Friday, June 20, 2014

High-speed chase along a familiar highway

This story in today's N&O caught my eye because the crazy driver led authorities in a chase through Union and Anson counties along U.S. 74. She drove at speeds of around 90 mph straight past the house where I grew up. The article even gets the town of Peachland (our address) in the news — a rare occurrence. 

That highway, which we always called "Highway 74" not "U.S. 74," is a four-lane now, but it was just two lanes until after I left for college. The traffic is much heavier and moves much faster than it did 50 or 60 years ago. When my parents bought the house and 26 acres of land in 1940, the highway followed the lay of the land, a gently rolling landscape. Sometime later, before my memory, the road was improved, and the roadway was excavated through a small hill on which the house sat. Instead of being on a plane with the roadway, the house now sat about 10 or 15 feet above the roadway, and the road cut tended to erode into gulleys leading down to the ditches along the highway. Our driveway made another cut into the bank for the gravel drive. When the highway was four-laned, the house had to be moved back about 100 feet, and the old barn was razed.

As children, my sisters and I would stand by the road at the edge of the bank and wait for cars to go by. In those days, there might be gaps between the cars of up to a minute or more. Our game was to take turns waving at the cars. The drivers we had to wave at constituted the scoring of the game. A shiny Cadillac was a positive score. A loud, rusty pickup was a negative. Likewise, the occupants of the vehicles — nice families were a plus; unsavory characters were a minus.

The game was as lacking in sophistication as was our entire existence.

If there were 90-mph chases along that road so long ago, I never heard of them. I do recall playing outside one afternoon with my BB gun when two men went running across the yard from the direction of the highway. I stood dumbfounded at the chase. The man in the lead was clearly faster and disappeared into the woods beyond the field. The other man, gasping for breath, gave up the chase and walked back toward the road. We learned later that the faster runner had been stopped by law enforcement (the second man) and was found to have a trunk full of moonshine in mason jars in the trunk of his car. The driver took off running as soon as the officer saw what was in the trunk. I don't know if he was ever caught.

An aside: This post is the 900th Erstwhile Editor blog post I've done since October 2008. I'm still writing, regardless of whether anyone is reading.

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