Going Down Hill

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Trust and understanding is at the heart of every successful marriage. Crystal and mine is no exception. In Crystal’s case, she trusts that I won’t usually do anything too stupid, but knows that I am a lot more, shall we say, adventurous than she is. She knew what she was getting. Whether rock climbing or skiing or hiking past the danger signs, I have always been a little willing to take calculated and sometimes not so calculated risks. The other day was no exception.

I had just finished my traditional post golf beer, at Hilltop Golf Course, when another member entered the clubhouse with the news. A tree had fallen, taking down power lines, and blocking the only road up the hill to the course. A storm was on the way and only a few golfers remained. There was no telling how long it would take for the power company to clear the road. A plan was devised. Anyone who was willing to take a chance could try to follow a couple of four wheel drive trucks across the golf course across an overgrown field to the small airstrip at the other end of the hill. From there, there was a paved road down to civilization.

This was one of those do and/or die decisions with an expiration time. With the storm on the horizon it was now or never. Once the heavy rain started, even the four wheel drives wouldn’t have been able to handle the mud. If I were smart, I might have left my car and gone down in one of the four wheel drive vehicles. However, the next day we were supposed to go to Crystal’s dad’s for a visit. Someone had to look in on him for a few days while Crystal’s brother and his wife were out of town.

The decision was made; and we started across the course. Hilltop is a beautiful course. Normally, I look around and admire it as I go. During this trip, however, I was just focused on following the two trucks and the van in front and on keeping at least two wheels on the cart path. One more truck was behind me; yet another reason not to get stuck. When we reached the end of the course, there was nothing but tall weeds and bushes. I took a deep breath when the first truck went up the small hill through the weeds. I waited for the van to clear the hill before I started. Years of driving experience had taught me that you want sufficient and consistent speed to maneuver obstacles. As I reached the top of the hill I was relieved to see a somewhat scruffy dirt access road on the other side. I continued to follow the van at a distance. My biggest area of focus was keeping my wheels from dropping into one of the many dips and holes in the road. One final little hill and there it was, the airstrip. By this time it had started to rain. Fortunately, the traction was still good. However, just ahead there was a three way fork in the road. The first appeared to go back toward the golf course. The second led right up to the runway only about a hundred yards ahead. The third was headed in the right direction, but you couldn’t see what was ahead. The first truck stopped. We waited for what seemed like ten minutes. I was at the top of the hill, and couldn’t tell if they were talking, or just flipping a coin. In my head I was thinking, go for the runway. I knew my little Honda could make that trip. Finally, we started up again. They went toward the unknown. I meekly followed. For a while the trail was fine. Then I stopped for a moment as I watched the three vehicles ahead disappear down a rather step downgrade into a hole in a dark forested area. If this wasn’t the right path there would be no way to back out. It was then I started to pray. Usually that was Crystal’s job when I was doing something questionable. Then I followed, slowly and carefully trying to stay on the road as bushes brushed both sides of my car simultaneously. I had lost sight of the other vehicles, and for a hundred yards or so felt very much alone.  I was half expecting to see stalled taillights at any moment. Just as my car bottomed out, I saw the darkness break. As my Honda broke into the light, I was overjoyed to see an actual paved road and three vehicles ahead of me. Soon we were out and back to civilization. I knew my car had to be covered with dirt and mud, but I didn’t stop to look. As I started up state route 36, toward Warsaw and home, the light rain turned into an all out downpour. I had to drive at about twenty miles an hour to see anything. Ten minutes earlier and I would have been stuck. That one, I owe to God. Not only did I make it home with my car intact, but it was clean, and ready for the trip.

When I look back upon the experience, I can’t help but notice how similar it was to writing “One Hundred and Fifty Years of Marriage”. It too was quite a journey.  From the interviews, to the writing, to the four or five edits of the manuscript, we learned a lot about our parents that we never knew. It was kind of like going up and down the hills I knew so well, but from a new perspective. Then we saw what was beyond those hills, new stories and different points of view. Finally, to shift gears to where we are now, staring into and entering the dark forest , not knowing if or where we will come out. We are now in the middle of our search for agents, publishers, and presses. We are on a new and very unfamiliar path. However, we take solace in the fact that there is a path, and we know the destination is close. You faithful readers will be among the first to experience with us, when we finally break from the darkness into the light. Like my little adventure, and life itself for that matter, sometimes you just have to take things one step at a time and enjoy the ride.


A less rainy day at Hilltop Golf Course

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