If I was fortunate enough to have a dollar for every time I have travelled the roads from Dothan to Birmingham…I’d be living on the beach somewhere on Maui in my very own beach house with big ole doors that open out to the sand and the beach. It would be big enough for all my friends to visit at the same time. And, it would be decorated in the most beachy beach decor around. And, I’d have a cook and a butler, and of course a housekeeper!Several years ago, Mom and I were travelling to Birmingham with Alex to see one of his doctors. Now Alex didn’t particularly like having to go, but Mom and I didn’t mind. That’s cause we could usually figure out a way to get some shopping time in. This was before Mom began having so much trouble with her arthritis…and she could go on and on and on! When Alex got old enough, we began staying at the Wynfrey Hotel. Now The Wynfrey was our choice because it opened up into a huge mall…the Galleria. Alex could stay in the room if he wanted, or he could go out to the electronics store for a while. Also, if Mom got tired she could go to the room and rest a while. If Alex wanted, he could stay in the room and watch TV and it was easy for Mom or I to pop in and check on him.
Well, we were travelling on a cool, fall day…enjoying the scenery and talking about first one thing and then another and back to the first! It’s amazing how we could solve all the world’s problems on that short 3 1/2 hour trip! But, we could! On this particular day, there was quite a bit of traffic. We had remarked about it several times. And, so many big trucks. Alex had told us he was going to lie down. I told him that was fine…but, he had to keep his seat belt on.
Now, let me say right here that those big trucks get on my nerves. They will scare the mess out of you or go so slow you need to stop! The only time I don’t mind sharing the road with them is in bad weather. Then, I look for the biggest truck I can find and get right behind him. And, there I stay. I do not try to pass, I do not change lanes, me and The Big Truck Protection Company just keep on truckin’. I do not like to drive in bad weather. Now, I’m not talking about a little rain…I’m talking about a big ‘ole gully washer! You have those where you live?
Well, back to the story for today. Anyway, pulling up behind me comes several big log trucks. I despise big log trucks. The are definitely NOT a member of The Big Truck Protection Company! I think the drivers of these trucks are reading the wrong kind of maps…if you know what I mean? But, how could you? I don’t even know what I mean! I was just trying to very nicely say, “THEY’RE CRAZY”! There I said it! I know probably your father or your husband or your son or other assorted male family member drives one and now I have offended you. Please forgive me. I am sure they are the exception to my rule.
Several of these came speeding up behind me, passed me, and then slowed down….we were going up a long hill. I was using my cruise control. It helps me stay in control of my speed, ya know. I tend to go juuuuuust a bit over the limit. So, rather than slow down, I just calmly pulled out and went around the one that was right in front of me. My Mom said, “I have never liked those log trucks. I think they are dangerous.” “I don’t either…they make me nervous,” I answered. Mom said that she had a friend who was killed by one of the trucks.
As we drove on, I noticed that the same log truck that I had passed was coming up behind me….very fast. I really thought he would hit my car if he did not slow down! I began looking around me for an escape if need be. I was afraid to slow down, because he was going so fast. And, there was nowhere to go. I was in the right hand lane. The left was full of cars. There was no shoulder…..just a drop off some 50-60 feet. Straight down. I was pretty sure something was going to happen that I was not going to like. You better believe that I was praying. This was before Carrie Underwood sang that song, “Jesus Take the Wheel”. All I could say was “Jesus.” Quietly. I did not want to scare Mom or Alex.
At the last moment (before hitting me from behind), he pulled into the left lane. Whew! I could breathe again. But…not for long. The worst was just beginning. As he began to pull ahead of me…he also began to come back over in my lane. Way before he should have…he began moving back to the right lane. I knew there was no place to go but down. And, I knew I was going to have to take that way. Mom had not noticed what was happening now…and Alex was asleep. There was the tiniest sliver of level ground next the road, and I tried to get over to that as far as I could. But, that was not what the trucker had in mind. He kept coming over until I had no choice but to leave the highway.
It’s strange how things begin to move in slow motion even though you are tooling along at 70 mph. In my mind, it became clear to me that I had to try to drive down the embankment…and I knew that I had to go down at an angle. I am not at all wise about driving and cars and such, but I knew that if I went straight down the car would flip. And, friends, I was not scared…the strangest calm came over me and I just knew what I had to do. At the bottom was thick woods. So, I said, “Mama, hold on, hold on, hold on!” And, as I was talking I was driving…down the embankment…at an angle. And, friends, I made it down, and was heading towards the woods, and clear as a bell, I heard a man’s voice say, “STOP–NOW!” And, that’s what I did. I could not move for a minute. WELL My little mother was out of that car and scrambling up that embankment, before I could even turn the car off! I yelled after her, “Mama, come back, we’re OK.” She said she was going to get a tag number! Well, no way could she have gotten a tag number, but she thought she could. I jumped out of the car to go after her. Friends, 3 or 4 big trucks stopped to see if we were ok. They just stopped right there in the middle of that 4 lane highway! One of them said yelled, “if you are OK, I’m going after him.” Another trucker said he would call the state trooper on the radio. He said and” I’m going to tell him you did nothing wrong. ” Two ladies stopped and said,” we saw the whole thing. We knew what was going to happen. We were praying angels all over your car.” A man and his son in their pick up said they would stay with us till the police came. He was so kind. He said,”Don’t you worry now, little lady. We’s not going to leave you out here by your self.”
Now, Mama was pacing on that little sliver of level ground. She was trying to think what to do so she could do it. But, there was nothing to do…we just had to wait till the State Trooper arrived. And, so the man and his son in the pick up truck told her that it would be better for her to wait by the car. And, down that steep embankment she came…with their help.
I knew that Mom needed to sit down and Alex was still in the car. So, we walked back down to the car. We went around to the front of the car. There was a thick area of vines and scrub trees that had caught hold of the car and held it tight. We heard water…running water. Looking through the vines and trees, we saw a creek, another 10 feet below us. It was full of water and it was running fast. The state trooper said it was at least 5 feet deep. IF I had not stopped my car when I did…we would have ended up in the creek. We both got back into the car and shut our doors. Alex lifted up his head from the backseat and said, “Mother, why have you been driving so crazy?” “Well, Son, look around and see where you are! ” I said. He looked around and then said, ” Mama, what in the world are you doing down here?” And, I told him that I was taking a nap and when I woke up there I was!!! He did not think that was funny!
Finally the State Trooper came, and we told him our story. He said that he had 3 other troopers looking for the truck ever since the other trucker called to tell him about it. And, he said, “There are big roads and little roads, dirt roads and pig trails all back in this area. That trucker knows all sorts of places to hide until tomorrow or the next day. We will never find him.” Well about that time the trooper got a call on his radio that another trooper had a big logging truck pulled over on one of those back roads. So, the trooper said for us to get in his car. We were going to see if I could identify the truck. Oh! My! I had no earthly idea if it was red or green or blue or polka dotted. But, the trooper said, “Ma’am, you saw enough of the truck to know if this is the same one.” I got in front, and held his computer and stuff in my lap. Mom and Alex got into the back. You know those little cages they put the criminals in? That’s where they were. The nice man and his son in the pick up said that they were going to wait there to make sure the car was safe…and in case some of the bigger trucks came back. And, so we drove. And, drove. And drove. We had left all the paved roads and were now on the dirt roads and pig trails. And, the trooper? He was not driving at a safe rate of speed! I decided not to point this out to him…didn’t seem like the best time to do it. I turned around once and looked at Alex and his grandmother…sitting in the lock-up cage…in the back of a state troopers car…on a dirt road…with a maniacal trooper on a mission! Their eyes were big. And they were holding on to each other for dear life. I gave them a little smile and figured I’d better just keep my mind on the trooper. And, then on a dirt road with trees and vines and and such so thick it covered the road like a canopy…right beautiful, really. There was a log truck…and a man standing in the road…and another trooper car with lights flashing…and the trooper talking to the man. We approached from the front of the logging truck. I told the trooper I needed to see the back. And so we drove around the truck and cars and went down the road about a 1/2 mile. He turned around and turned to me and said, “try to remember how it felt when you knew you were going to have to leave the road.” I did what he said…and all the time he was driving. As we came up to the truck Mom and I said…at the same time, “That’s not the one.” Couldn’t tell you anything about the one it was…but knew this one was not! The trooper said, “See, I told you that you would know.”
The troopers came and asked me again in the driver’s presence if this was the one. And, I told them it was not. Then that burly, unshaven, big bear of a man came over to the window where I was and leaned in and said, “I’m so sorry this happened to you. But, some of those drivers are fools. They think they own the road. Best you stay as far away from them from now on. Now, is there anything you need? I’m at your service, if I can do anything at all.” I shook his hand and told him that we were fine and thanked him for his kindness. We went back to the car. The trooper called a wrecker to come and pull us out of the ditch and back up the steep hill. I thanked the man and his son that had stayed at our car and offered to pay him for his time. He said, “Just pass it on ma’am…that’s all we need.” Then the state trooper looked at me and said, “Were you driving, Ma’am?” I told him I was. And, then he said the strangest thing. He said, “Well, Ma’am, there is no way that you could have driven your car down that embankment. It’s impossible to do without flipping the car.”
I let that sink in for a minute. And, that same sense of calmness came over me again. That ‘peace that passes all understanding’. And, I looked back at the trooper and said, “Actually, it wasn’t me driving at all. I was just sitting behind the wheel.” And, he looked at me and smiled, “Yes, Ma’am, you’re right. You’re sure right about that.”
The wrecker pulled the car out. He did not try to drive the wrecker down there…the trooper stopped the traffic on the highway. The he hooked something to the car and sprinkled some magic dust and said some magic words and ‘POOF’ the car was back on the 4 lane. He bent something back off of the right front tire…so it wouldn’t scrape. He drove it down the road and came back. Then, he said, “You’re good to go.” The trooper waved us on. The wrecker headed back to Montgomery. Mom took an ativan and laid her car seat back and closed her eyes. Alex lay down in the back seat again…with his seat belt on. And I put the car into Drive and set my sights on Birmingham. And, as I drove, these words quietly escaped my lips…an old Michael W Smith Praise Song we used to sing with the Youth when my boys were in this age group at church. The words came out. They came from my soul. They came from that place where we communicate with Our Father. They rose without any conscious thought on my part. They were words of thanks. They were words of praise.
O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is Your name in all the earth.
O Lord, our Lord
How majestic is Your name in all the earth.
O Lord, we praise Your name!
Amen and Amen!