By John ‘Butch’ Dale
When you first received your driver’s license, did you do anything really stupid? Come on … admit it … you know you did. Like most of the boys in my class, I didn’t have a car of my own, so on dates I drove the family car.
Unfortunately it was a red and white 1963 Chevy station wagon, and it didn’t even have a radio. The girls will really go for that … NOT!
The car was heavy, but it did have a 327-cubic-inch V-8 in it, so it had some “get-up-and-go.”
I decided to see what the old gal would do one afternoon when returning home from baseball practice and I actually got it up to 90 mph before coming to my senses. Yes, yes, I know. It was crazy and stupid and against the law. But how many of you have done the same thing? I never drove that fast again, except for one other time, and here’s the story …
One evening, I headed up north to Clarks Hill country to meet some cute girl (who would later become my wife) to take her out on a date. I told my folks I would be home no later than 1 a.m. After going to a movie and eating out, we ended up back at her house, watching TV and then listening to 78 rpm records, specifically the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and then the Mamas and Papas.
Do you remember the song “California Dreamin’ “? Well, that’s how it ended up. We fell asleep on her parents’ couch … dreamin’ and I woke up at 3 a.m. Not good!
Time to head the red and white family truckster on its way beck south to Darlington. When I turned of CR 1000N onto CR 700E (The Darlington-Stockwell blacktop), I put my foot to the pedal and gave her all she could take. Going through the iron bridge at 80 mpg near Reid Paddack’s house was quite a thrill, and I stayed on it, reaching 100 mph, before I backed off to 90 mph just before the top of the steep hill at CR 750N. As I topped the hill, the red and white station wagon, which then must have assumed it was a dragster, went airborne. Yep, all four wheels left the ground. The top of my head hit the headliner.
Ol’ Betsy went off the road and into the ditch, traveling several yards on its two right side wheels. I don’t understand to this day what kept that old car from rolling over and wrecking. When I came to a stop, I was in a cold sweat. My heart was pounding. I glanced at myself in the mirror. My face was as white as a ghost. I just sat there and realized how stupid and how lucky I had been.
I drove slowly the rest of the way home, and when I entered our lane, I turned off the headlights and then halfway up turned off the ignition and coasted up to the house. I sure didn’t want my folks to wake up, so I climbed up on the roof, and craweled in through my upstairs bedroom widow. My younger brother never heard a peep. I had made it back safe and sound. No one will ever know …
… until 7:30 a.m. … my Dad shaking me, “Get your clothe on and get down here … NOW!” Still half asleep, I stumbled outside, where he had the hood of the car up and was staring at the engine compartment.
“How did that battery get down there?” he inquired with a discerning look on his not-too-happy-face. The battery had come dislodged from its stand and was wedged in between the engine and the fender well.
I was speechless, but uttered out, “Gosh, Dad, I have no idea. Maye I hit a chuckhole or something.” Dad replied, “Well, it must have been one hell of a chuckhole. Get a wrench and put it back where it belongs.” Thank God, no more questions. I felt guilty for not telling the truth.
You know, teenagers do some really idiotic things. That was just one of the stupid things I did. I could list may more.
When my four kids were teenager, they had a few brainless adventures too. When I had to discipline them, I always tried to remember my teenage years. And when I was a deputy sheriff and then county sheriff, I tried to give kids a break when possible, unless the situation was very serious and warranted the proper action. Sometimes we all have to learn the hard way.
On that summer night, after I went airborne over that hill, I learned my lesson. To tell the truth, and never drive 90 mph over a steep hill in a red and white station wagon. And that car didn’t even have a radio!