Over a stretch of a rutted back country road, driving over watery ice, the car, moving under 30 mph, catapults forward on its own accord.
It hits a snow burn, flips over, trapping us upside down in five foot of snow. We’re twenty miles from home and twenty miles from Colville. It’s around eleven in the morning. We’ve seen a car in the ditch, so we’re slowing way down to see if someone might need help.
We’re on our way to Ellensburg where Bud is to be a featured speaker. Suddenly the car explodes as if shot from a cannon, speeding off the road into the trees. Inside the car, the greenish-gray air is deathly still.
In a calm voice, my husband asks, “Are you hurt? Can you release your seat belt? Can you open the door?” I’m fine. He appears so, too.
I stretch to retrieve my bent eyeglasses and notice puddles of snow at my feet. No windows appear broken. How did all this snow get in? I am fascinated with sight of a passenger airbag. It’s about two inches thick. A large metal book rack has flown from the backseat and lays between us. My husband is stuffed behind the steering trying to get to his cell phone. No service.
“I’m thinking,” he says. It’s unusually quiet. Suddenly, there comes a hard sound, like someone hitting the top the car. “Is anyone in there?” Bud asks, “Who are you?” “UPS,” says the driver, who shovels tiny paths to the car and doors can open. We clamber out. “Can’t give you a ride; against the rules,” he says and rushes off.
We stand at the highway. Bud takes a photo of the car. Jan Fisher drives by, stops to ask, “What can I do to help?” We answer, “Call a tow truck, please.” We know on this very icy day that even the most experienced of drivers are encountering similar conditions, that we must somehow get to Ellensburg and that so many may need a tow that we’ll be waiting here for hours.
After her, Bud’s fire chief, Mark Smith, and his wife, Siena, stop. “We’ve been slipping and sliding, too, on our way to the airport to pick up kids, but let’s see if the neighbors are home.” They take us across the road to Jan and Gordie who welcome us to their ranch, fix coffee and let us use the phone.
Capt. Andy Harbolt is now at their door. “As soon as I check the condition of the four other drivers up the road, I’ll be back to ask dispatch to check the status on that tow truck.”
Barry St. John, a fellow fire fighter from District Ten, arrives. “I’m here to help any way I can. I’ll stay with you, do whatever is needed.”
By five o’clock we’re on the way to Ellensburg in a rental car, all made possible by Barry and so many other fine neighbors. It’s the way of the West, where neighbors pitch in to help.
In all the years we’ve driven this road to town, we’ve been cautious to watch for deer or other animals, but, after this event, we’ll be especially alert in the winter for the places in the road which get little sun. It’s a small price to pay to live in the mountains. As the saying goes, when you’re lucky to live in the mountains, you’re lucky enough.