Sunday, April 27, 2008

Memory of a cliff

The old photo of Hershel McGriff racing along a steep canyon on a dirt road brought back a lot of wonderful memories of great days in my past. As a boy I tore up may a gravel road in Oregon. As a matter of fact I don't think I knew how to drive around a corner unless I was sideways. Paul's comment below that photo brought back one such memory of a ride I won't soon forget.

With my second car which was a 58 Ford I was going fishing almost every other day at the Rogue River which was about 70 miles from home. I would drive up the Rouge River to the Lobster Creek bridge and then cross and then drive up an old logging road to get to a favorite fishing place where my parents used to take there camper. This all took place during the steelhead runs which is usually during a chilly, rainy time of year. The reason I mention that is two fold. First is because the road was slippery and second is because I was heavily dressed to stay warm. Having just left my favorite fishing hole I was speeding back down river to get to another favorite spot and I still had on my hip waders and a couple of sweaters and a very heavy coat not to mention one of those funny looking Elmer Fudd type hats with the fur lining.

All of a sudden I found myself going a little too hot into a corner and my left side tires had been sucked into the heavy gravel along the side of the road. Normally this would not be so bad because of all the brush and timber along the road but at this point the timber had been recently logged off so there was nothing but hillside between me and the river. I tried hard to steer out of the soft gravel but that cliff had my name written all over it. Finally I shot off the embankment and flew thru the air until the very front end of the car caught the uppermost tip of a flat mound of dirt. This slammed me "almost" to a stop but not quite. As the front end dug in the back end came over the top and flipped end over end and at the same time the car rolled over to the passenger's side. As all this happened I was swung out onto the driver's bench seat because I hung onto the steering wheel. From that same impact the back seat had flown out and up to the front just in time as the car was slammed onto it's top. This crushed me between the two padded seats as the car began rolling down a 60 degree hillside on it's side. I rolled for over 375 yards down that hill and let me tell you they do not have rides like that at any amusement park.

When my car came to a stop it was at rest on it's passenger door side with me standing up but still crushed between the two seats and I could not see out. Then almost instantly I heard voices asking me if I was still alive. My first question was, "How does my car look? Will my dad be able to tell I was in a wreck?" It was amazing that on this road out in the middle of nowhere that two loggers had turned a corner just in the nick of time to see my taillights going over the cliff. They ran down the hill and with some pry bars managed to pry the roof open and get me out. Because of all the heavy clothing I had on and the freak way the seats protected me I didn't have one scratch on me. When I finally climbed out thru the windshield I was shocked at my car because it was resting on it's side and had it rolled another two times I would have fallen into the Rogue River on a deep corner where I would have been trapped and drowned.

I road back to Gold Beach with the loggers to find a tow truck to pull me out and while I was there I met a tow truck driver and he told me his father owned an old wrecking yard and that there was a sweet looking 57 Ford there that my motor and rear-end would bolt right into. That was the beginning of my automotive career and I never looked back.

Funny footnote to that wreck... When I originally called my dad and told him I needed a ride home he asked what happened. I told him, "I just drove into a ditch." After I got home and my dad saw the car for the first time he asked two questions... "What in the hell was name of the ditch you ran into... the Grand Canyon?" And then he asked, "How in the hell can you get both driver's side doors completely ripped off a car but the rear view mirror (mounted on fender) stay untouched?" I just said, "It takes a lot of practice."

1 comment: said...

It sounds like the crash would have netted you a 10/10 from even the Russian judge.

We used to white water canoeing on the St.-Croix River, along the Maine/New Brunswick border. The hand-me-down car was my dad's 1973 Chrysler Town & Country, and I use to deliver it a campsite at about the halfway point of river run, the car full of everyone's dry gear, tents and more liquid courage.

I would go flat out to the site, drifting like crazy around each turn ... heck, it was fun! The only thing that when wrong was a hubcap spinning off into the woods. I had this vision of a bunch of confused beavers finding a deceased colleague with a silver disk sticking out of him.