Once the older boys and I spent some time doing some odd jobs for a widow. She asked me to get gravel to create bases for some large concrete yard statuary.
She gave me the keys to her old green GMC truck and directions to the gravel quarry. I had never been to a gravel pit before so I really didn’t know what I was doing. I pulled in and told them I needed a pick-up truckload of gravel. They waved me on so I pulled on and drove the old green truck down into the pit. I looked around for a while for someone to tell me what to do. I saw a big hopper and pulled under it. I stood and looked at it for a while thinking someone would come out of it and help me but there was no one in sight. I kept looking at the contraption for a while until a big semi pulled up behind me like he was next in line. He just looked at me for a while and I scratched my head and tried to look ignorant and confused. It was not hard.
Finally the driver jumped out and said, “Just pull that lever down until you have all the gravel you need. Go back up to the scales and they will weigh you and you can pay them there.”
“Thanks,” I said and them confidently gave the handle a yank.
I stood there with my hands on my hips watching the gravel pour into the bed of the truck like it is something I do every day. The gravel came rushing into the bed of the truck just like the trucker told me. I kept watching until the gravel came well up the sideboards and then let go of the lever.
I noticed that it was a little difficult to pull back out of the pit but I managed to make my way back to the scales. “Wow, you have it pretty full there,” the man said.
“Yep, I wanted to get it all in one load,” I said.
He said, “How far do you have to go with that?”
“Well, you don’t want to go to far with that truck overloaded like that.”
“It’s overloaded? How can you tell?”
“Well the truck is designed to carry less than half the weight you have in there,” the man said.
“Can you take some of it out?” I asked.
“We can’t unload it but we can give you a shovel. You could just go back down and shovel some of it out until you have a lighter load.”
“Is that what you would do,” I asked.
“Well, if you don’t have far to go you might be O.K.”
I said “We’ll, try it,” not because I had any way of knowing if it was possible, but because I wanted very badly for it to be possible.
I drove away. I should have taken the amused looks on the faces of the employees as a warning, but I’m not that sharp. I drove slowly away believing I could nurse the load of gravel home safely like “The Little Engine that Could.” I had to drive slowly and at one point, up a long grade, I didn’t think the truck was going to survive. It acted funny. It smelled funny. It sounded funny. But I just kept thinking, “I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.” If I had looked in the rearview mirror I would have realized something was very wrong.
About a mile past the crest of the hill a police officer pulled me over he said I was creating a traffic hazard. He said the billows of black smoke from the truck were obscuring the view of the traffic behind me for a half-mile. He let me go with a warning and I was able to nurse the old truck back home without further embarrassment, incident or disaster.
I have led a colorful life. Green truck. Black smoke. Red face.
We shoveled the gravel out into place and finished the job and a number of others for the lady. I told her what happened. As far as I know the truck recovered from the abuse it suffered at our hands.
When I was hired to do a very difficult and complex job I told my boss, “I’m not sure I can do it.” He said, “When you don’t know what to do call me and I will tell you what to do. If I don’t know what to do I will figure it out and let you know.”
Before I went off to do something I had never done before I could have called any number of men who would have been unsparing with their free advice. I could have just walked into the stone quarry office and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing here, can you give me a hand?”
I had the right idea. I was eager to help. My intentions were good. I was just a little short of the skill and experience I needed to do things right. And I was not bright enough to simply ask for advice. I like to think of myself as older and wiser now. I’ve learned that good intentions should always be seasoned with at least a little good sense.
My prayer and continual desire is to learn to number my days so that I will gain a heart of wisdom. That was Moses’ advice in Psalm 90:12, and Moses was a wise man who met with God and had the glory of God on his face. Here is a morsel of wisdom about wisdom from a man who valued wisdom; “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, That you may be wise in your latter days.” (Proverbs 19:20)
Riverfront Character Inn and International Conference Center
August 30, 2004