Search This Site
News :: Lessons and a question from the back of a tow truck
· 9:15pm June 16th, 2014
I compiled a unique map today.
It shows our rural gravel road -- 24th Avenue Drive -- between Highway 150 (the area long-time residents know as Hummel's Curve) and our house.
On that map there are seven black numbers. Each one represents a place within that 3.5-mile stretch of gravel where one of my kids wrecked -- or nearly wrecked -- a car.
About once a year, since 2007 or so, it seems, we get a phone call that starts with "Mom..." and includes the words "the car just..."
Two of our children had winter-related driving control issues and managed to not do any damage to a car.
Two of them hit deer -- while traveling faster on the gravel than Dad said to drive. While those cars were basically ruined, we managed to drive them home.
The other three incidents required the calling of a tow truck.
One day I drove to work and was surprised to find one of my teen drivers -- who had left an hour earlier -- walking back home.
"Where on Earth is your car?" I asked.
"In the creek," was the reply.
Today's detour from the roadway was particularly spectacular. And the phone call didn't come from a kid, but from the Sheriff.
"Your daughter had an accident," said Randy Forsyth, while I was waiting to meet her at the house where she was hurrying to babysit. A combination of mechanical trouble involving our other cars and our middle-of-nowhere- cell phone service meant she missed a message yesterday telling her where and when to babysit, and was running late, already.
Sheriff Forsyth assured me that Lydia seemed ok; later the ambulance crew called to say they'd be taking her to St. Luke's.
When the Sheriff called again to ask about which tow truck to call, I was waiting at the hospital, with time to ask what happened.
She had left the gravel road, and while rolling the car in the ditch, hit an electrical pole-head on.
I arrived to find a large v-shaped dent in the front of our old Oldsmobile, which -- despite being upside-down and smashed -- was still running, with country music blaring from the radio.
At this point, we need to travel back to 1992. Some of you may remember a car-bicycle accident near Cedar Rapids that killed two cyclists. One of them was my wife's uncle, Les Coleman.
I had just started my first part-time newspaper job a few weeks before, and being on the "family" side of a story that was on the news every hour gave me a perspective that I try to keep in mind whenever writing about something bad (fires, accidents, etc.) that happens to someone.
I thought the media dealt with the story decently, and I made a mental note to consider that the people most painfully affected by the story would also be reading it.
While I prefer public celebrations and fireworks, I have done too many accident and fire photos.
The difference today was that before I could do my job as a journalist, I had to do the stuff that countless dads do when their children have an accident.
I called the insurance people, visited the accident scene, discussed the particulars with the State Trooper who was investigating the crash and then went to the hospital. After getting the daughter home and trying to rest, I could return to my job.
If this were any other incident, my report would say: One person escaped serious injury in a one-vehicle accident shortly after noon on Monday. The investigation is continuing with charges pending."
And all that is true.
But as the dad of a kid in a scary wreck and as a guy who has taken far too many of these photos (I could probably name almost every accident site I have been at, but please do not ask), I can also tell you that I have seen first-hand the professionalism and courtesy of law enforcement, First Responders, ambulance personnel and firefighters who respond to accidents and fires.
In addition to doing what they can as quickly and best as they can to help treat the immediate medical concerns, they also do a great job of trying to ease the un-ease of those who are also affected. Everyone who called me was extremely calm and polite; and made sure to let me know Lydia was ok. Even the State Patrol officer who told me my daughter would be issued a ticket for failure to maintain control told me he would call me again before talking to her.
And to do all of that, every day, in a variety of situations, takes a very special kind of person.
And we're blessed to have many of them serving us.
And yet, as we thank God for another accident with no serious injuries, there's a question I have asked several people, and nobody has been able to answer it.
Since my kids are old enough to understand the concept of driving, I have let them sit on my lap and drive the car along our farm lanes. When they are 10 or 12 I sit in the passenger seat and let them drive the car up and down our lanes themselves. When they finally turn 14, I am the parent who rides with them, giving them the constant reminders to slow down -- especially on the gravel, keep the right tires off the edge of the highway, and put on the brakes before reaching the corner.
And after all that, after every time we get another one of those "Mom... car" phone calls, I have to ask: How is it possible that children who only get driving education from their father insist on driving like their mother?
Apparently that's the kind of question no guy can answer...surely it's not bad teaching, right?
Food Preservation Workshop set for July 7, 2014
Midwest Starz: Cooling Dancers win national championships