It was a winter Saturday evening like many during high school years. I was warm and snug in my Chevy Vega, had a date by my side, and with nothing else really on the agenda we decided to take a little country drive.
When I say it was a typical winter evening I mean there was a lot of snow, more than we’ve have around here since then. There was so much snow, in fact, that during my sophomore year we had two days of school in January and my junior year we had one day of school in January.
Anyway, I was putting along, having fun, and for some youthful reason decided it would be entertaining to bang into a few of the tall snow drifts along the right side of the road. My fun came to an abrupt stop. One minute I was laughing and having a hoot aggravating my date, then a tire caught in the deep snow. Next thing I knew my car sitting atop a pile of snow 4 to 5 feet tall.
It was way before the days of cell phones, so after surveying our situation, it was painfully obvious that I needed to make a trek to the nearest house and try to call for help. Some kind people nearby let me in and a few phone calls later I finally got ahold of a friend. He had other plans that evening, and was none to happy about my call, but said he would come after us.
I was tickled when he arrived on the scene with another friend. But after shoveling, and shoveling, and shoveling some more, it was obvious that our efforts were futile. Just when we were about to give up though, a big snow plow came by. The driver stopped, hooked a chain to my car, and had me off the snow pile in nothing flat.
My car was fine, but my date was not so friendly the rest of the evening.
The next winter I was driving my dad’s extended van on a narrow back road that could not have been any wider than the van was long. I was going slow, but when I started down a small hill the van started sliding. It went into a very slow – and agonizing – 180-degree spin. I saw visions of a totaled van, but when it finally came to stop at the bottom of the incline, it was setting perfectly in the middle of the road. I have no idea how it happened, but it did.
I must have learned a lesson or two because I negotiated the ice and snow quite well for the next several years.
Then in the 1990s the snow got me again.
I was driving home from work in Greenfield. A wet, heavy snow was coming down, enough that my windshield wipers were getting clogged with ice and I was having trouble seeing. So, rather than stopping, I rolled down my driver’s side window and flicked my windshield wiper a couple times. But in the process a tire slipped off the right side of the road. When I tried to steer it back onto the road my car went into a spin. I ended up off the other side and struck a utility pole. The impact knocked the extreme front of my car about a foot to the right, but somehow I was able to drive it home.
Since my wife worked out of our house at the time, I decided to take her car to work the next day. I was in the Southern State parking lot and the roads were icy. I was probably going a little too fast, went to make a right turn, but the car didn’t respond and I hit a big, concrete curb in front of the college. When I tried to back away the car wouldn’t move. So I stepped out to take a look. What I saw was not pretty. The left front wheel was bent partially under the car.
This was still before the time of cell phones, so I went inside and called my wife. When I told her what had happened she didn’t believe me. I told her a couple more times, and she still didn’t believe me. Eventually AAA arrived and towed the car away. It was a good while before my wife let me borrow her car again.
I negotiated the ice and snow pretty well for the next several years. Then it happened again.
It was a Friday three years ago and I had just gotten off work. A pretty snow was falling and rather than head straight home I decided to hit a back road and take in the sights. It was relaxing and I was enjoying myself – until I crested a tiny ridge.
There was a long, open field to my left with a downhill incline toward my car. When I topped that ridge I suddenly saw snow drifts much deeper than anything I had encountered to that point. I had about 30 feet to decide whether to hit my brakes or plow through it. It hit my brakes. But it was too late. I was stuck. In the middle of the road. And I was going nowhere without help.
But I did have a cell phone. I called a friend with a big 4 X 4 pickup truck. He and one of his sons showed up a bit later and after a couple tries they pulled me out. My car was fine, but snow had foiled me again.
Then two years ago I had been officiating basketball all day in Greenfield and was on my way home on Petersburg Pike. To this day I have no idea what happened. It was slightly slick and I remember gingerly rounding a sharp turn before a straight stretch that leads to U.S. Route 50. I was listening to an Ohio State basketball game and I don’t know if I took my eyes off the road, nodded off, or what, but all of a sudden there was a stop sign, and I didn’t have time to stop. Still, I hit my brakes, tried to turn, but slid right across Route 50 and started down the good-sized slope on the other side.
I was seeing visions of something really bad, but my car went into a slow, sideways slide, crossed the ditch at the bottom slope, then came to rest on the other side of the ditch – with the engine still running. There was several inches of snow on the ground and I thought I was impossibly stuck. I even called my wife and AAA.
But about that time two young men I had never seen before showed up beside my car. They said, “Dude, we think we can push you out of here.”
Clearcreek Road, where they had left their car, was 100 or more yards directly behind me so they stated pushing, but we were making little progress. Then a sheriff’s deputy showed up. He started pushing too. They got me onto more level ground and some cornfield stubble, then we started making real progress. By the time they got me to the road those two boys were soaked with sweat and covered in snow. They shook my hand and went on their way, along with the deputy.
Once again, I was able to drive home.
Where this has all been heading I really don’t know. But I can tell you a few things I’ve learned. I hope it doesn’t snow much this year. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I believe in guardian angels. And despite what you might be led to believe, there are some really good people out there – whether they’re friends or someone you never saw before.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.