SO LONG, MUSTANG (almost 2 pgs)|
As I clawed & grunted my way over the top edge of yet another boulder, I was mostly thinking about a risk far worse than falling. Snakes. It was snake season.
A shudder took me as my hand gripped a part of the rock above me that I couldn’t see. Was I grabbing a handful of snake? I hate snakes! Just the very possibility that there might be any nesting in the boulders of this ravine sent involuntary shivers down my spine.
Well, I couldn’t swim, so the choice was really no choice at all. My car had blown a tire and left the road at what was probably the worst possible place. The miracle of it was that I was still alive. After the shattering, scraping, totally uncontrolled slide down and over the boulders, my car had come to a stop at last with the hood crammed into the waters of the lake. It was down there, still upright, but no way would that car ever leave the edge of that lake.
Water had lapped at the windshield as I had frantically fought with my seat belt to unfasten it. At the time I had thought the car was going to sink into the lake and take me along to a watery grave. But, as I at last fought free and climbed through the drivers’ window because the door was jammed, I realized the car was setting nose down on solid rock. I climbed back over the battered carcass of my two year old Mustang until I had my feet planted firmly on dry rock. As far as I could see, there was nothing one could take for a shore. It was only a pile of huge boulders meeting the water for as far as I could see. I didn’t dare try to climb along the shore from one to another because, if I slipped and fell into the water, I’d be a goner.
Craning my neck, I had looked up the steep rock filled ravine which had been my course down here. Could I climb the distance? The road was far out of sight somewhere above and I had no way of knowing whether I would be found if I waited there. Had I broken the guardrail when my car began its’ plunge? I couldn’t recall if there even had been a guardrail. If not, passers by would have no clue of my distress.
Well, it was up to me and at least I could be thankful that I hadn’t been maimed or even killed on the way down. I could see no trees growing from within the rocks. No limbs to grab, nor vines. Just a series of polished granite boulders the size of houses. The ravine I was centered in extended at least a thousand feet to either side before disappearing from view, so I had to assume that, even if I went to the left or right, I wouldn’t find any improvement in my plight. Deciding there was no easy out, I began to work my way over to the top of the boulder above the one I was standing on.
It had gone like that for what seemed a mile. Reach the top of one and find myself facing more of the same. My hands were bleeding, My shoes were so scraped that the toes were almost worn away. My mind was going on strike. It was so totally dispiriting to claw and scratch my way to the top of a massive boulder only to be faced with more of the same in a ravine that seemed to go on forever. If I hadn’t begun thinking about snakes, it wouldn’t have been so bad. My body might not hold out long enough to reach the level of the road. However, now that I had become so paranoid about snakes, it was doubtful my mind would hold out long enough to worry about the eventual failure of my body.
It was July and, from many years of living in the plains states, I knew this was when they were out hunting and mating. I also knew they often spent long hours sunbathing on the top surface of rocks. And, with the steepness of my ascent, it was the invisible top, flat surface of each boulder that I must use to leverage myself up and over each one on my way to the top. If I came over one and came face to face with a snake, it was doubtful I would survive. Perhaps a toss-up of whether I would die of snake bite or heart failure, but I’d probably never see the road again if a snake were in my path. Did I say it before? I really, truly hate snakes.
In my youth, I had occasion to come upon snakes out in the open. You have some warning usually and, if you can find a stick, the odds improve a lot. If you are able to reach a handful or two of dirt, things look even better. A striking snake can be knocked aside with a stick. A striking snake can be driven to a rage of self destruction by tossing dirt in their face. Blinded and furious, they will often turn upon and strike themselves.
Either way, I was up a creek. There wasn’t a speck of loose dust, let along a handful of dirt to be had on these weather polished rocks. Not one single tree or shrub could be seen. No club, no dirt, not much hope. Panic was creeping up on me with ever so much stealth. Panic of my own making to be sure. But, panic nonetheless. How far away could the road be? I hadn’t heard even the sound of a passing vehicle throughout my long climb. Could I just rest on this shelf awhile or might a snake be down there between the rocks and strike upward at my thinly clothed body?
Try as I might, I couldn’t control the building sense of doom. The likelihood, yes I had to face it, likelihood that I wouldn’t survive this, after all. My torn and bleeding hands might have been mangled for nothing. If the road was somewhere up there beyond where I could see, that meant I hadn’t even reached the halfway point after these hours of effort. I could still look down and see my car nosed into the water. I hadn’t come as far as I had thought or hoped. No. The odds were stacked against me. If a snake didn’t get me, I would probably fall from weakness long before I reached my goal.
“Hey, what the heck are you doing climbing around in those rocks? Don’t you know you could get hurt?”, came a voice as clear as could be. I craned to find the source and at last saw an old fellow standing less than a hundred feet away on my right.
“What are you doing out here?” was all I could think to say. How in the world had this old fellow managed to climb these rocks when I was about dead of exhaustion?
“Well,” he replied, “I live right over there. That’s my cabin you can see if you look off over there up through the rocks.”
Sure enough, built right into and on the boulders sat a fine, modern mountain cabin. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I was certain I would look again and see no cabin. No old man. But, they were still there.
“I wouldn’t plan to go on up the way you’re going, if I was you,” he declared. “Why don’t you stand up and you’ll be able to see that you can walk across the top edge of those rocks you’re near and come on over to where I am. There’s a nice trail from here that goes to the top. Or, at least it goes up to the road. That’s where I built my garage. I turn in off the road and garage my car up there, then walk down the path to where my cabin is. Nicer view out across the lake from there.”
Unsteadily, I got to my feet and looked across toward him. Sure enough, there was a fairly easy course to follow from rock to rock and, the first thing I knew, I was standing next to the old guy. Shaky kneed, torn hands; but there I stood. I looked back to my car, but it wasn’t to be seen from where I now stood. That explained why he thought I was simply out rock climbing.
He was shocked when I told him what had happened. I took him up on his offer of something cold to drink and, after a much needed rest on his front porch and a rinse for my knees and hands, he even offered to give me a lift into town.
And, here I had let myself get all worried about measly snakes. He offered the opinion that snakes couldn’t even get around in those rocks I’d been climbing. Said he hadn’t seen any in all the years he’d lived there. In his car, while he drove me to town, I offered a silent prayer of thanks for my survival and a sad goodbye to my Mustang.
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