Tow Truck Toni

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Born To Run

Submitted: December 13, 2016

Reads: 3003

Comments: 1

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Submitted: December 13, 2016



Nobody ever calls me by my given name.  You can’t be Antionette and a tomboy at the same time.  No one refers to me as Mrs. Ronald McIntire, even though I have been married for 42 years.  Here in Baldwin County, I am Tow Truck Toni.

I was born into the auto salvage industry.  Grandpa started the business and Daddy picked up where he left off.  Need a radiator for a 74 Firebird?  The passenger seat for a 68 VW?  Wells Salvage and Towing has it.  Take the curve in front of the First Baptist Church too fast?  Left the lights on and the battery is dead?  We’ll pull you out of the ditch or get you jump-started.

Daddy began taking me out in the wrecker when I was three.  He didn’t have much of a choice.  Momma died and he didn’t have anyone to look after me.

Momma had a disorder that caused the blood vessels in her brain to be weak.  One minute she was fine.  Then she told Daddy she had a headache, and fell over.  Something burst.  I don’t remember her very much.

The doctors were worried that I would have the same problem.  They took a bunch of x-rays and blood tests, but they didn’t find anything.  They said I would be okay.

We lived in a trailer at the back of the salvage yard.  To me, it was a 20 acre playground.  Some kids climb trees.  I climbed cars.  We had them stacked two high all over the lot.  By the time I was five, I had the place memorized.  Customers would bypass Daddy and ask me if we had the part they were looking for.

Bear in mind, I grew up in Alabama in the 1950s and 60s.  There was something called segregation.  To a large extent, blacks and whites lived in separate worlds.  Not at Wells Salvage and Towing.  We were out of town and on our own.  Daddy would say, “If a customer has money, they are all the same color, green.”

Daddy would do business with anyone and treat them fair.  Even the motorcycle club that bought the Anderson farm a few miles down the road from us on Highway 172.  The Governors.  

When they started coming to the yard, Daddy told me, “I’ve heard those men do some bad things, I don’t want you ever getting involved with people like that.  So far, though, they’ve given me no reason to be concerned.  I don’t mess with people that don’t mess with me.”  

I thought the Governors were cool.  I always managed to be around the office when I heard the rumble of the Harleys.

I got my nickname one cold winter morning, not long after my 6th birthday.  I’d been riding with Daddy for half of my short life and I understood how a tow truck works.  I wasn’t big enough to do everything but I could crawl under a car and hook a chain as fast as anyone.

Cars slide off of roads pretty easily on those rare occasions when there is snow.  We’re not used to that here.  Freddie Dyson had been friends with Daddy a long time.  I could tell the adults weren’t eager to spend much time out in the cold.  I moved as fast as I could and we got Mr. Dyson back on the road in a couple of minutes.  

He shook Daddy’s hand and thanked him.  Then he bent down, shook my hand and said, “Thanks, Tow Truck Toni, you’re a hard worker and your daddy can be real proud of you.”  Daddy laughed and started calling me that.  It stuck.

Daddy gave me a mini-bike for my eighth birthday.  I rode it all over the yard.  I pretended I was one of the Governors.  

He bought the mini-bike as scrap, for $5.  Daddy and I took apart the engine and got it running.  By the time I got my license, I’d driven one of everything.  When I turned 18 I passed the commercial license test and started towing.

You might think it is dangerous for a woman to operate a tow truck by herself.  It is.  It’s dangerous for men too.  We live in a dangerous world.  I carried a gun and a baseball bat when I towed.  I took care of a drunk with the bat one time.  Other times just getting it out of the truck had the desired result.  I never had to use the gun.

The salvage yard is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  But we tow around the clock.  It doesn’t matter if we are eating Christmas dinner or if the Iron Bowl just kicked off.  When someone needs us, we go.

The bread and butter of the towing industry is Friday and Saturday night.  That’s when the drunks are busy wrecking and/or getting arrested for DUI.  Either way, our phone rings.  All of the law enforcement agencies have a list of the tow companies, and they rotate the calls.  

For night shift, we connect the phone in the office to a speaker that is loud enough to raise the dead.  Whoever is on duty sleeps on the couch.  I hated getting woke up as much as anyone.  But like Daddy says, “That is the sound of money.”

I saw a lot when I towed.  Some things I’d rather forget.  Seeing a momma cry over her dead son will stay with you.  I’ve got some good memories too.  Like the time I met Curly.  He was a Governor.

He didn’t really have curly hair, just wavy.  At any rate, the name fit.  Some drunk had strayed across the center line just as Curly was approaching from the other direction.  He bailed out into a field.  He slid to a stop and was not badly hurt.  But his chopper had taken a beating and would need some work.

The drunk also went off the road and came to a stop when his car got tangled in a fence.  I had been called to pull the car out of the mess and haul it to the impound lot.  It was a simple job and I was ready to go when I saw the biker sitting by himself.  I asked him if he needed a ride or if he wanted me to come back and pick up his bike.  I could return with our flatbed truck, it has a small crane that could hoist the bike onto the bed.

He said no, a van was on the way from his clubhouse.  That was when I noticed the nasty abrasion on his forearm.  I said, “You sure you don’t want to go to the hospital?  That looks like it will get infected.”  He shook his head.  I said, “I’ve got a first aid kit in the truck.  At least let me clean that up and bandage it for you.  I’ve watched the paramedics, I know what I’m doing.”

He said no again but I went to the truck and got the first aid kit anyway.  When I said, “Hold out your arm, this is going to hurt a bit”, he did what I said.  By the time I’d finished, his friends had arrived and were loading up his bike.  He thanked me.  We shook hands.  He said, “My name is Curly. I owe you one.”  I said, “I’m Tow Truck Toni, I’ll be around.”

Another biker came over.  Curly told him, “My new friend just doctored me up good.  You got something on you?”  The man looked around, the police had their backs turned.  He pulled a small envelope out of his vest and handed it to me.  The bikers took off.

I smiled when I got in the cab.  The envelope contained two nice fat joints.


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