Planes, Trains and Automobiles. The Series of ‘close encounters.’
Here is the Automobile (one of them).
It was Christmas Day, about 1970, I believe.
Blond Girl and I had been married for about two and a half years, and she had just graduated from college, with a B.A. in Math and Spanish.
I had recently returned from spending a month in north central Wyoming, where I worked as a deer hunting guide on a large cattle ranch south of Tensleep and the Big Horn Mountains. At the end of the month, I traveled farther west, over to Jackson Hole, where I joined my Uncle Al, and two friends, Stub and Wild Bill, to hunt elk there for a week in the Gros Ventre Mountains, just east of Jackson.
We had a memorable week of hunting on horseback from a spike camp high in the timber near the snowline of Sleeping Indian Mountain, harvesting four large elk, to take back to Wisconsin. What an incredibly beautiful place that was!
Prior to that, I had been working as a Supervisor in a local manufacturing plant for the previous three years, which closed in-mid September that fall, due to hard economic times, and myself and about 150 others lost our jobs.
After returning from Wyoming, during November and December, I was working temporarily for my parents in their supper club, before returning to my college studies in January, at the same university Blond Girl had just graduated from in mid-December.
We were living in a small Wisconsin town where I went to High School, renting a two bedroom, upstairs apartment from an elderly, retired couple, named Ned and Minerva. Ned had a beautiful old Hudson automobile, in mint condition, which he keep in a garage, only driving it on special occasions, or every 2-3 weeks, whichever came first.
We had celebrated Christmas Eve with my parents, and now were driving early the next evening over to have ‘Christmas Night’ at the home of Blond Girl’s parents, who lived about 20 miles west of our town.
As we motored west that evening, we were driving our fairly new, dark green Ford Maverick Sedan, and had as a passenger that evening, our young Siamese cat. In the trunk, were presents for her parents, and her sister and her husband.
As we traveled along the top of the ridge on US Highway 14 and turned onto to County Road U, the night air was cold, right near the freezing mark, and very damp.
Although I didn’t sense any particular road hazard as we began our descent down off the ridge on U, on the curvy, twisty road into the valley, I was taking it pretty easy, just the same, as I drove slowly into the first curve of the steep hill.
Blond Girl was dressed up beautifully, wearing her white wool winter coat to keep warm.
As I touched the brake pedal lightly, to decrease our speed even farther as we started into the first curve, I was suddenly gripped by a strong chill, as the soft touch on the brake pedal sent our car out-of-control, into a slide.
Instantly, I realized that the black top road surface had turned to GLARE ICE, and we were caught helplessly in a straight slide taking us to the far edge of the curve, beyond which, a steep, barren hillside, approximately 200 feet down to the bottom, waited for us.
The only thing between our sliding car and that steep, deep embankment, were two small trees that were growing out of a common base, right at the edge of the road, each little tree about 6”-8” across.
When our sliding car arrived at the edge of the road, as fortune would have it, our car struck both of the small trees, and stopped.
Those two little trees held, did not pull loose.
Was it the fickle finger of fate?
A combination of some of the above?
I don’t know.
What I do know, is that those two, sturdy little trees, and the exact way we struck them, saved our lives
Had those two little trees not held their position, our sliding car would have gone off the road and over the edge of the steep embankment and rolled over and over countless times on down the slope, before coming to a crumpled rest at the bottom of the ravine. At the very least, we would have probably been seriously injured, or killed.
And, due to the steep slope of the embankment, and the dark hour we were traveling along the road, probably our wrecked car would not have been seen by passers-by coming along after us, until at least the next morning, if then.
Blond Girl and I did have injuries, but we survived.
She suffered a long laceration to the top of her head, which led to blood dripping forward all over her face and down onto her white wool coat. I suffered only a bump on the head.
Yes, we were both wearing our seat belts.
Our cat, a bit scared by the ordeal, ended up in the space by the back window, uninjured.
There were no cell phones back then, so I had to gingerly make my way back up the road to find someone to call the Sheriff’s Office to send help, a sand/salt truck and a wrecker. The sand truck, when it finally arrived at the hill, had to back all the way up the hill, spreading salt and sand to melt the ice, before we were able to leave the hill and be taken to the hospital.
Blond Girl and I ended up going to the Hospital back in the town where we lived, so her head could be stitched up, and a couple of hours later, we did finally arrive at her parents home for Christmas, safe and still a bit shook up, where we ended up spending the night.
The car wasn’t totaled, but it did receive quite a bit of damage, and was laid up at the auto repair shop for a couple of months. We healed up OK, none too worse for wear, extremely thankful that the accident wasn’t any more serious than it was. A couple of feet sliding either way, and it would have been.
I have long been thankful to God, and our guardian angels riding with us, for blessings bestowed upon us that Christmas Day Night.
I have also been so thankful to Mother Nature, and those strong, little trees.
Bless you all.