Thanksgiving 1986. My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I, along with her sister, had traveled to Wyoming to visit my parents for the holiday. We made the wintry trip fine, had a good time, and ate way too much of my Mother’s delicious southern cooking. Facing a 16-hour drive home, we’d planned to leave early Sunday morning, which would get us back in time to catch up on some sleep before Monday morning. Due to an evening snowstorm, we decided to allow a little extra time and took off about 11 p.m. Saturday night.
The snow was light and didn’t present much of a problem – at first. The further we traveled however, the worse the storm and the roads became. By 4 a.m., we’d barely made 150 miles. The freeway was covered with more than a foot of heavy, wet snow and I was down to driving 30 mph. The 4-wheel drive Subaru (my Father-in-law’s car) performed very well in the less than desirable driving conditions and I had resigned myself to the fact that I’d get little to no sleep before work on Monday morning.
Traffic was almost non-existent, though occasionally, a semi would pass, temporarily blinding me in a swell of blowing and swirling snow. Each time one appeared in my mirror, I’d let off the gas, letting the truck go by more quickly, eliminating most of the whiteout. Starting up a small grade as one truck was passing, I waited for the billowing cloud to disappear. As soon as it did, I noticed the truck driver in front of me having problems; his truck and trailer were sliding back and forth, jack-knifing; first in one direction, then the other. My first thought was, how am I going to get around him if he blocks the whole road when he crashes? Then, as quickly as it had started, it was over. The driver managed to right his vehicle and take off up the hill. I breathed a sigh of relief. Prematurely, because that’s when my own troubles began.
The criss-crossing of the tractor-trailer’s tires, sliding sideways through the heavy snow had created a chaotic maze of deep ruts and piles of snow. Hitting the first set of ruts, I felt the car slide to the side. Steering into the slide, the car straightened out just in time to hit the next set of ruts. This time we turned around backwards. By now my speed was down to less than twenty, and keeping my foot off the brake and the gas pedal, I hoped to ride it out. That hope was short-lived. With a significant decrease of friction, a car sliding on slick snow doesn’t slow down nearly fast enough. Moving sideways, toward the edge of the road, I could see the only thing between our car and the cliff was a lone delineator. For a brief instant, I wondered if the little metal post would stop the car. Common sense then prevailed and I knew it wouldn’t. Couldn’t. The laws of physics just didn’t allow it. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion.
That’s when I woke up my wife. Until this point, both her and her sister had been asleep, oblivious to the impending danger. “We’re going to wreck,” is about all I had time to say. My wife, on the other hand, found a little extra time – to pray.
The crash happened in slow motion, or seemed to. We counted as the car rolled; up on it’s top, and then back on the wheels, hoping each time the wheels were on the ground that it would stop. Eventually, it did, but not on its wheels. Three and a half times we rolled with the car finally coming to rest upside down. After a bit of struggling with seatbelts and car doors, we managed to climb out of the smashed up vehicle. Then we hiked the thirty-foot, snow-covered cliff, back up to the road. Catching a ride with a truck driver, who took us into the nearest town, we made a few calls and waited for the tow truck to retrieve the car. Some ten hours later, and after several trips, they were still unable to locate the vehicle, despite the fact that I had given them the exact location. The continuing snowfall had obscured the car from view, they told us. It was almost dark when they finally showed up with the badly damaged car. My Dad, who had come as soon as I called (along with my Mother), helped me refill all of the fluids, and jumping the dead battery, we got the car running. Every panel on the vehicle was dented but it still ran. My in-laws had also come to meet us, along with the Pastor of our church. We all made it home on icy roads without further incident, though I didn’t make it to work until Tuesday.
The next summer, my wife and I stopped to look at the place we’d wrecked. The hill we’d rolled down was steeper than it had seemed at the time. And then we saw quite a chilling sight. About thirty feet down was the small outcropping where the car had landed. It looked barely wide enough for the car, and on the other side was a drop-off, straight down for at least a hundred feet! Not knowing this and unable to see in the dark, we’d walked all around the car. Yet, none of us had fallen off! It was amazing the car had stopped where it did and even more amazing we hadn’t plunged to our death. Perhaps my wife’s prayers had something to do with it!
And that brings me to my point. Every Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of this event and how thankful I am to be alive. That’s My Thanksgiving. Oh, and one more thing. Though I wouldn’t advise this, if you want to find a way to acquire a good used vehicle, at a decent price - roll it down a cliff. We bought the severely dented car from my father-in-law and drove it for another three years!
Bruce A. Borders, author and songwriter has over 500 songs and 9 books. Over My Dead Body, his latest ebook, is available on Apple I-Pad®, Amazon Kindle®, Barnes & Noble Nook® and Sony Reader®. For more information, visit http://www.bruceaborders.com/ or http://overmydeadbody.jimdo.com/.