Tuesday, December 31, 2019

A Long Post With No Pictures About A Very Long and Weird Ride Home.

5:00 PM, St. Augustine, FL…
I start the big F-250 and back down the driveway of my parent’s home, keeping an eye on the tied down metal structure filling the truck bed. It quivers and shakes as the truck rolls out onto the street.
I had spent most of the day salvaging a small, 4 x 6-foot greenhouse frame from my brother’s house. I thought that would be an easy job… the frame is pretty lightweight after all. What I had not counted on were the tree roots that had grown over the bottom frame pieces, effectively tying it to the Earth. 
It had taken most of the afternoon to wrench it from the nearby trees embrace, but at last, it was secured to the truck bed and I was heading home.
As I accelerated onto the highway, the rusty, battered old greenhouse frame swayed with each lane change and turn. Before long, a piece of side frame snapped and dangled in the wind. Ugh, this was going to be a long ride.
Little did I know …

The ride home normally takes a little over 2 hours. I passed through tiny communities like Spuds, Elkton, and Hastings, and then over the mighty St Johns River and into Palatka.
Traffic was light and in no time I was beyond Palatka, heading west on State Road 100.
State Road 100 is a 2-lane rural highway and the scenery is mostly pine trees … pine trees in the dark at this point in the day.
I tuned into NPR, set the cruise on moderately fast, but not fast enough to destroy the flimsy greenhouse in the truck bed, and settled in for the long haul. Except for the worrisome greenhouse frame, this was all part of the normal drive home routine.

That “routine” would come to a full stop a few minutes outside Palatka.

A “clank” from behind me made me glance into the rearview mirror just in time to see a piece of greenhouse frame break free and drop into the truck bed.
"Well great..."

I looked forward again just in time to see three cars ahead of me doing a simultaneous, seemingly choreographed movement. 

One went left, while another went right, and a third went straight ahead. All of them pulled off the road … and one of them went into a ditch. I realized at that moment that I had looked forward from the rearview mirror just in time to see the immediate after-effects of a collision!

All 3 cars were stopped, and no one was getting out.

By now I was on the scene. I slowed, crept past the farthest car, and pulled over. I got out and went to the first car, a black car with dark windows that were up. 
I rapped on the window and shouted, “Are you okay?” Through the dark glass, a head nodded yes. The window stayed up.

I left car number one and headed to car number 2,... the ditch car. The front was heavily damaged and steam was billowing out from the crumpled hood. As I approached, doors opened and a young boy and an older woman stepped out. She seemed shaken and a little unsteady.

“Are you okay? The boy nodded yes and the woman did the same, but added, “I’m so sorry.” She had called 911. I left them and crossed the highway to the third car.

Traffic continued to whiz by and no other vehicle stopped during this time.

As I crossed the road, I could hear weeping coming from the open driver side window. The back of the car was crunched pretty badly.
Even though I had not witnessed the actual collision, it was easy to piece the chain of events together through the damage to each car. I’m pretty sure that the older woman struck the rear of the car I was now approaching, which then struck the first car I had contacted.

In the third car, a very pregnant young woman sat behind the wheel crying. Her husband was on the phone, calmly relaying information about her to what I assumed was the 911 operator or EMS. (He was busy, but nodded yes when I asked if they had called 911).

I asked if they were okay, and she looked at me with anguish on her face and weeping, said, “I’m pregnant with twins.”  Feeling especially helpless at that point, and knowing they were in phone contact with a medical professional, I went back across the street to check on the older woman who was on her phone and leaning against the car. The middle school age boy said, “We’re okay” and thanked me.

Far down the long straight road, I could see emergency lights on their way, as I walked back towards my truck. At the dark first car, the passenger, a tall woman,  was standing next to the car. I couldn’t see the driver, but she said they were okay. She asked about the other folks and I filled her in briefly. 

As I drove away, I replayed the events in my mind. I know I was right to stop, even though not another car did while I was there. I felt pretty helpless every time I thought about that pregnant mom to be.
I could not get her anguished face out of my head and knew my wife, Liz, the 30+ year experienced nurse would have known exactly what to do and say to soothe her.  

My skill set is limited to CPR and basic first aid, but everyone appeared to have no obvious outer injuries, so that wasn't needed.

My brain kept playing it all back as I drove and after a while, the drive returned back to normal … almost routine.

I passed through Florahome, Putnam Hall, and Melrose in short order. It was dark now and the occasional street light showed me that the greenhouse was still there behind me.

I slipped through Gainesville pretty efficiently and was now more than halfway home and heading west on State Road 26. 
Then, suddenly, somewhere between Newberry and Trenton, “Routine” took another hiatus. My phone rang. It was Liz.
“Hey, where are you?” she asked.
“Just west of Newberry”
“Can you help me with something on the way home?”

She explained that a friend of ours had called her, distraught over news she had just received.
Their adopted “farm dog” had been struck and was dead in a ditch just outside the farm where it lived. The farm is a few miles away from our friend’s homestead and age and health issues prevented either one of the owners from recovering the dog.
The thought of their beloved dog lying dead in a ditch was heartbreaking for them… could we help?

“Can you help me do this?, I know you worked all day at your brothers”

So, true confession … I let out a huge sigh... before saying, “Yes, give me directions, … and bring a shovel and that Ryobi battery-powered work light. I have heavyweight extra large plastic bags in the truck.” 

I got to the farm first and slowed to search for the poor dog. She was easy to spot, a big black lump in the green grass by the road. When Liz arrived, we bagged the dog and did a team lift up into the bed of the truck.

At the couple’s home, Liz sat inside with the distraught owners while I drove across the property to a spot the owner had chosen. In the dark, under a spreading Live Oak, I set the work light up and began to dig in the circle of light it cast.

As I lifted each shovel of dirt, I thought about the strange events of this very long drive home.
Weirdly, I had thought a wobbly old greenhouse trying to blow apart in the truck bed would be the night’s challenge. Boy was I wrong…

I widened and deepened the grave until it was a good 4 feet deep and big enough for this good old dog. I didn’t know her, but I know she was loved by the 2 people crying in the house behind me.  With the hole dug, I lowered her gently into the ground and refilled the grave. 

I smoothed the fresh dirt into a neat mound and said not a prayer, but one last, “Good Girl”... and then the task was done. 
At that moment, it seemed like every dog in the neighborhood began to howl.  The sound started slowly, more dogs joined in, it rose, and then faded away.

I leaned against the shovel, mouth wide open … Dogs, how do they know?

I tossed the shovel into the back of the truck and the light on to the seat. I texted Liz that I’m done and heading out. She says she’s staying to chat with the couple a little longer as they are still upset.

So again, I am driving home, but this time I’m only about 15 miles away and seriously, what else could happen in the next 15 minutes or so?

… and then my phone rings. It’s Liz.

“Did I leave my keys in the truck?”
“I don’t think so, you really weren’t in the truck.”
I pull over under a street light in Chiefland and rummage around for her big pink key ring.
No luck. 
I call her back. She hasn’t found them either.




I turn the truck around and head back, 6 miles to the couple’s home. We both look through the van but fail to find the keys. 
“They’ll turn up tomorrow,” I say as I pull my van key off my key ring. 
“See you at the house.”

This time, I actually make it to my own driveway before the phone rings.
Oh hell no …

It’s Liz, and she sounds happy.
“Guess what!” she says.
“I’m afraid to,” I reply.

“ I went through McDonald’s to get an ice tea and the drive-through girl said, “Hey lady, your keys are on the car hood!”

“Well, we didn’t look there,” I say as I open the house door.

Bear is there to greet me with a shoe in his mouth, his tail wagging so vigorously that his sister Coquina is squinting as he whacks her face over and over. I get down on the floor and hug both of them tightly.  I can feel routine seeping back into my body.

Home at last.

28 comments:

roger said...

you're a good man fc. and mrs. fc is a good woman

robin andrea said...

Wow! What a wild, heart-tugging series of events you had on that long ride home. You and Liz are truly kind-hearted human beings. Thank you both, and happy new year!

Chris said...

I could visualize the route you took almost all the way. Your tasks in St Aug are tough enough, and then ...
As you say:
"No Act of Kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. " Aesop
Well done sir.
C

MyamuhNative said...

I know that route too. I was wearing my County Line produce shirt yesterday.
I was reading along thinking " He's a good man" , and then you doubled down and added Liz into the picture and suddenly it was " amazing couple".
Happy New Year to the FC family.

R.Powers said...

thank you pirate. loved the photo of you and your family on fb.

R.Powers said...

Hey Robin! Happy New Year ... And a toast to more adventures in 2020!

R.Powers said...

Thank you Chris. I truly believe that gem of wisdom from Aesop.

R.Powers said...

Myamuh!!
Happy New Year!
Thanks and by the way, here's how I'm using that generous "extra" donation you gave at the festival.
We're taking the student aquaponics system solar in 2020 and your gift will fund the few remaining pieces of equipment needed.
Thank you for your kindness!!

Miz S said...

It's ok that you let out a huge sigh at the thought of digging a grave for a dead dog. You and Liz make a heck of a good team. Happy New Year! Here's to happiness and good health in the year ahead.

Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh Raymond. Oh Liz. Such a chain of events can only be integrated and processed by retelling and writing. You’ve got some work ahead of you but writing this post is the vital first step toward getting your mind around what happened this night. The howling. The expectant terrified mother. You and Liz, reaching out into the dark. Thank you for being our FloridaCracker. Xoxoxo jz

R.Powers said...

Thank you Miz S. Big sighs are just a warm up exercise before tackling tasks you'd rather not have to do. Happy New Year!

R.Powers said...

Zick,
It was such a full night of the major and the minor routine disruptors. I am still playing it back as I go about my day.
I knew you could relate with routine disruptors.
Happy New Year!

R.Powers said...

To all who commented so far,this is like old bloggers, original team ,prefacebook homecoming!
Thank you all so much for your friendship.

Anchor Cottage said...

Thank you for sharing, may it inspire others to stop and take a minuet of their time to check on the feelings of others. You are a kind man, may 2020 be your year.

Miz S said...

I know! I miss it! Thanks for giving us a place to meet up.

Paul Lamb said...

Wow! I hope that if I'm ever in an accident, you're with me. WAIT! That didn't come out right!

(Was the McDonald's iced tea unsweetened?)

threecollie said...

A mind-boggling chain of events that has me shuddering. You are your family are such good people! It makes me glad to know you are in the world. Hope you have a wonderful New Year one and all.

R.Powers said...

Anchor, Thank you!
I hope you have a wonderful new year!

R.Powers said...

Pablo,
Even though it's blasphemous here in the South, We only do unsweet tea ...of course.

R.Powers said...

3Collie!
Now it really is a blog reunion party! Thank you and a most Happy New Year to you and your family!

Vicki B said...

Oh, my. Such a long ride! Didn't really need photos; your words covered it all. You and Liz. Such a great team in every respect. The dogs dirge- that's the weirdest part. So now! We will get to see this greenhouse go from rusty pieces to datil nursery, right? In photos? Thanks for all you do.

PATIO said...

Hello FC! Patio here, Just thought of you and came to visit. Wow, what a night you had. Happy you were able to help those vehicles and Liz later that evening. (I still think of her key lime cake!)
I hope all of you are doing wonderful. I haven"t checked in for ages.
It does look like old home week on here. Hope the whole FC family has a wonderful 2020.

The same to all of the blog readers that [posted. It was good seeing your names!

camdandusler said...

good post 😊 would you like to follow each other? if the answer is yes, please follow me on my blog & i'll follow you back. https://camdandusler.blogspot.com

VitaminSea said...

HI FC. :) A few minutes ago I was looking up various ways to make "compost tea," and came across a recipe from the Old Farmers Almanac that included stinging nettle, which, despite its awful sting, is loaded with beneficial nutrients. I wasn't really sure what the plant looked like, and a google search not only reminded me (it's been a long time since I saw one!) but also led me to a 2006 post of yours titled: "Bad plant! Bad! Bad! Bad!" (or something similar.) I immediately broke into a big grin when I read the title. I read the post, cringing when I read about your experience, resolving to skip the plant altogether and then hit "Home" to see how you're doing. It's been a long time since I visited your site, from back when I was writing Vitamin Sea. I'm so glad to see you all are doing well, and especially glad this particular post didn't have a bad ending. So glad you kept your fingers to the keyboard and continued writing! I look forward to coming back more often now. :)

R.Powers said...

Vicki, I am so tardy in responding, but thank you for the comments and dropping in here. I know we see each other on FB often, but I am going there less and less. And quite frankly, I love the way this post pulled up my Blogger family from the beginning of PF.

Patio, How great to hear from you! You are one of the few PF family that I have actually met. I hope that the camera served you well! Thank you for commenting!

VitaminSea! Holy Smokes! You crossed my mind a few weeks ago when I was reading these comments and thinking about all the cool bloggers pre-Facebook. Thanks so much for taking the time. I like that "ancient" posts of mine pop up in searches. I hope all is well with you.

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