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Published on August 6, 2019

You can’t go home again, or can you?

There is a downhill side to visiting family on vacation

By Edward A. Forbes / The Bulletin

It was that time of year again. Summer had arrived, and my two children (Chanie and Riley) and myself were going to go on a vacation. We happily over packed and loaded the Nissan Quest in preparation for our journey.

First stop was as usual the Texas Louisiana border. Here there is a boardwalk over the swamp. There are always critters to see (turtles, snakes, gators etc.). It’s always a fun excursion! Load up, and our next stop will be Meridian, Mississippi to visit with old friends Aunt Pat and Grady Downey. A small town of 40,000+ is big compared to Angleton’s 20,000, and we were there to visit and look around.

Aunt Pat is like many other southern aunts related not by blood but by longevity of friendship. When they lived in Angleton, her youngest daughter, Audrey, had served as a babysitter for my children. We arrived shortly after Audrey came home from work. She worked at Chick-Fil-A in the local mall. My children were suitably impressed by Audrey’s place of employment, and her stature grew a great deal in their estimation. The adults continued our conversations as the young ones were sent to bed.

The next morning, donuts, still warm from the ovens, appeared. I don’t remember if they were the Krispy Crème donuts, but they had just started marketing in the area. The adults all had the donuts with coffee and the kids with milk or whatever beverage they chose. Soon Audrey announced she had to go to work. She went out, and soon the kids told me I needed to move the minivan so Audrey could leave.

And now some explanation is in order. The home Aunt Pat and Grady rented when they came to Meridian was on the top of a small hill. The driveway was very, very steep - I would say a 30-degree climb. I hurried out and started our vehicle and moved over so Audrey could leave.

“Not enough,” she signaled me, so I moved over some more.

“Still not enough,” she hollered, so I moved over some more and wound up on the grass. Audrey left, and I started trying to get back onto the drive. It had cooled enough that morning that the grass was wet from the dew.

The front-wheel-drive van great on the road was not so great pointed up that steep incline. I found that for every inch forward I slipped off to the left until it was up against a cable supporting the power pole that supplied power for half the free world in Mississippi.

We had no choice but to call a wrecker to pull my van onto the paved driveway. Soon a flatbed tow truck arrived, and the driver was accompanied by his girlfriend.

“No problem,” he assured me. He unwound cable to hook to the van and then started the wench pulling it in. He asked that I stay in the van in case he needed me to steer it over to the flatbed tow truck. It was successful, but he needed to pull me onto the bed of the truck in order to have room to back down the drive. When we were on the truck, I started to exit the van, and he said, “Just stay in the van, and you can just drive back up when we leave you at bottom.”

It sounded good so I sat in the van to observe. No one, especially me, considered that the drive was very steep, and with the extra weight of the van, the brakes on the tow truck were inadequate to stop or slow our very rapid descent down the drive into a very busy street.

We made it, but my hands were frozen onto the steering wheel of the van. It took a while for my heart rate to slow and my hands to unclench before I could drive back up the hill. It took even longer before my power of speech returned. Fortunately, I didn’t need to change clothes. The driver knocked off $15 from the fee for scaring the crud out of me, and then they were on their way.

We spent another day and night with the Downeys before continuing our trip to Tennessee to visit my sister and brother-in-law. I was glad when the Downey clan purchased a home that didn’t involve any hill climbing.

(Send comments by email to editor John Toth at john.bulletin@gmail.com. Or send regular mail to The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX 77516)