By Neville Ryan
In some of the photo’s you will see the backhoe parked on the bed of the truck. I bet none of you really thought much about how it got there. It requires 2 metal ramps to be attached to the truck and then the backhoe is reversed until the tires are correctly positioned on the metal ramps, then a bit of acceleration and you are up on the truck bed. It sounds easy, but there are a few things to be aware of. First of all, if you don’t align the tires correctly the angle of error increases as you go up the ramp, the result being the driver and backhoe plummet to the ground. Not a good thing! At the point where the back tires reach the bed of the truck it is angled at 45 degrees and although from ground level it doesn’t look high at all I am here to tell you it looks like you are looking down from Mt Everest. Another heart stopping moment is when the back of the machine moves on to the bed. There is always a possibility that the front wheels can lift slightly, fall off the ramps and once again driver and machine plummet to the ground.
I am giving you this background information in relation to a story about when two of us were mining for Rainforest Jasper. It was typically hot dusty work and with only two people tempers can be somewhat frayed, especially when basic survival common sense is ignored. When working next to a machine you have to realize that the machine has right of way and it is the responsibility of the worker to stay out of the way of the machine, especially when around a rapidly moving backhoe bucket. I was operating the backhoe and Jonno was consistently in the way. After days of stifling my desire to whack Jonno with the bucket it was time to load up and head for home. I wanted to get the backhoe on the truck as soon as possible which of course meant that nothing was going right. I tried again and again but couldn’t get it right. Jonno decided to have a go and his glorious effort left the backhoe leaning at a precarious angle with the back wheels barely on the ramps. That meant I had to gingerly climb up on to the backhoe and move the boom for balance so I could inch it down the ramps. Once my heart stopped pounding I decided to reposition the backhoe and have one last try in the semi darkness. This was the exact moment that Jonno decided that it was time to give up and try the next day. My anger boiled over and I hit the accelerator thinking I would lurch forward and be done for the day. As it turned out I still had the machine in reverse. That machine flew up the ramps onto the truck bed, front wheels in the air, the boom swinging wildly, slammed on the brakes, switched off the engine and sat in silence. All I could hear was the pounding of my heart, then Jonno’s voice “Why didn’t you do that the first time? It would have saved a lot of time”. To this day I don’t know if the greater miracle was me not being crushed by a falling backhoe or me not whacking Jonno with the backhoe and leaving him buried out in the bush.