The interstate highway did not yet span the entire breadth of the vast land of Montana so I found myself driving along a narrow, two-way highway across much of the State. There was more traffic in the summer months, of course. With no daytime speed limit, folks moved right along but were, usually, courteous drivers. Straight ahead of me crawled a huge semi-truck with a load on its trailer. I could see the cars moving slowly around it, one-by-one.
When, at last, I was next in line, the truck driver did not wave me passed. Because the driver sat high above the road, we always waited for him to signal us that it was safe to pull out and around him. It was not possible to see the oncoming lane when one was behind the high box of the trailer. The long line of cars behind me stretched forever in my rearview mirror. I heard their honking horns and sensed their frustration with the wait so tried to inch out just a bit. No signal from the driver; should I go anyway? Never, according to my father, whose words echoed in my mind. Be patient, I told myself and only hoped the other drivers heard a similar cautious voice. I slipped back a little to the right and, sure enough, a short line of speeding vehicles whooshed by me. I hadn’t seen them, but the truckdriver had. Dad was right… wait for his signal.
Several more times I inched out and back. There it was, finally, the rapidly arcing arm of the driver, waving me around him. I pulled out into the oncoming lane and, with both hands tightly gripping the steering wheel, shoved my foot down on the accelerator pedal. Meanwhile, the long line of cars advanced to fill in the gap I had just left.
Benny Bel-Aire moved only as far as to place me parallel to the truck driver’s open window. He kept glancing over at me and back at the road. I was doing the same and growing desperate. The more I pushed down on the pedal, the more I realized the needle on the speedometer was decreasing. Suddenly, the truck driver shot his left arm out and waved frantically for me to move around him. I looked to see if the other cars would open a gap for me to move back behind the truck so I could get off the road and on to the shoulder, but they didn’t. Either they did not see me or they didn’t understand my crisis. Whatever the reason, not a car moved to let me back in line.
When my eyes locked with the driver’s, I just held up my open palms to him; there was nothing I could do. The speedometer needle rested on Zero. He had slowed his rig down as much as he dared but he could not help me either. Returning my glance to the road, I saw the inevitable… a car coming straight at me. There was no shoulder on this side of the road so moving off was not an option. A head-on collision was seconds away.
“Just relax,” I told myself out loud. “If you can relax, you won’t be hurt as badly.” I have no idea where I had heard that but likely it was someone speaking of how little a drunk driver is hurt in a crash that would have killed a sober person. Well, to relax I took both hands off the wheel and gently laid them in my lap, under the steering wheel. I saw the bright yellow necktie of the oncoming car’s driver and gently closed my eyes.
When I thought it had been long enough that I should have heard the breaking glass and ripping of metal as the vehicle traveling 60 mph collided head-on with Benny… not to mention I should have felt the frontal impact… I opened my eyes. What I saw took my breath away and I began to tremble. Far ahead of me I caught sight of the truck and long line of cars. I could not see the car with the “yellow tie” in my rearview mirror so I gingerly slid out of the car. Unsteady legs held me up while I strained to glimpse the tailend of the car that should have hit me. Seated back behind the wheel, I noticed my position. Benny had been placed on the right-hand shoulder of the road, facing the same direction, and parallel to the lane I had occupied before moving around the truck. How ever had I been lifted there from the opposite lane? How I would have liked to ask the truck driver what he had seen! Had a gigantic Heavenly hand dropped down out of the sky and lifted me to safety just before impact? I hadn’t seen anything because my eyes had been closed.
Once I had regained my strength, I walked about half a mile to a farmhouse, where the folks were kind enough to let me call my grandparents to come fetch me. They also arranged for a tow truck to take Benny and me to the nearest town. Not sure they believed my story but I wouldn’t have blamed them; I barely believed it myself. Who could have understood what must have happened to deliver me from that near-death crisis!
I waited for my grandparents in the lobby of an old hotel… well, it was a small town and this was the only hotel, actually. My parents were a long way from Montana, visiting the new grandbaby and her parents, too, of course. They may have even been helping them move; I’m not sure exactly. Grandpa told me that the mechanic said Benny was a goner. He had thrown a piston and it would cost more to replace the engine than to buy another used car. I never saw Benny again and, only now, realized that I have no idea whatsoever about what came of Benny once we left that town. Grandpa had collected the baggage I had in the car, put it in his pick-up, and we were headed for home only moments after they arrived at the hotel. Probably Grandpa went to get the scoop on my car at the local garage before he came to the hotel. Mine was an eyebrow-raising story; that’s for sure!
****Reflections on Benny’s Crisis and God’s Deliverance… Next Post