Saturday, October 6, 2012


There she sat.  I called her “she” because I considered her to be an extension of myself.
She was a 1972 Plymouth Barracuda, Moss Green with a black leather top.  It was my dad’s dream car that he had bought to drive when he gave my sister and me his old 1968 Chevy II after we had successfully obtained our drivers licenses.  The Chevy II was a tank.  A tan, squared up, four door piece of machinery whose only job was to protect us in our early days behind the wheel. 
But I wanted the power.  I wanted the speed.  And I was the bad one.
I would wait until my sister would ask to use the car on a Friday night before stating that I too had plans and needed wheels. 
“Okay you can have the Barracuda, just be careful.”
“Careful, sure.  You know me, always careful.”
Friday night, Headly Road.  We would all meet and race; the guy with the GTO, the guy with the Pontiac 2x2 and even the guy with the souped up Volkswagen.
Looking back I can’t get over the chances I took on the dangerous winding roads.  I just knew I loved the speed.  I lived for the exhilarating feel of the force that threw you left to right as you took the corners, perilously close to the deep ditches that ran alongside the narrow country roads. 
There were a few minor collisions between some of the other vehicles, but I was lucky enough to come away unscathed.  The worst that happened to me was one winter’s night when I was running against my friend in his Pontiac 2x2.  I knew I didn’t stand a chance, he was fast and a little crazy.  When I pulled his name, I knew I would sit back and race just for the fun of it.  No expectations. 
The road had been salted and was nice and dry.  I sat revving my motor beside the Pontiac, waiting until we got the all clear from the guys that stood along the road at half mile intervals.  The flag flew and we were off.  Tires screeching, the smell of rubber burning mixed with the stench of exhaust fumes. 
It was all going well.  He was ahead by two car lengths at the first bend.  As I came out of the turn my wheels skidded on the salt that had accumulated by the edge of the road.  As abruptly as my tires had slid they just as suddenly caught in the gravel throwing the car into the ditch.  Slushy snow and mud flew over the front of the sleek car.  The exact moment of the loss of control remains a blur to this day but my seat belt held me securely in place.  I sat stunned for a few moments.   Friends ran to my car. 
“Are you okay?”
“Holy shit!”
I heard the mumbling s of my friends but still wasn't piecing it together.
I got out of the car and sat on the ground.  My friend Scott walked around the car.  “No damage.  Just a bunch of mud and grass smashed up in the front fender.
Did I think about the possible outcome of being injured?  Did I worry about my own safety? 
No. I was worried that I had wrecked my Dad’s car and I was going to get killed when I got home.
I pulled myself together, helped pull the car out of the ditch with my friend’s truck and went to his house to hose down the car, wiping off any remnants of the dirt and debris.  There was only a small scratch in the chrome on the front bumper. 
For years after it wasn’t the danger or the wreck that would bother me.   I would see that little scratch and it was a constant reminder that I had let my father down.