Mom and Kevin

‘A truck has hit our house!’

Crash-up derby is not so fun when your house is the target

On Dec. 18, 1976, a giant dually pickup truck crashed into our house. The truck plowed into my brother Kevin Lockwood’s bedroom on his seventh birthday.

That evening, Mom and Dad had taken Kevin to see the Grand Island (Neb.) Evangelical Free Church’s Singing Christmas Tree. They celebrated his birthday with cake and ice cream at our grandparents’ home in Grand Island. I had walking pneumonia and had to stay home.

Shortly after they returned from the festivities, we celebrated Kevin’s birthday briefly at home, and then went to bed for a long winter’s nap. Or so we thought.

Our front yard in 1995
Dad, Mom, Aunt Marjorie (Mom’s sister), Roxie, and Cousin Julie, Marjorie’s daughter, in 1995. We’re standing where the pickup crashed into the house.

The nightmare before Christmas

Soon all four of us were nestled safe in our beds with no visions of evil dancing within our heads. Then came a waking nightmare. Headlights flashed on my bedroom wall, but they were closer than passing traffic on the street. I heard an engine closer than passing traffic on the street. Something was wrong.

Suddenly the house shook. I remembered Mr. Stromer, our science teacher, talking about earthquake faults in Nebraska. Maybe the earth had moved under our feet? I sprang to the window to see what was the matter. “The matter” was no earthquake. It was something equally as bizarre. We lived in the middle of our block. How could we have a truck sticking out of our house?

Raising the alarm

Mom and Kevin
Mom and Kevin at the door to his bedroom c. 1975. He is facing my bedroom door.

I called out to my parents, “There’s a truck in our house!”

Our furnace was rather loud when it kicked on. Our parents’ bedroom was on the back of the house and the shockwaves were dampened by the time they struck their room. Mom believed the furnace had kicked on hard. She was always lively and quick, even when jolted out of a deep sleep. Dad was not easy to wake up.

I heard the truck’s driver rev his engine, trying to escape. The driver gave up on his efforts when the truck would not budge. Soon he was banging on our front door as Mom endeavoured to get Dad out of bed, dressed and coherent. She wanted him to meet the driver, since we had no idea what the driver’s condition would be.

While Dad met the driver, Mom went to assess the damage. The driver had plowed into Kevin’s bedroom. The truck’s nose was only inches short of his bed. Kevin slept through the crash. He had a red mark on his forehead, which likely came from sheet rock. Perhaps the collision stunned him. A few minutes later, he awoke. Mom steered him into their room and put him back to bed.

He fought the house — and the house won

I remained in my room, but I could hear our parents’ and the driver’s voices. Soon, sheriff’s deputies arrived. They all went out and surveyed the damage. The officers interrogated the driver and we learned the rest of the story.

site of mailboxes
The mailboxes are in front of the light pole on the other side of the truck. The photographer is standing on our driveway sometime in the late 1980s. The bushes were not present in 1976.

The driver had had too much to drink at the local watering hole. And he had gotten into an argument. He was going too fast when he hit a patch of ice a block from our front door and lost control. His path was clearly evident. He crashed through a set of mailboxes on our corner, dragging ours into our lawn, then bulldozed a prized birch tree in the center of our lawn. The birch tree broke his back axle and left a big blob of axle grease on the lawn. Finally, he plowed into Kevin’s bedroom.

Counting our blessings

Someone came and put a tarp over the giant hole in the front wall. We started counting our blessings. Yes, we had a gashed front wall. But we were all safe.

The situation could have been so much worse. A few days earlier, Mom had rearranged Kevin’s room. His bed was against that wall. The pickup was high enough to miss the house’s foundation. When we built the house, the builders wanted to run the natural gas line through the front of the house. Mom refused. Having a gas meter in the front lawn was unacceptable — and eventually lifesaving.


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