And the roads were treacherous. Slippery. I take a back road on the way home--it's paved, recently paved --it suffered a major slippage about a year ago, and part of the road ended up twenty feet down the hill. The earth moves as it freezes and unfreezes, or fills with water....
But it all seemed stable at the moment... it had been plowed, barely. I mean, it was Sunday afternoon, after all. There was snow on the road, and you could see where it had been compressed by other travelers --which likely meant that there was black ice under the compressed snow.
I was thankful for the 4-wheel drive. Two big trucks came up behind me. They passed me. But slowly. There was no way I was going to pull over or off the road --that would have been disaster. But I did slow way down and put on my blinker when we got to a straight part of the road. That's when they passed.
Two sheriff vehicles passed when I got back on a main road. Their lights were flashing. They popped their sirens. But they weren't going very fast either...
And when I got about 30 miles from home --I was going up that stretch of road where I got stopped for speeding within months of my arrival --I think of the young officer who stopped me and was so shocked it was me --I had just baptized his baby.... he let me off with a warning. I pray for him every time I go up that hill.
That's where it happened. I saw a car coming over the hill towards me, hit an icy patch --and bam, all over the road, on to the shoulder of the road --and she would have been able to manage it except for the two culverts...
The first one, shallower and broader, threw the car up in to the air. She landed nose first in the second one... at full speed. Watching the car in the air... it was an eternity. I cussed at the sight of it all... and then started praying. I nearly lost control of my vehicle as I tried to slowly pull off the road. The shoulder of the road was really bad --I hadn't even put on my brakes, it was just slippery.
I didn't know how long it would be before another car or truck passed us by.... I didn't have proper shoes on... I didn't have gloves... I had two blankets and my jacket and an apple... --I was taking inventory of resources.... and rehearsed again what I should put in a winter emergency kit....
I saw her pop out of the car and stand there shaking.... she went back in to the car, and came back out with her phone. She was in a light t-shirt. I started calling at her --she looked up, half wild eyes.... 'my stuff is in trunk, my stuff is in trunk' she kept saying, waving her phone around.
I talked her away from the car, precariously stuck nose down, half on its side... 'Come up here, away from the car,' I said. I wanted to make sure she had no broken bones, no cuts --and if she went in shock, I didn't want to have to drag her up out of the culvert and down the highway to may car --parked about 50 yards away with my blinkers on --to slow other vehicles...
She kept spinning in the ditch, not listening. I started down the shoulder towards the culvert, kept talking to her... she was beginning to panic. A guy in a truck stopped. Between the two of us, we got her away from the wreck and up on the road. She was still spinning, trying to get service on her phone. The guy in the truck climbed up in the back of his truck and then on the roof of the cab --he got phone service there... called the cops. Spinning girl finally got reception on her phone --she called her mom.
'No mom, no mom, it's not like that,' she kept saying. It was obvious that the mom was freaking out --I could hear her... Then she called her friends for a ride. And her friend's brother. And was texting... crazy-like.
The guy in the truck waved good-bye and left... I kept trying to keep the young woman away from the wreck. She kept spinning and spinning. Then choking like she was going to vomit. The call her mom and hang up on her mom.... I knew it was shock. I retrieved her jacket and made her put it on.
Finally another guy came up. Big truck. BIG truck. Memorials on the back window. Two young men. He got her keys out of the wreck, and was able to pop the trunk open --it was filled with her clothes for her return to college.... I helped him put all her stuff in his truck. I noticed his rifle with a long scope tucked between the gear case and the driver's seat. I could hear myself thinking, 'he's gonna blow his own dang foot off.' And then, 'Nope, can't leave her alone.'
A lady in a van full of kids stopped. She came running over --identified herself as an EMT. 'No obvious injuries --she keeps trying to go in to shock,' I said, grateful for the help to this young woman's person. I finally got the phone away from her, to talk to her mom... it was her dad this time. I could tell he was in absolute panic mode.
'What is your name?' he kept asking me. I told him. And my phone number three times... finally I said, interrupting him --'she has no injuries. She keeps wanting to vomit. It's shock. We are keeping her warm and safe. How are you doing? --you must feel so upset and helpless.' He began to cry.... and then affirmed how upset he was. And then asked me to speak to the mom....
Joel and I had always remembered the receptions we got after we tried to run away the first time --and upon returning, first our parents hugged us in gratitude, and then threatened to spank us for running away... it was the Oh Good You've Survived And Now I'm Going to Spank You song and dance.
That was the mode of the parents --Oh Good You've Survived --and what did you do to cause this so I know how to punish you song and dance...
I told the mom I had seen the whole thing... that it was a patch of ice... that she did all the right things in trying to manage a vehicle suddenly off the road and out of control, except that there was this pesky culvert that threw her up in the air and then nose first in to its cousin.... I talked her through the whole thing... from the beginning. And when I asked her how she was doing --that this was the type of phone call no parent ever wants, the flood gates opened...
Their daughter, their only child, two hours away, in the middle of an Indian Reservation... in an accident....
A couple --members of the church-- stopped... the back of their truck was filled with Christmas stuff... they rolled down their windows. 'Mother Margaret! That's not your car in the ditch is it? We got some chains, we can haul it out...' 'It's not my car, no!' I said. 'Beside, I don't think it would run even if we got it out.' We laughed, knowing that most of the folks we know would haul the wreck out of the ditch, and if it started, drive it as far as it would go any way... a little duct tape, plastic... you know....
And finally, after about 45 minutes, the sheriff arrived... he piled her in to his warm vehicle, talked her through it all... gave her the very rational and linear paperwork.... She had lost her keys and license --dropped them somewhere in the snow. The sheriff searched and found them.
The guy in the truck with the rifle said, 'Why did they send that guy?' 'God works in mysterious ways,' I said... and went to give the sheriff my name and number.
When I finally made it back to my little car, I threw myself in to my seat with gratitude --talking to Mr. Witty about it all. My first thought was that I hoped I could make it off the shoulder and back on the road without slipping in to the ditch myself... my feet were nearly frozen, my hands very cold.... I sat for a moment, thanking God for those who had stopped, for no serious injuries, for a car-seat butt warmer button to turn up high... it was 18 degrees out... and I wondered how I had kept as warm as I had....
As I drove up the hill, I hit the patch of ice, swerved and slid for a moment... and then continued home, hoping to get there before dark...
At prayer this morning (a portion of Psalm 34)
At all times I will bless the LORD;
whose praise shall ever be in my mouth.
I will glory in the LORD;
let the humble hear and rejoice.
Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;
let us exalt the Name of the LORD together.
I sought the LORD, who answered me
and delivered me out of all my terror.
Look upon the LORD and be radiant,
and let not your faces be ashamed.
I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.
The angel of the LORD encompasses the God-fearing,
and the LORD will deliver them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are they who trust in the LORD!
This morning, it is supposed to snow some more --until tomorrow afternoon.... I pray that there are no power outages, that no one is without some kind of heat.... For the young woman and her parents. For those who stopped. For those who didn't, but drove by in the looky-loo way, craning their necks, gripping the steering wheel just a little tighter....
For all those on the road today... may they be safe.