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  Goes Back, b'y    Tales and Yarns - CRUISIN' DOWN THE RIVER

Author: Don R. Wilkins

Iíve driven a lot of miles in my lifetime, been driving for sixty years. Had a lot of different cars, some not worth mentioning, some very forgettable.

 

My very first one was, believe it or not, was a 1940 Packard. There was not much luxury left in it by the time I got it. It was in 1952 and I bought it for $50.00. The starter didnít work, so I had to park it on a hill, put it in gear and let the clutch out in order to start it.

 

Over the years I progressed somewhat. There was, however, the 1947 Pontiac, which had participated in so many fender benders, the rear bumper was tied on with haywire, and both rear fenders flapped in the breeze. It burned so much oil; I had to keep a ten-gallon can of used oil in the trunk. It was necessary to stop every hundred miles or so to put some in the crankcase. But things did get better.

 

Now I am driving a brand, spanking new Buick, top of the line sedan. This was almost the last car I would ever own. With all the thousands of miles traveled I have been involved in very few accidents. I crashed a pick-up into a tree onetime, two or three minor incidents including hitting a couple of Deer. But nothing serious, until now.

 

The story.

 

The Highway I was driving on was four lanes, but not too much traffic at that time of day, late afternoon. I was on my way to a meeting in another town. Checking in my rear-view mirror I was aware of a Pick-up truck ready to pass. No big deal. The passenger door of the pick-up was even with my front bumper when I realized the truck was too close. I sounded my horn but it kept moving closer. I moved unto the shoulder and hit the brakes, but the pick-up was turning so hard, I slammed into its rear wheel. I tried to brake, but it seemed we were locked together. In spite of the confusion, I glanced into the pick-up through the rear window. An elderly man was slumped over the steering wheel. He was unconscious or dead.

 

The Highway here ran along the bank of a fast moving river. But the river was about fifty feet below. Both vehicles slammed through the Guardrail. The Pick-up slammed into a tree. My car broke loose from the pick-up and seemed to leap for the river, splashing nose first into the middle of the river, hit bottom, then bobbed to the surface. The river must have been at least four feet deep with a fast moving current.

 

I tried to roll the window down but the water must have shorted out the electrical system because I couldnít unlock the doors either. I was sideways in the river and the force of the current was pushing me downriver. Fortunately, the car was fairly airtight so the water was only up to my chest. I was in no immediate danger of drowning, as yet, but if the car flipped over or floated into deeper water, I would be in trouble.

 

Ever try to kick out the window of a car from the inside? In the movies it looks easy. But the guys doing it are young and agile. I am neither.

 

I tried lying on my back on the front seat, but couldnít exert enough force. Besides, I almost drowned because I had to keep my head under water. Next I braced myself in the passenger seat with my feet over the dash. I could have exerted enough force, except my legs werenít long enough. The car had been pushed probably a couple of hundred yards downriver where it came to a stop. We were lodged on a shallow spot of the river. Dry land was only about five feet away. Might as well have been a mile. I was trapped.

 

All kinds of desperate thoughts and ideas were racing through my mind, but I couldnít come up with an answer. I happened to glance into my rearview mirror, and on the shore was a young teenager, with a fishing pole, staring at me with his mouth open. I waved and he dropped his pole and scrambled up the bank towards the Highway. In five minutes a Fire Fighter was wading into the river towards my car. I was never so grateful to see anyone in my life.

 

He smashed the driverís side window, pulled me out, helped me to shore and up to the Highway where an Ambulance was waiting.

 

The Police told me later, they had no idea another vehicle was involved, as my car had not touched the ground after it went through the Guard Rail.

 

The man in the Pick-up truck had suffered a stroke and was now in the Hospital and would recover. As for me, all I can say is thank God for young Fishermen.

 

 

Don R. Wilkins © 2008

 


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