Traveling Light

Posted by: Duane Hiatt in Commentaries Add comments

“Faster Ferron, faster,” my mother encouraged.

Dad tightened his jaw muscle and bore down a little on the accelerator pedal.

My brother on the front fender gripped the small sailing ship medallion on the hood that signified we were driving a Plymouth. The breeze began to blow his hair as we moved a bit faster into the darkness; black night penetrated feebly by the wavering beam of a flashlight, and the receding headlights of the car in front of us.

I hunkered down in the back seat, glad I was only the kid brother and hoping mom wouldn’t think of something adventurous for me in this project.

One of the unsung miracles of this world is how a man and a woman of different backgrounds, tastes, opinions, and perspectives can bond together in love so strong that their differences unite instead of divide them

My mother enjoyed traveling. My father broke out in a cold sweat when we passed the city limits.

My mother liked to see what was over the next hill. My father was convinced our car would collapse before we got to the top of the present hill. He had case histories to substantiate his forebodings.

But this time would be different Mom assured us all. We would go see the famous natural wonders of Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and even Grand Canyon. The biggest wonder of it all for us children was that Dad agreed to take us.

Part of his boldness came from our fairly new sedan. It just might make the trip without breaking down.

We got a late start, but at least we started. We sang songs, watched for out of state license plates, and memorized the immortal poetry on the little red Burma Shave signs along the highway. Each sign carried a line of the poem. We even read them backwards from the opposite side of the road. We would assign each person to look back and catch the line on the receding sign. Then we would. recombine them to put the poem together. Great American literature such as,

“Don’t stick your elbow (next sign)

Out too far (next sign)

It might go off (next sign)

With another car (last sign) Burma Shave.”

The car purred all afternoon and into the night. Darkness closed in on us in the southern Utah sagebrush prairie. Suddenly the road went black. Dad jammed on the brakes, felt his way over to the shoulder of the road, and fulfilled his duty as a prophet. “I knew it,” he pronounced.

Mom characteristically saw this as at worst a problem to be solved, and maybe an adventure to be had. “Gordon, take this flashlight and sit on the front fender and shine it on the road so your dad can drive.” Apparently it never occurred to her that with no tail lights some speeding semi might not see us in the darkness and launch us to an aerial view of The Grand Canyon.

Gordon was more obedient than enthusiastic. We started slowly. Mom said, “You can go a little faster Ferron.” Dad eased the accelerator down. The speedometer needle lifted slowly off the bottom and crept upward. Gordon gripped the flashlight with one hand, and the sailing ship with his other tight fist.

Car headlights appeared far back on the straight road behind us.

“Whiplash coming up,” Dad said.

“He’ll help us,” Mom said. She rolled down the window and shouted, “Gordon, shine the flashlight back so he can see us.”

Gordon did.

“I can’t see the road,” Dad hollered.

The flashlight beam vacillated between the road in front and the car behind.

As the car approached he slowed down, either to help or suspicious of a dark car sneaking down the road by flashlight.

He passed us and began slowly pulling away.

“Ferron he’s going slowly so we can see by his headlights. Stay with him,” Mom exclaimed.

“I don’t think so,” Dad said, but he increased his speed anyway.

The car in front did the same.

Dad did the same.

“Go faster Ferron. He just wants to help us get to a town sooner,” Mom shouted.

“He thinks we’re a bunch of smugglers or worse,” Dad answered.

Despite Mom’s cheerleading the gap was widening. He sped up, and we stuck on his tail. Fear overcame his Good Sameritanism. He slammed the accelerator to the floor. A black space appeared between us..

“I can’t see,” Dad shouted and instinctively jammed on the brakes. In the darkness we watched a flashlight beam turning summersaults across the sagebrush plain.

Gordon staggered back dizzy but unscathed.

Mom said, “Quite an adventure.”

Dad said ,“Just what I expected.”

“Faster Ferron, faster,” my mother encouraged.

Dad tightened his jaw muscle and bore down a little on the accelerator pedal.

My brother on the front fender gripped the small sailing ship medallion on the hood that signified we were driving a Plymouth. The breeze began to blow his hair as we moved a bit faster into the darkness; black night penetrated feebly by the wavering beam of a flashlight, and the receding headlights of the car in front of us.

I hunkered down in the back seat, glad I was only the kid brother and hoping mom wouldn’t think of something adventurous for me in this project.

One of the unsung miracles of this world is how a man and a woman of different backgrounds, tastes, opinions, and perspectives can bond together in love so strong that their differences unite instead of divide them

My mother enjoyed traveling. My father broke out in a cold sweat when we passed the city limits.

My mother liked to see what was over the next hill. My father was convinced our car would collapse before we got to the top of the present hill. He had case histories to substantiate his forebodings.

But this time would be different Mom assured us all. We would go see the famous natural wonders of Southern Utah, Bryce Canyon, Zion, and even Grand Canyon. The biggest wonder of it all for us children was that Dad agreed to take us.

Part of his boldness came from our fairly new sedan. It just might make the trip without breaking down.

We got a late start, but at least we started. We sang songs, watched for out of state license plates, and memorized the immortal poetry on the little red Burma Shave signs along the highway. Each sign carried a line of the poem. We even read them backwards from the opposite side of the road. We would assign each person to look back and catch the line on the receding sign. Then we would. recombine them to put the poem together. Great American literature such as,

“Don’t stick your elbow (next sign)

Out too far (next sign)

It might go off (next sign)

With another car (last sign) Burma Shave.”

The car purred all afternoon and into the night. Darkness closed in on us in the southern Utah sagebrush prairie. Suddenly the road went black. Dad jammed on the brakes, felt his way over to the shoulder of the road, and fulfilled his duty as a prophet. “I knew it,” he pronounced.

Mom characteristically saw this as at worst a problem to be solved, and maybe an adventure to be had. “Gordon, take this flashlight and sit on the front fender and shine it on the road so your dad can drive.” Apparently it never occurred to her that with no tail lights some speeding semi might not see us in the darkness and launch us to an aerial view of The Grand Canyon.

Gordon was more obedient than enthusiastic. We started slowly. Mom said, “You can go a little faster Ferron.” Dad eased the accelerator down. The speedometer needle lifted slowly off the bottom and crept upward. Gordon gripped the flashlight with one hand, and the sailing ship with his other tight fist.

Car headlights appeared far back on the straight road behind us.

“Whiplash coming up,” Dad said.

“He’ll help us,” Mom said. She rolled down the window and shouted, “Gordon, shine the flashlight back so he can see us.”

Gordon did.

“I can’t see the road,” Dad hollered.

The flashlight beam vacillated between the road in front and the car behind.

As the car approached he slowed down, either to help or suspicious of a dark car sneaking down the road by flashlight.

He passed us and began slowly pulling away.

“Ferron he’s going slowly so we can see by his headlights. Stay with him,” Mom exclaimed.

“I don’t think so,” Dad said, but he increased his speed anyway.

The car in front did the same.

Dad did the same.

“Go faster Ferron. He just wants to help us get to a town sooner,” Mom shouted.

“He thinks we’re a bunch of smugglers or worse,” Dad answered.

Despite Mom’s cheerleading the gap was widening. He sped up, and we stuck on his tail. Fear overcame his Good Sameritanism. He slammed the accelerator to the floor. A black space appeared between us..

“I can’t see,” Dad shouted and instinctively jammed on the brakes. In the darkness we watched a flashlight beam turning summersaults across the sagebrush plain.

Gordon staggered back dizzy but unscathed.

Mom said, “Quite an adventure.”

Dad said ,“Just what I expected.”

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