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Monday, March 22, 2010

Dead Man’s Curve

(Dead Man’s Curve) is no place to play,

(Dead Man’s Curve) you’d best keep away.

(Dead Man’s Curve) I can hear ‘em say:

“Won’t come back from Dead Man’s Curve.”

Tualco Valley Jan and Dean, 1964


The swallows are back in the Valley to stay now. All morning I have watched  them glide and swoop, silhouetted against the piles of clouds on this twenty-second day of March. It will be two weeks tomorrow since my first sighting of the year. They are violet-greens, of course, and will share our Valley until the autumnal equinox at least.

If this post meanders, I apologize, but it seems to be a perfect candidate for digression. Yesterday we celebrated Kyle Roller’s thirteenth birthday. The Rollers were our neighbors a few years back. Kyle must have been four or five when parents Darren and Cory moved here and I have fond memories of that little guy. He would yell at me through the hedge. I couldn’t hear him because I habitually wear a headset, listening to the radio when I work about the place. One day Kyle said, “Terry! You could hear me better if you took your headset off!” In the days of my strawberry farmin,’ Kyle was my robin worrier, would stand for hours at the head of the rows scattering any redbreast that ventured into the patch. He was such a dedicated half-pint scarecrow, I would have to shoo him into the house at the end of the day. Kyle's 13thNow my little buddy is a teenager, and I pray he weathers his teenage years well.

Ah, teenagers…. The other day I was waiting in line at the grocery store. The woman behind me set her basket down on the conveyor and I couldn’t help but notice the plastic “No Trespassing” sign intermingled with her groceries. “Raccoons?” I asked. “No,” she replied,”Teenagers!” Apparently some neighborhood teens were wreaking havoc on and with her property.  She said she’d like to talk to their parents. I said I had taught school for thirty-one years and good luck with that—unless it was two weeks before graduation. I told her that they were still making teenagers; every year new ones joined the ranks. And now my little ex-neighbor was “ONE OF THEM.” I’ve always tried to validate the teenage years by observing: “If it weren’t for teenagers, what would we do with all the used cars?”

And I’m walking toward Swiss Hall when I hear the car, one of those little jobs so popular with TEENAGERS these days, a little street racer, low, red—at least where the primer didn’t show—passes me, negotiates the S turn corner, and farts its way south. No other verb quite suffices for the sounds these little racers emit from their oversized mufflers. I quickly realize this little roller skate is at best a racer “wannabe.” Something is loose in the transmission: one of the gears, I think, has come to pieces and is rattling around in the transmission casing. The squat “speedster” and its two riders head south toward the grange. My attention shifts to the tirewash at the corner and the possibility of coins. Then I hear the whine, as someone said, like a sewing machine stitching in overdrive. The car has turned around at Tualco Grange and is shifting its way toward the 90 degree turn in front of Swiss Hall. Immediately I decide to distance myself from the corner and despair of any coins that may have collected there.

Now this corner is a hard right angle. Even Gladys and I have to slow our torrid pace to negotiate the curve. But it is hardly a “Dead Man’s Curve” like the fatal corner referenced in the song lyrics of ‘60’s surfer boys Jan and Dean: in spite of the warning sign—“15 mph”--a negligent driver will not plunge off a cliff, disappear into an abyss, or explode in a metal crunching ball of fire. Instead, you’ll end up in the middle of a cornfield looking mighty foolish, stuck up to the fenders in Tualco Valley bottomland. At that corner Tony Broer’s raspberry rows were always shorter; Werkhovens’ corn butchered into a miniature corn maze; fenceposts and signs sheared off and splintered. Dead Man's CurveI hear the little red speedster rev up, its driver mixing gearshift and amygdala—the brain’s decision-maker-- and from the safety of Swiss Hall’s parking lot, I hear the little car rattle its way into the corner. It is brilliant daylight; the traffic sign signals “caution” but the little racer enters the corner at an excessive rate of speed, perhaps a speedy thirty-five mph. A spinout is imminent and sure enough, the little red car slides sideway, spins, corrects, and comes to a rest in the pasture just feet away from a post warning of underground cables.near miss The vehicle following has to slow to a stop and wait while the sheepish driver ahead grinds gears, backs onto the blacktop and continues farting along at a respectable—and legal—rate of speed. Even at that distance I can read the thoughts of the second vehicle’s driver: “Damn Teenagers!” Thoughts oftentimes pretty much my own.

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1 comment:

  1. Terry, I love your blog. You are such a wonderful writer and this is a wonderful site to browse through. Thanks for sharing.