intact.