My dad had this nice Toyota Tacoma that he wanted to sell me and made an offer I couldn’t refuse. It was a great deal on a meticulously well cared for truck. He even had a brake controller installed, knowing it would be useful to me as I had recently bought my camper. So I came home to my parents house for the holiday season prepared to sell Valentine, who I’d owned for under 10 months, and buy the Tacoma off my dad. I named this truck “Ruby”.

Ruby’s new title hadn’t even arrived in the mail yet when tragedy struck. It was dark and snowing when I hit an icy spot on the highway. The truck fishtailed, spun, and went in the ditch. It slammed down on the driver’s side. In days to come, I googled “what to do when car fishtails” and “how to prevent fishtailing” which returned tips that I already knew. If I had been going 20 miles an hour, I probably wouldn’t have a story to tell you. But at highway speed…it all happened so fast. I was out of control in an instant and in the ditch the next. I just feel lucky it wasn’t worse. Seatbelts really do save lives. My full Nalgene flying at my face was a surprise hazard though.

Laying sideways in the ditch, I remember thinking ‘I should probably turn the ignition off. I’ve gotta shift it to park though, which is so weird when none of the tires are on the ground. I can probably climb out the passenger door. But first I need to find my cell phone’. Adrenaline was pumping, but at least I was able to think. The crying and cussing and general hysteria didn’t set in until help arrived. That’s typical for me though- I’m okay until someone asks, “are you okay?”

I sat in the back of the state trooper’s patrol car like a criminal. We passed my insurance card back and forth through a slit at the top of the cage/partition. There was a can of dip on the backseat and I asked, “Want me to pass this?” He replied “No, I thought it was yours. Huh. There was a shady character back there last night, prolly fell out his pocket.” As we watched the tow truck guy winch my truck over and drag it sideways up the ditch, I cringed and sobbed harder. The trooper tried consoling, “I mean, it looks, like, it might be drivable? Once they get it right side up. Nope that rear end is not…. okay well, it’s probably still repairable. You know. Doesn’t look, totaled. I mean, I’ve seen way worse. The important part is you’re ok”.

That’s what everyone kept saying- the important part is you’re ok. All I could say was, “Fuck. My new truck. It’s fucked. I’m fucked. Fuck.”

Between me, the trooper, and the tow truck guy, we pulled the torn-off topper like a sled up to the shoulder of the highway and strapped it back onto the bed of the truck. Spilled gasoline soaked the snow in the ditch. I shined the cop’s flashlight around the truck for a better look. It seemed like the right rear wheel was the tipping point for the entire weight of the truck. It had snapped in half. The axle and suspension looked messed up too, but I wouldn’t notice the broken glass all over the backseat until retrieving my belongings a week later.

The trooper’s uncertain but optimistic assessment of the damage was shared by my insurance company. I became increasingly impatient as my truck was shuffled between tow lots, determined to be repairable, then repairs stalled over an updated estimate. Twenty seven (TWENTY SEVEN!!!!!) days after the accident, I received the call from my insurer informing me that my vehicle was, after all, indeed, a total loss.

The salvage yard where I handed over my title (it arrived in the mail during the TWENTY SEVEN day limbo) was a sad, sad place. So many cars and trucks in various states of decay, empty and discarded. My dad rescued his new brake controller out of the truck and walked off immediately, wires dangling. I stayed a moment. Even though it didn’t really matter anymore, I made sure her doors were locked. She deserved to know she wasn’t being callously abandoned to be scavenged like a carcass. I told her she was basically an organ donor; her many remaining good parts could live on in other vehicles. I gave her one last pat and thanked her for allowing me to walk away from the accident unscathed.

This was Ruby’s first and only accident. We were partners for such a brief time that I didn’t have a proper photo shoot with her. While I did snap some pictures documenting the damages, I just don’t think it’s appropriate to display autopsy photos at the memorial of a deceased loved one. In digging through old files on my parent’s computer, I discovered that my dad took a few landscape shots in which Ruby appeared. My mom likes to take photos in which the subjects are unaware and not facing the camera- Ruby is in some of these as well. Thus in this post I’m able to feature Ruby in her prime: Looking rugged on various camping trips over the course of 12 faithful years of service.