Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Wild, Wild West

Whipping posts are on all sides, but there is a clear road between them.

John Newbrough
This is a true story. It was told to me by one of the two men who lived through this experience. He is a friend and colleague and I know him to be an honest and trustworthy fellow. Both of the men involved in this frightening episode are black, which is important to the story as you will eventually learn.

One December day, many years ago, they started out from somewhere in the Midwest in an old Chevrolet to drive to California. After several days they made it across the plains and headed for the mountains. When they reached the mountains they began their ascent up the mountain highway. Soon it began to rain. As they kept going the rain turned into freezing rain and then into snow.

They thought of putting in somewhere, perhaps for the night, and waiting out the storm. But nothing was open. The truck stops, shops and motels were all closed and locked up. So they kept going.

The snow became very heavy. It blanketed everything. There was no other traffic on the road, no car tracks to follow, and it was difficult to see. They would occasionally slip and slide on the icy road.

Night came. The snow was now coming down in great globs, The headlights were showing nothing but snow falling. There was also a very strong wind which whipped up the snow in front of them. They couldn't see far enough ahead of them to know if they were even still on the road.

My friend said he was so frightened he curled up on the back seat and closed his eyes, certain that at any moment they were going to plunge over the side of a cliff and die. But his buddy, the driver, just kept going.

My friend said the wind was so strong it would push the car from the side and make it slip on the ice, the wheels would spin before they grabbed the surface. They didn't know where they were. They could see nothing.

After a long time they began a descent. As the snow let up they could see that they were still on the road. And then the snow became freezing rain. The road was very slippery and treacherous. The danger of lunging over the side was great. But they kept going.

Torrents of warmer rain came and made the driving difficult but no longer dangerous. Eventually that rain let up and it was morning. They made it down to level ground, the day was breaking and they were almost out of gas, the meter was reading empty.

Up ahead they spied a truck stop, with gas pumps and a diner, so the parked the car with great relief and went inside.

Inside was a counter and some tables. There were stuffed animal heads hanging from the walls, a snake skin tacked up over the rest room door, a rifle hanging in a rack and other items to tell them they were in red neck territory.

The owner poured two cups of coffee and brought them over with some menus tucked under his arm. He asked them where they came from and if they had come over the mountain pass during the night. Then he put the menus down in front of them and went to the pay phone. He made a couple of calls and spoke in a low voice about two guys who just came in. My friend said he couldn't hear the conversation but he did hear the owner say to call some of the boys.

My friend said they were beginning to get scared. They were certqin they were the only black men around those parts and they didn't know what was going to happen. They thought maybe they should get out of there and run, but with no gas in the car they weren't going to get very far.

The owner didn't ask them what they wanted to eat, he just scrambled up some eggs and threw some sort of meat on the griddle. They jumped with fright when they heard the toast pop up.

Soon they were served a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. While they were eating a pickup truck arrived. They could see the American flag decals, a rifle in the back and other signs of a local cowboy. The driver got out, took a paper bag out of the back of the truck and came into the diner. He sat down next to my friend and asked if they were the boys who came over the mountain that night.

My friend said the cowboy spoke very slowly and quietly and said that it was the worst storm in a hundred and fifty years, that they closed down the roads and evacuated all the people. Then he reached into the paper bag, took out a six pack, pulled off two cans for each of them and one for himself. After a moment another pick up came with another cowboy and another six pack. He came in and shook the hands of the two men and pulled out some more beer. Pretty soon more trucks and cars arrived with more beer. My friend said they told the story of their trip across the mountains at least ten times. By mid morning the diner was full of cowboys getting drunk, congratulating the two adventurers and whooping it up.

They were heroes. Their breakfast was paid for, their gas was paid for and they were put up in a motel for the rest of the day and night. The next morning they were on their way west.

DB - The Vagabond

(This is not a contest.)

At what event of the past do you wish you could be present? Why?

Only 9 responses so far. Autumn is almost over. I await your answer.

Thank you.


Gerry said...

Hey, that's a wonderful story, the way I wish all the cowboys would act out west, and I know they sometimes do, putting aside all kinds of prejudice to accept bravery and guts in men on a horse, in a car, in a blinding snowstorm on some of the most frightening mountain roads ever built, I know because I've driven a car on them in snow storms and prayed the whole trip!

pacifica62 said...

A very peculiar story db. Not the outcome I was expecting to read.

That corgi :) said...

loved this, DB! but oh my gosh, I would never have been in that car under those conditions!


Big Mark 243 said...

I have experienced such kindness enough times in such conditions to believe it true. A couple of times, SD was riding shotgun!

There is something about people where appreciation for the determination of others (or their reckless sense of adventure!) outweighs every other consideration.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

A wonderful story for the holiday season :o)