The road to Trav’s house included a turn off the pavement, onto a country road covered with very loose gravel. I showed Travis what fun it was to fishtail the back end of Bessie (then nameless) around curves. He didn’t seem overly impressed, probably because his brother used to drive his Plymouth Fury like a complete madman. Just as we had planned, I let Travis out at the end of his driveway and headed back to my house.
Now that I had no passenger, I decided to really let it rip around the curves. I hit the gas into the first curve and did a respectable slide that would have made action movie stunt drivers proud. On the next curve, I got a little braver and hit the gas harder as I turned the wheel. I slid too much and got completely sideways, headed for the ditch on the left side of the road. I turned the wheel the other way and over-corrected for a course directly off the right side. Bessie plunged into the ditch and the front end struck the steep dirt embankment that lead up into the woods.
Stay cool, Mark, and just back out.
I shifted into reverse and hit the gas. One of the rear wheels spun, but Bessie didn’t move. I couldn’t rock the car, because her front end was planted in the hillside. I tried again, this time stepping slowly on the gas pedal. Again came the sound of rubber grinding gravel, but the car stayed put. Not enough weight was on the rear tires at that point to get any traction.
At this point, I had two choices. Leave the car there, blocking most of the road, and walk about three miles, much of it up a steep hill, and tell my brother I had wrecked the car. The other was to walk a short distance to Trav’s house and ask his dad for help. I wasn’t being sexist. His mother was (and still is) a fine, upstanding woman, but not the kind you would ask to help you get a car out of a ditch.
Both possibilities carried the threat of Dad finding out, so that was not my main concern. The first option required more walking than I’d ever done, as at that point in my life my movement from place to place always involved wheels of some sort. It also was possible my walk would not get me home before Dad arrived, which would put my brother and me in a very awkward position. Add to that the ceaseless teasing from my brother, and it was looking like a bad choice. So, I faced the lesser of the two evils. I had to walk to Trav’s house and tell his parents what had happened, potentially branding him a liar. Sorry, Travis.
When I knocked on the door, Trav’s older brother let me in. I told him what had happened. He got a look on his face that told me Travis had already given them the impression that my brother had driven him there. Then, his accusatory tone of voice when he called out, “Travis,” confirmed it.
There was no turning back now.
After getting the facts, Trav’s father tossed a come-along in the back of his pickup and drove Travis, his brother, and me to where Bessie sat helpless.
We attached one end of the come-along to a tree and another to Bessie’s frame. It helped shift her weight just enough that the tires caught as I hit the gas and I slowly backed out of the ditch.
“Thanks, you saved me,” I said.
I nervously drove home and parked her in her usual spot, just outside the garage. I didn’t hesitate, from fear I would start the car, back out, and drive away where nobody could find me. Maybe even drive the car through someone’s house. No, wait, that was my uncle.
As I walked around the front of the car, I stopped to take a look for any damage. Nothing was bent or broken, but clumps of weeds and dirt dangled from under the bumper. I left it, figuring it would not attract any attention. If I told my brother, then he must have reacted nonchalantly, because I can’t remember one way or the other. As far as my Dad went, though, I got lucky, because Trav’s dad never said a word.
(continue to Part 5)