TERROR ON THE TRACE

Natchez Trace Parkway

I can’t remember the exact year, but I know it was fairly soon after the opening of the Natchez Trace north of Jackson.  Prior to that time our family’s trips to Carthage to visit Dad’s family was always thru Canton, then over to Carthage.  The new Trace gave us a ‘short-cut.’

Let me give you a brief description of Mom and Dad.  They were childhood sweethearts, and totally devoted to one another.  As far as I’m concerned, they were both excellent parents, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  Mom could be a bit hard-headed, as demonstrated by the fact that years before I was born, and before she got her drivers license, she took the car to town after Dad told her not to.  During the ensuing ‘settlement’ over this disagreement, Mom declared that she’d NEVER drive again…. AND SHE DIDN’T!  

Dad held himself to high standards.  I never heard a ‘profane’ word cross his lips… ever!  He didn’t smoke, drink, tell or laugh at ‘dirty’ jokes… and… he never fished on Sunday… really!  Dad’s one spot on his record was that he had a heavy foot when driving.  Speeding tickets were not often, but mainly because most speed traps had been closed before Dad flew through.

The speed limit on the trace was 50 MPH, which to Dad, must have seemed like 15.  On this particular late Sunday afternoon, we were flying low toward home from Carthage on the fairly new Trace.  

Mom and Dad had a habit of referring to one another in loving terms like ‘Honey’ and ‘Sugar.’  But around friends or company, Mom used Dad’s name, Hendrix.  This day, Mom had long since ceased saying, “Honey, please slow down,” or “You know the speed limit’s only 55.”  Now, it was more… “Hendrix, WHEN they stop you, it’s gonna be a BIG ticket!”

I guess this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  In a very calm voice, Dad replied, “Eloise, if you say one more thing… I’m going to stop this car and put you out.”

The gauntlet had been tossed.  The irritable force was about the meet the immovable object.  The fan had been plugged in.

Mom was silent for a long while… perhaps considering her options?  But Mom was never famous for keeping her silence.  

Even as she was beginning to speak the words about slowing… Dad’s foot was off the accelerator and onto the brakes.  We slowed to, then below, 55 and continued to slow… until Dad pulled onto the shoulder and stopped.

By now, in the back seat, my sister Mary Lilly and I had reached the point where, like the Star Trek theme says, we were where we’d never gone before!  Our parents, although practicing utter calmness, appeared to be in the actual process of splitting apart!  Could this really be happing?  Was it only some big joke?  We didn’t think so.  And then, Dad said the unspeakable word… OUT!

Mom opened the door and got out.  

What happened next was something truly unbelievable to my young heart.  Dad actually drove away, leaving Mom beside the road!  Mary Lilly was wailing in utter grief, shock, and terror.  I don’t think I was even capable of thinking at the time… I was in shock.

Dad pulled onto the roadway and accelerated.  Ahead the road curved, and when we rounded that curve, Mom had disappeared behind the trees.  

And then Dad slowed. He slowed real slow and made a U-turn, and headed back and picked up Mom.

She didn’t say anything when she got back inside, and especially not anything about Dad’s driving.  But she didn’t need to… he drove much more slowly the remainder of the way to our happy home on Evergreen.

Something tells me that they had, shall we say, a sweet reunion that night.  Like I said before, Mom and Dad were in love, and totally devoted to one another!  They were inseparable… except for once when he put her out of the car on the Natchez Trace!  

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