Tuesday, November 30, 2010


The farm at the end of the road
All packed to go for a snowy weekend with friends in the mountains when we woke up to a completely flat tire. And because it's been snowing all week the tire shops are jammed with wait times of at least three hours and we can't borrow a car from anyone because they've all got appointments with their tire guys to put winter tires on. This never happens to us... until it does. It's like we were due for some bad car luck. It's like how I'd never been in a car accident... until I was. Now there's a story for a snowy day. I've got my cup of tea and hours until the hubs is home with our new tire.

A few years ago I was living in Northern California, 16 miles up a dirt road from the nearest small town. I'd been using a friend's car for the summer, a little VW cabriolet that was Hell to find the reverse gear in but better than nothing for cruising around listening to the one cassette tape I had to play in the car's tape deck (a nicely nostalgic movie soundtrack - I just can't remember which one). It epitomized summer for me to drive with my favorite emerald green sunglasses on and the top down.
On my days off from farm work when I didn't spend all day in the river, I'd explore the maze of back roads lured by ideas of catching a glimpse of my dream house, or an amazing view, or a long-forgotten cemetery, or some backwoods landed gentry that I could marry into. Most often I got a whole lot of poison oak, gated driveways, 'no trespassing' signs, and dust in my teeth.

One mid-summer evening, when everyone else had the day off I decided to join friends in town after my work day was over. The leaves of the oak trees that lined the road were coated in the dust that re-settled after every passing vehicle. By August the road was hard-packed dirt that could use a good grading, but I always took it pretty slow, putt-putting up the hills with the music blaring.

On one particularly steep and curvy section I shifted down into second gear to get traction up the bumpy incline just as a black Toyota 4-Runner came shooting around the corner, going way too fast to keep control over the wash-board. As the driver saw me (slowly making for the shoulder to make way for him) he braked hard and his truck slid sideways on the ruts and right into the Cabrio.

My sunglasses went flying over the windshield never to be seen again as I was stopped in my tracks most of the way onto the side of the road. The cassette tape played on at full blast. Without thinking I growled like a mama bear and swore something awful before I removed my hands from the steering wheel and my seat belt from the clasp. The other driver, a chiseled Anthony Kiedis type with board shorts, long hair, and tattoos was next to his truck swearing up a storm but he ran to me upon hearing my growl and asked if I was alright. I told him I was fine but that the owner of the car, which was now nearly half the length it should have been, wouldn't be so cheery.

Buddy was apparently in quite a hurry to get somewhere; he was all over the place, worried about the cars, about me, and, most of all, about his rendezvous with an important someone. He suggested I stay with the car and he'd come back to pick me up in an hour. Right! There was no way that was going to happen I assured him. As I climbed into the passenger seat of his truck I insisted he take me wherever he had to get to since my car could no longer drive anywhere. Seeing as he had no choice he reluctantly started up the engine and we took off at top speed. It was then that I noticed that he too had been blasting his music, Red Hot Chili Peppers to be precise and coincidental. There were surf stickers adorning the dashboard and he drove in flip flops, not slowing down a bit despite the recent crash. He quickly sparked a joint to calm his nerves and offered some to me upon seeing my general good nature about the whole situation.

By now we had turned off the familiar road and up some winding rutted roads, past a few deserted, unmarked intersections, and pulled up and parked outside a locked gate at the foot of a driveway. I knew there was no way I would ever intentionally be able to find my way back to this unremarkable location, but his paranoia was rampant. He prattled on about having to change the locks now that he was taking me by his place and how he hated to be late to meet his "distributor". He left me alone in his truck for five minutes while he disappeared up the driveway to leave a note. I remember thinking to myself, 'I bet he has a gun. This guy should not have a gun.'

Once he returned I directed him to the end of the main road and the farm where I lived. Upon hearing that the owner of the car's given name was Buffalo, surfer dude lost an iota of his swagger and offered up everything in his wallet to pay for the damage and to keep his name off the record. In the end we made more than the car was worth and I got a glimpse behind one those gated back roads and that was enough to persuade me to look elsewhere for a husband.

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