Just the other day I had to repair a mud flap that got tore off while at a shipper. The yard jockey had backed my trailer into the ready line and hit the tall curbing at the facility. This resulted in the mud flap tearing loose while hitting the curbing and being pinched by the rotating trailer tire. I was not happy but at least the mud flap was salvageable as it was simply pulled off cleanly and none of the mounting hanger was damaged. This made for an easy repair by simply loosening the four mounting bolts and reinstalling the mud flap. 

Fortunately, I carry a toolbox along with me in the side box of my Cascadia's sleeper. The tools in this toolbox are an accumulation of many years with some of the tools dating back to before my birth. Many of the tools in my emergency roadside repair toolbox have a story behind them. Unlike my home base tools which are, for the most part, a well organized matched set, my roadside tools are a mix match agglomeration of many brands and styles. Below I will share a short story behind just a few of my tools. 

3/8 drive socket set from K-Mart.

This small socket set was purchased for my thirteenth birthday by my mother. These were my first tools of my own and they came in a small hinged red case. The set included sockets sizing from ¼' to ¾', a 3' extension, and a knurled handled ratchet. The inside label proclaimed there was a lifetime warranty on the socket set. 

I used these sockets to work on a small lawn tractor which was my mode of transportation in my youth. I had changed the gearing around so this little tractor would scoot right along. Behind this tractor was a small camper trailer I had made from an old garden trailer. 

One day I decided to take off the muffler so I could fashion an exhaust stack out of a one-inch pipe. To accomplish this task two 3/8' bolts with 9/16'' heads needed to be removed. The first bolt came out fairly easy but when I tried to get out the second bolt the ratchet mechanism of my new sockets set stripped out. My stepfather let me use his 3/8' drive Sears Craftsman to finish the task. 

My mother took the broken ratchet back to K Mart to get a new one under warranty only to find out the warranty was only on the sockets. So here I am forty-four years later still using these same sockets albeit with a Craftsman ratchet. 

These sockets went through the war and back again as I used them at my first job at a John Deere dealership when I was fifteen years old working on lawn equipment and snowmobiles, many car projects, and even when I built my first race car. It's a little ironic that you can buy Craftsman tools at K Mart today and these two names intersected forty-four years ago in my early project. By the way, none of the sockets have broken to date!

The five-piece wooden-handled screwdriver set

Next is a set of wooden handled screwdrivers I had purchased while working at the John Deere dealership in New Holland, PA. The New Holland Sales Stables were right beside the John Deere shop where I got a job when I was just fifteen years of age. I had my small collection of tools to work on lawn equipment, chain saws, and snowmobiles. After getting my first paycheck, me and another older mechanic walked next store to the sales stables which had many vendors set up in a flea market style of tables displaying their wares. We had a steak sandwich and a soda pop for lunch and then we browsed the vendors’ tables. That is when I spotted the five-piece wooden-handled screwdriver set. I had to have the screwdrivers as mine were in short supply and pretty well worn out. I still remember how good it felt to purchase my own lunch and these screwdrivers with my own money from a real job. I still have two or three of these screwdrivers in my toolbox. 

The Stanley ½'' X 3/8” offset combination wrench

This wrench dates back to when I was just sixteen years of age and driving my first car, a 71 Pontiac LeMans Sport. I was over on the Lincoln Highway just on the East side of Lancaster, PA when my alternator belt snapped. Fortunately, there was a Cash and Carry Auto Parts store right where the breakdown occurred. I walked in and purchased the alternator belt and went outside to install it on my car. Much to my chagrin, the 9/16” wrench in my toolbox would not work in this case. I walked inside to see what they had available and that was when I purchased the Stanley branded wrench. The problem was the purchase price of the wrench used up almost all of my cash on hand and it was three days till I would get paid along with the car being nearly out of gasoline. This lead to some very thrifty driving for a few days. 

The Ginsu Knife

Well, I really don't know if its a genuine Ginsu knife but I have sliced tomatoes, cut steaks, wires and hoses with this old steak knife. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! This knife was found in the truck of a 1970 Buick Le Sabre that my neighbor and I entered in a demolition derby at the Buck Tractor Pulls. We did not do well in the “DEMO” derby as the transmission gave up after the first impact. I still have the knife and it’s still sharp as ever! In fact, I just cleaned it up to cut some meat not long ago because I could not find my steak knife in the truck. 

The universal wrench…

Unfortunately this wrench is missing in action after at least thirty years of service in my toolbox. This wrench was found on the side of the road during a walk many years ago. This wrench worked somewhat like a pipe wrench with teeth that gripped harder as you pulled on the handle. This wrench was about a foot long and has done everything from gripping a small 3/8” bolt head which was stripped, to taking off a trailer ball with a 6' cheater pipe slipped over it's handle for more leverage. I sure hope this wrench turns up again when I clean up the side box of my sleeper. 

Breaking News: The Universal Wrench was Relocated!

This is just a shortlist of the stories which reside in my emergency roadside toolbox. I would enjoy hearing some of the reader’s tool stories so please share.

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Henry Albert

Henry Albert is the owner of Albert Transport, Inc., based in Statesville, NC. Before participating in the "Slice of Life" program, Albert drove a 2001 Freightliner Century Class S/Tâ„¢, and will use his Cascadia for general freight and a dry van trailer. Albert, who has been a trucker since 1983, was recognized by Overdrive as its 2007 Trucker of the Year.

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