The Scribbler doesn’t know much about trucks. So last October, when his son drove a big truck filled with his earthly possessions and the Scribbler to Oregon, the Scribbler was fascinated by merchandise displayed at truck stops along the way.
One particular item that caught the Scribbler’s eye is called a “tire thumper.’’ Truck drivers use the wood devices to check air pressure in their tires.
A tire thumper looks something like a sawed-off baseball bat. It often has a ridged handle and a leather strap.
The particular tire thumper the Scribbler focused on somewhere in the middle of Kansas is distributed by DAS Companies Inc. under the name RoadPro Products, of Palmyra, Pa.. The thumper had a product-return address printed on the handle: “DAS Inc., 1875 Zeager Road, Elizabethtown, Pa.’’
Wow, thought the Scribbler, these tire thumpers are designed in Palmyra, Lebanon County, and warehoused in Elizabethtown. This story has “Scribbler’’ written all over it.
It’s taken a while to get to it, but here’s the scoop: Drivers of big rigs, with a gazillion tires, don’t want to take the time to apply a pressure gauge to each one, so periodically they go around swinging their thumpers and listening for the sound. If a tire is fully pressurized, the thumper makes a satisfying “thump’’ as it hits the rubber. If the tire is low on air, it makes a different sound.
That’s the “official’’ way to use a tire thumper.
But anyone who has ever looked at a tire thumper suspects it could be used for thumping something else.
In fact, some thumpers — not DAS thumpers — are marketed as “self defense products.’’ Sometimes those thumpers are drilled and filled with lead so that they can do a bit more damage to the thumpee. One such specimen, available for sale on the Internet, is called a “tire thumper lead filled night stick.’’
The Scribbler wondered whether RoadPro acknowledges that its products, while in no way marketed as such, might be used for self defense as well as tire-pressure assessment.
Asked that question, Chuck White, vice president of brands and marketing for DAS, says this: “We design the product for the purpose of checking tire pressure. A driver can hear the sound of it as it rebounds from the tire. That’s the intent and design and usage of the product.’’
And comments by truckers on this subject on various websites essentially suggest that anyone who thinks tire thumpers are used as weapons should get a [trucker’s] life. Anything could be used as a weapon, they say. Tire thumpers are tire thumpers.
The tough thing for a non-trucker to figure out, just by looking at a specimen, however, is the difference between an inoffensive tire thumper and a “tire thumper lead filled night stick.’’
The determining factor, of course, is not the design of the tire thumper but the design of the human thumper.
Unofficial first crossers
The March 28 Scribbler column commented that the first person to cross the Susquehanna River from Columbia to Wrightsville on the Route 462 bridge was Lancaster County GOP boss G. Graybill Diehm.
That was on the day the bridge opened — Sept. 30, 1930.
“I hate to burst your bubble,’’ writes Jacob Fehl Jr., “but on the night of Sept. 29, Glen Wiley, the bridge engineer, and Herb Fehl, the insurance agent, drove around the barriers and crossed both ways. Then they raced back home — the unofficial crossing.’’
Fehl knows this because both his father and Wiley told him so.
Ginger Shelley is searching for exterior and interior photographs of former one-room schoolhouses when they were still operating as schools. The school’s name, location and date, if known, should be provided.
This is for a forthcoming publication of LancasterHistory.org.
Scans of photos can be sent to email@example.com or phone Shelley at 393-9526.
The Scribbler welcomes comments and contributions at firstname.lastname@example.org or 669-1929.