Another one last night. There is an old quote that goes something like “God takes care of or looks out for drunks, fools and children” …and on my particular stretch of Highway 11, the Cherokee Scenic Highway, I would add old ladies, former students, members of the South Carolina General Assembly, their mistresses, car and motorcycle thieves and our South of the Border brethren. Why do I say this? Because at one time or another all have ended up in my yard with their wheels pointed toward the sky and not one has been unable to walk away. While most were not unscathed, most only had minor bumps, cuts and bruises from their brush with fate.
My home sits one-third of the way up a high hill between two curves and for some reason people have a hard time navigating those two curves. Drunk, sober, day light, night time, rain or clear as a bell, it just doesn’t seem to matter. In our near thirty-years here we have witnessed at least three dozen “brushes with fate” …that we actually know about. There have been others we have not witnessed with only jagged pieces of plastic, metal or glass to attest that they occurred…like last night. There have been many memorable ones but I won’t bore you with them all.
We always hear them first. A tattle tale scream of sliding tires signifying that they had gone into to the curve to fast, smashed their brakes and over compensated. This is usually followed by a “thump” we feel as much as hear. How fast they were going determines where they ended up. After using my side of the hill as a ski ramp a drunk wrapped his car around my closest neighbor’s pine tree and kept trying to extricate himself early one morning. As I sleepily wandered down my drive I watched the tree top sway back and forth as “I got a snoot full Tommy” jammed his gear shift first into reverse and then into forward, not realizing his car was in a “horse shoe” around the now dying pine. Not really knowing what to expect I watched him warily as left his car, tripping twice before he fell face first into a bank. He didn’t even try to break his fall. I felt safe. As I rushed to assist he hopped to his unsteady feet and in a voice that was preceded by the smell of stale beer and cigarettes explained, “I thought I could drive it out.” I jokingly responded “Not without a chainsaw.” He didn’t get the joke and asked, “Man, you got one?” He was not happy when the state constabulary showed up. He fixed me with a drunken stare and said “Man, you sold me out.” Yep.
I have heard said that if you fall from a high place your life flashes in front of your eyes. I don’t know because in order to fall from a high place one must climb to a high place and that AIN’T GONNA HAPPEN! I do know if you are facing what might be certain death your life does just that. With one more post hole to dig, I had paused to rest my aching arms when I heard the scream of locked up tires. As I spun I saw the out of control car become airborne while making a bee line straight for me. As I moved to my left, the car landed and spun “butt-end” forward…and again homed in on me. Time slowed but my life flashed. Ooooh, I HAD FORGOTTEN THAT LITTLE TIDBIT. At the last moment it veered away from me and I tripped over a rock and ended up in the stream below, which put me in a perfect position, albeit wet, to see the car crash, rear end first, into the concrete culvert that my stream ran through. The older lady seemed to be ejected through her open window when her shoulder harness caught and “reeled” her back in. I ran to her fearing the worse. She just looked at me and said, “I guess I hit my brakes a bit too hard. I thought we were both goners.” As had I but I asked if I could assist in anyway before running to call the authorities. She looked up and with a “toothless grin” explained, “I seem to have lost my teeth when I went out the window, do you think you might look for them.” “Pride goeth before the fall” but no self-respecting “Autumn Belle” should be without her false teeth while waiting for an ambulance. I found them and while rinsing them in the stream discovered I had dislocated a finger in my fall. Boy did that hurt…but not until I looked at it.
I left to run on a Sunday morning several years ago and I remember that it was a glorious day. The sun was still just below the horizon but with the stars still twinkling above I knew we were in for a bright blue sky once Old Sol rose from his slumber. Despite being on the wrong end of a ten mile run I was as happy as if I had good sense until I looked down toward my mailbox. A highway patrol car, a car on its top, what appeared to be three bodies laid out side by side and a short dark guy speaking with great animation to a highway patrolman. The three bodies weren’t bodies at all but they were all as drunk as ole “Cooter Brown” or the Spanish equivalent, “Cooter Marrón,” and were sleeping it off in the now early morning sun. I am sure that later in the day they might have prayed for death and the highway patrolman JUST LEFT THEM LAYING THERE to sleep it off! The wrecker showed up, took the car, and the highway patrolman JUST LEFT THEM THERE. I couldn’t just leave them there. “Habla Ingles?” I got a head shake, IN THE NEGATIVE, followed by “Habla Espanol?” With my thumb and pointer finger held close together I reluctantly said, “un poquito.” We are off to a great start and I wish I had paid better attention in my college Spanish class. Using a combination of pidgin English, Spanish and wild hand waving I determined that they lived “somewhere over there.” According to his hand signals somewhere between Nova Scotia and Miami. Ten minutes later they piled out of my old land cruiser in Marietta, not Miami, and despite their hangovers erupted into smiles, head bobbing and a chorus of “muchas graciases.” There were other phrases that might have translated to “You are my hero” but I am not sure. My last thought was a hope they had a bit of the “hair of the dog” to help them with the hangovers that were sure to come.
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