Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Patrick Flynn and Ronald Tipton, 2016.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, May 31, 2010

Saving Lives -- Maybe


In the post on 100 Thing I've Done, etc., I answered number 89 this way:

Saved someone’s life – oddly enough, yes, and it was on vacation in Kentucky in the
 1970s.

Actually it was in Tennessee in 1975, although the vacation included Kentucky.  We stayed overnight in a motel in Lynchburg, where we had taken a tour of the Jack Daniels' Distillery, which I believe is the picture on the left.  (One must learn to label photos as they are taken.) But this is only one time when I might have helped save a life. Let me tell of some in order of occurrence.

The first was a case of almost taking some lives more than saving them. The saving part became a necessity. When I was a teenager, my parents and my friend up the highway's parent along with some others, would go out every Saturday night. They usually met at my friends, then carpooled it to the tavern where they went. This left several unattended and unlocked cars at my friends. My friend and I would "steal" one of these cars and go joyriding, always returning well before our folks might return. (Innocent times, keys were usually in the ignitions.) 

On one such occasion we took my parent's car, a 1953 Studebaker. We drove about, had some
 eats, talked to some girls and then went zipping down one of the back country roads. I was driving. My friend rode shotgun. His brother and another friend were in the back seat. All was fine until I started down a hill and speed picked up. I hit the brake and the pedal went to the floorboard with no resistance. I yanked the emergency brake which had no effect whatsoever.

By this time the speedometer was well above the legal limit and it was not encouraging what lay ahead. This was a long hill and it would soon reach a series of sharp S-curves. Beyond each curve of road was a drop off.

I steered like a madman, or more appropriately, like a scared-out-of-his-wits man. Fortunately, Studebakers were somewhat ahead of their time in design and had a very low center of gravity. This probably kept us on the road around those turns and eventually we drifted to a stop at the bottom of the long hill.

I could not drive it home. My friend took over, and in first gear got us back to his place and into the spot we had taken it from.

But my evening wasn't over. My father would be driving my mother and me from my friend's to our home.  You must understand the new situation. The picture on the right shows my old friend's drive as it looks today. His home is on the right below where the photo was snapped. It was a gravel driveway back then. You can't tell here, but just below where those trashcans sit, the lane took a steep downward dip out to the highway where it dead ended. For us to leave we had to go down that steep dip and make a right turn at the highway. And I could not tell my parents the car had no brakes, for how would I know that?

My dad started out and I slid low in the backseat. We came to the dip and the car took off and then my dad learned the secret and my mother was screaming and we came to the highway and he made the turn and no one came around the bend and smashed us.  I never told my parents I knew about the brakes until their fiftieth wedding anniversary.

At any rate, my driving had saved four foolish teens and my father's driving had saved my family.

My other cases are more to my credit.

Two occurred in 1968. In early 1968, my wife and I had some difficulties in our marriage (and no it wasn't the Seven-Year Itch although it was out seventh year) and we separated for a few months. I went on a ski trip to Big Vanilla Resort up in the Adirondacks of New York. I was miserable. I don't ski and I missed my wife.

When we left on a Sunday evening it was into a blizzard. What should have been a couple or so hours trip, getting us into Philadelphia by 8:00 PM turned into a nightmare of whiteouts, winds, backed-up traffic and a growing tension in the bus. Somewhere after midnight, this tension was verging on panic in the people around me. For some reason, I took charge, somewhat out of character being generally shy around strangers. I told jokes, spoke positively, held people if necessary and it seemed to calm down any dread. By the wee hours some people were even going to sleep. We made it safely to Philadelphia at 6:30 Monday morning. I just got my suitcase and trudged from the bus stop to my place of employment, shaving and changing in the washroom.  I can't say this was truly a life-saving effort, but it may have saved some people from serious anxiety.

Later that same year, Robert F. Kennedy came to Philadelphia on his Presidential campaign. he was going to appear at 15th and Chestnut Street at the lunch hour. I wandered over to the site. The sidewalks were already covered with a blanket of humanity when I arrived. I got as close as I could, which was about halfway back along a building on 15th Street. Despite the crowd, I was tall enough to see the spot where Kennedy was suppose to appear fairly well.

But RFK was an hour late in arriving. The crowd kept swelling and growing restless, pressing out into the streets. Several Philadelphia Cops were present to keep crowd control and they were none too gentle about it, shoving people back onto the sidewalk and shouting some rather impolite words as they did so.  In front of me was a young woman. She wasn't very big and she was trapped in a pocket of much larger bodies. She herself was up against the stone building and the crowd was pressing ever more in around her, pushing her against that unyielding wall. She was in real danger of either being crushed against the wall or knocked down and trampled. I stepped between her and the mob at this point, pushing back as well as I could to provide her breathing room. Fortunately, Bobby Kennedy finally arrived and with his appearance, the crowd surged forward into the streets, cops or no cops, and the lady was freed from the danger.  In fact, so was I.

Now we come to 1975. My wife and I had visited the distillery in the afternoon. That evening we decided to take a walk after dinner just to get out of the motel room.  We walked up along the highway in the direction of the distillery. Perhap a mile along, we saw a lady walking in the opposite direction on the sidewalk across the street. Suddenly she collapsed and dropped into the gutter.  Traffic was reasonably heavy, but no one was stopping to investigate. She lay partially in the roadway.

My wife and I crossed the road, ducking cars, and as gently as possible pulled the lady over to a lawn.  She was unconscious, but breathing. She didn't need CPR, which was good because I was several years away from getting a certificate in CPR.  I tried waving down the traffic, and one man did stop, but he was no help. He just kind of shrugged and asked obvious questions. I left my wife with the lady and went up to some houses along the street, knocking until someone at one finally answered and I asked them to call the police.

Apparently they did, for soon after a patrol car pulled up and two cops got out. I explained what had happened and about that time an ambulance came. While the medics and police tended to the lady, my wife and I quietly slipped away into the evening. I don't know what happened to the lady after that or what had caused her collapse.  I know it wasn't alcohol and I don't suspect drugs. I am sure it was natural.

While I'm at it, I probably should clear up Question 61 since it sounds more provocative than it was.

Had a gun fired at me – had one pointed at me, but fortunately she didn’t pull the trigger

No, not some jealous lover or woman scorned. When I was 15 living again in the country, most us guys had guns. I had a 16 shot bolt-action .22 at the time. My friend had a single shot .22, meaning he had to load a shell every time he shot one. My friend was my age, but he had a younger brother and even younger sister. She was 8 at the time. The four of us were out with our rifles, shooting at cans and such. The younger sister wanted to try and the younger brother, who had my friends rifle handed it to her. It was loaded. She began just turning back and forth asking questions on how to fire the thing, aiming it at each of us as she babbled on, her finger on the trigger. As i said, fortunately she didn't squeeze.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to slip on my cape and go rescue someone.

No comments: