Off the Hook

After a long, hectic day on the roads and in the ditches, tow truck drivers rest for another day’s worth of the same 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

December 3, 2005

At 8 p.m. on a hectic, snow-filled day, you can warm your hands by the heater at River’s Edge Towing.

But heater priority goes to the drivers’ wet and well-used work gloves.

Mike Muma and Jason Shaner stacked eight pair of soaked gloves in front of the space heater and rotated them to the top of the pile.

“Nothing worse than putting on a wet pair of gloves,” said Shaner, 29, owner of the family business since shortly after high school.

Thursday brought 22 different calls, including a Volvo that went into a creek near Trout Lake, Wash. By early evening, Shaner and Muma, a part-time driver, were hunkered down at the Country Club Road towing headquarters, waiting for calls. None came. The day’s craziness was over, and Shaner and Muma were not complaining.

By 8:30 p.m., a light snow was falling but most roads were clear.

“This time of year not much happens after about 8,” said Shaner, who started driving for his father, Bob, when he was 16 years old and a student at Hood River Valley High School. Because of his age, he needed to be insured through Lloyds of London.

“We grew up together,” Jason said of he and his father, who still drives part time, and his brother, Kevin, who started the business in the 1970s as an outgrowth of Bob’s River’s Edge service station located at the waterfront. Kevin now lives in California. Jason always knew he wanted to assume ownership. Bob resisted selling to his son, until 1997, when he suffered a serious injury while working.

“It happened right here in this yard,” Jason explains, backing the Volvo into the storage yard on Industrial Way. “It was winter and the J-hook broke in two from the cold.”

The portion attached to the cable snapped back and broke Bob’s leg below the knee.

was 18 at the time, and the accident convinced Bob that the time had come to hand the controls to Jason.

The company is growing and needs the room, but the life of a towing service runs in streaks, even on storm nights such as Thursday.

“You never know what to expect. Any day it could be something huge or nothing at all,” Jason said.

So before the shift ends at 9 and the doors are locked, Shaner and Muma have completed the paperwork from the day’s operations, and checked truck fluids and battery levels. They made sure flashlights, chains, and other equipment are all working properly.

And the other task is the gloves.

Before you get home and dry, get those gloves warm and dry.

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