Tuesday, October 03, 2006


On this moonless night in 1963, Highway 64 between Waynesboro and Lexington, Alabama was very dark. So dark, as I remember it that it required very determined headlights to cut little temporary tunnels through it.

With the 750 kW WSM sounds, from 650 on the dial, bathing us in a soft yellow glow from the radio, Mark and I joked, laughed, and poked at each other with schoolboy exuberance as we drove along. “How cool are we?” we thought!

Earlier that afternoon, my dad had given his reluctant permission for me to drive, with my cousin Mark, the 52 miles from Lexington to Waynesboro. This being not only my first “road trip,” but also my first real trip without supervision made me feel grown up and special. It also made me very nervous. My father trusted me with the family car and the safety of us both – I did not want to let him down.

I was a very inexperienced driver, especially at night, so with the visit with my old friend Richard in Waynesboro completed late in the evening, I anxiously piloted the “Thunder Chief” back down the dark highway. Behind the headlights the night enveloped the ’55 Pontiac Star Chief so that it was invisible just behind the lights, only revealing itself with the noise of its 287 cubic-inch V8 as it passed.

After a few miles, we both became quiet and intent on the road ahead. There was no white line defining the side of the road as there is today and the center yellow line had long since lost its brightness. I think we both knew that it was going to be a long forty-some miles home and that it would take four eyes to find our way. However, after a few miles we drifted off to inner thoughts with only short quiet sentences breaking the silence between us.

At some point my mind registered an image that was not quite right and shot me full of adrenaline to help me focus! I had just topped a small grade and started down and around a gradual curve to the left when the headlight’s tunnel, which had been shortened by the hill, beamed fully on the “dirty side” of a car lying on its side across the center line!

I think we both yelled out, but really cannot remember, but could I have the moment over, I would!

Somehow, inexperienced as I was, I whipped the wheel hard left and quickly back to the right and around the wrecked vehicle. I finally got control and slid to a halt about thirty yards beyond the car, which was now again bathed in darkness. As I said, there was no moon, probably no stars, and no lights from civilization for miles and we sat there in the yellow glow of the radio starring at each other, searching for strength and direction in the other. We dreaded the moment, but we each knew we had to get out of the security of the car and see what could be done.

The dark enveloped us as we moved away from the red glow of the taillights and in the direction of the overturned car. At first the only sound was a roaring coming from the direction of the car. Somehow we soon understood it was the front wheel still spinning from its pre-accident momentum just moments ago.

We had only taken a few hesitant steps toward the car when a woman’s frantic voice screamed from the dark, “Oh God, help us! We have already killed one!”, and then crying and sobbing. This evoked a booster shot of adrenaline that I could feel course its way up my neck to my brain! We imagined all sorts of dead and bloody bodies lying there in the dark, waiting for us to touch them before screaming again!

Horrified we froze for a moment, but then realized we had to help. We took a couple of running steps when suddenly lights from another car broke the darkness behind the overturned car. For the first time we could see the vehicle’s outline silhouetted by the oncoming headlights and could see the car was a mangled mess.

Again we froze realizing that the next driver might not be as lucky as we had been and ram the car head-on. We knew this would injure or kill more, and possibly knock the wrecked car into us, so we ran back toward our vehicle.

Tires squealed and people were screaming in the night. It was so overwhelming that we were in near shock ourselves.

The oncoming car made it around without incident and slid in behind mine. A man jumped out and hollered, “What’s going on?

All I could do was say, “They said they’ve killed someone and need help! Please go see what you can do and I’ll go get help!

I never saw the man’s face or anyone from the wrecked car, but somehow I am still haunted by faceless people screaming in the darkness.

Mark and I drove a few miles to the next farmhouse and had the owner call the highway patrol.

We looked at each other in the glow of the dashboard lights and without saying a word, drove slowly on back to Lexington. We just could not go back, whether too ashamed of how we reacted at first in the darkness by the wreck, or just because we knew we would be useless there.

Who knows, if there had been more light, no one had screamed, and the other car had not come along, we may have been some actual help that night.

However, we did grow a little that night and deep inside we knew that if it ever happened again, we would be at least a little braver. Thank God it has never happened like that again, but if it does I pray I stay just this side of total fear long enough to help.


Debbie said...

What a story. It was like I was there with you. Scary.

It's interesting what we remember from our childhood. Some things are as clear as if they had happened yesterday.

Fathairybastard said...

Damn, yer good. Great story.

Mel said...

wow. Did you ever find out anything about what did happen?

Mushy said...

I'm ashamed to say I did not - too young, too inexperienced to follow through.

I realize my presence would not have changed the outcome, but a mature person could have consoled someone in grief.

James Burnett said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog. And I agree with everyone else. You're a great storyteller.

And don't sweat the past. Bravery's something people write about after the fact.

Mindless Dribbler said...

Whoa....great story dude! Recounted to what seems like perfect detail

DirtCrashr said...


Walker said...

Fascinating and scary!

Mushy said...

Wow...a lot of new visitors and love every one!

Walker...I get the idea you love moonshine - me too!

Goddess said...

This is the post I was referring to!

Mushy said...

I understand is a little dark isn't it?

Goddess said...

Yes and it's hard not to draw your own conclusions because as soon as I read it, I thought, "hmm, i wonder if those kids weren't chucking rocks at cars and one wrecked....?" and I'm probably not even close but like I said, hard not to draw your own conclusions!