By Joseph Hedge
C. Hedge: Last week, I handed my grandson one of those “Buy One Get One Free” coupon cards. I told him he could pick whatever he wanted. With great joy, He decided “Bowling!” His glee is hereditary, directly passed on from my mother, Mary. Nothing…well almost nothing could stop her from bowling in her youth. (Lately, she prefers golf.) Here’s a favorite family story of my father’s, Joseph Hedge, about a fateful event. It took place during our year in Lousiana in 1965 (The inspiration for my almost finished novel, Crossing Deep River.)
1965 by Joseph Hedge
We rented a fine home in Fort Jessup….The trip to town was about three miles over sometimes passable roads. It was, I guess, the nature of the highway department to keep you in the dark as to what part of the road would be torn up today, or even this evening.
It was highly possible that the side of the road you took coming home last night was the side you took back the next morning. They kept compacting the road, moving the dirt from side to side. BJ went to school one morning in the VW and when he came home on the same side he used going to school, he turned a corner and high sided the vehicle. Being a far-sighted group, the highway department had a grader on hand to pull vehicles off of the piles they created. No cost, just consideration.
The road continued on to Natchitoches where both Mary and I belonged to bowling teams. To say the least, I bowled and Mary BOWLED. One evening it was her night to bowl and we were sure that the road to our bowling alley would be fixed. So we started off right after I came from work. I was dressed in a nice suit, shirt, and tie, shined shoes, combed hair. It was 15 miles to the town, but the farther we traveled, the worse the road became, with no place to get off.
We were on a commit. I knew that we could work out of this murky mess.
We came to a dip in the road and we made it to the bottom of the dip. Mired in about a foot of mud, we were stopped. I put the car in reverse. It said no. I put the car in forward. It said no. I told Mary to get out and push. She said no.
Well, it was time for the hero of the family to get out and survey the situation. Before getting out, I removed my shoes and socks. Rolled up my pants to the knees, and stepped out. No–I didn’t remove my coat. I was still well dressed, from my knees to my hair.
Mary got behind the wheel, started rocking the car. It went nowhere. I stood outside the driver’s door, told her I would push on the door jamb and ,“Maybe we can get out of the goo. “
She raced the car, let out the clutch, I pushed, and the back wheel threw up blotches of mud to cover me in the glory of Louisiana. I now matched my muddy feet —from head to toe.
We determined that it was time for me to go to a farm house we saw about two blocks back on the road. I started plodding my way. We had made ruts in the road and I was having trouble walking in them. I made it to the farm house—nice cozy place, white picket fence, lights shining from the front room, people relaxing watching television, maybe even eating ice cream.
I opened the gate, and I guess this was key to a big German Shepherd coming to meet me. I wasn’t sure if he was coming to meet me or eat me. No, none of this!! He was so happy to see me! He jumped and put his paws on my chest. I think he smiled.—I’m not sure.
The farmer came out and asked if I was having a problem. Of course, I felt there was no need for an explanation. I looked like a very well dressed fool. He looked and saw our problem and went to his barn. He came out with a farm tractor and attached a chain to my rear bumper. Mary was still in the car, ready to do whatever was necessary when and if the car was going to be moved.
I didn’t want the farmer to have to do all of the work, so I placed myself conveniently in the front of our car to help push.
The farmer took the slack out of his chain and hollered to Mary, “You ready?”
Was I ready? Yes!! But he didn’t need to know that. He started pulling and I helping, started pushing and pushing. And pushing. The car began to move. It did. I didn’t.
The car left me and I did a belly flop in the mud. I was beyond comment, thanked the farmer, paid him ten dollars, and he pointed our way out to another road.
At this point I am driving. We hit the chosen road, and Mary said, “If we continue on we could make it for the second game.”
(Of course, Dad just turned toward home, Mom, then eventually both of them, giggling the rest of the way. I’ll never forget them driving up and hearing Mom calling us to all come outside. There was Daddy, looking like the creature from the Mud Lagoon. Thank goodness, he was laughing and soon enjoyed a warm bath.
Mom and Dad’s backyard is still decorated with bowling trophies.)