Wednesday 17 June 2009

The Anglo Truck

When I was a young fella we used to make little trolleys by fixing the axles and wheels of a used pram to a wooden frame that served as a chassis. We called them trucks. (In Donegal the word truck is never used in place of lorry.).

You steered the truck by pulling on twine that was attached to the left and right side of the front axle which could pivot to give direction. The truck was simple yet frighteningly effective down the steep hilly roads of South Donegal.

Our trucks had two flaws. One was born of youth's immunity to fear - they had no brakes. We probably could have fitted some kind of crude brake, say a lath that would press against the wheel, but we never did. No brakes were fitted because we never assessed the risk - and even when the risk of a potentially terrible crash was obvious (like long steep hills with a corner at the bottom, round which a car could appear at any instant) we ignored it. The bigger the hill you took on with your truck, the more daring you were, not the more insane.

The truck's second flaw was that it was hopelessly unstable: it was too narrow and, with one or more bodies sitting atop, its centre of gravity was too high. A sudden turn made a tumble certain, and many a time I took such a roll. The result was usually a lot of bruising, and often a torn jumper or trouser knee - which meant more pain later, particularly if they were new!

On a very large hill you sat at the top, peering down into the abyss. You knew your ride was going to be perilous, you nerved a bit, but your young mind was unable to muster enough fear to do the wise thing. You pulled left and right on your twine, like a pilot checking his rudder, then straightened up, lifted you legs, and away.

Even if you had launched from a particularly scary hill, there was no going back. You were rapidly picking up speed and hurtling towards some kind of disaster. You had only two choices - to bail now, which meant taking a certain amount of pain, or carry on gaining speed and losing control, and rushing headlong into an even greater horror.

1 comment:

Niamh B said...

I still remember trying to get up a hill on one of those, a three wheeler, leg pushing thingymajig, with my then boyfriend sitting in a cart attached to the back, and it "somehow" getting unhitched and him going flying head over heels back down the road... It was definitely one of the low points of our relationship.