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July 12, 2004

Thanks Howard

It was a long weekend.

Saturday morning I awoke for my 7:30 am Weight Watcher’s meeting and found a note on the door reading, “Leonard called. Someone you two knew died. Call him back.”

I hadn’t heard from Leonard in months, possibly a year.

How random. And rather frightening.

I had been having a strong feeling that I needed to call Leonard for several days…since Monday or Tuesday. I rarely get those premonition/sixth sense sorts of feelings, but when I do, I make sure I follow through with them. I was nervous about a friend driving a few months ago. She totaled her car. I called another friend I hadn’t heard from in over a year to find out he had been arrested…crap like that. Anyway, back to the story…

I returned Leonard’s call and arranged to go with him to the memorial service of Howard, a guy we had grown up with. I didn’t know Howard well, but remembered riding the school bus with him—a class clown type, always willing to do anything for a laugh. He graduated two or three years ahead of me from high school, and I only saw him once after my own high school graduation.

We lived on the same country road. He on one side of a poorly banked curve in the road, I on the other. They always say that car accidents are more likely to occur within a few miles of your own home. It was 8 years ago, about 9 pm; I was driving the Bronco II my Dad had given to me just a few months earlier. As I rounded the curve, a white cat streaked across the road in front of me. I immediately hit my brake and pulled my wheel to the left. I missed the clutch and the engine died. I lost my power steering, and my power brakes. I couldn’t steer out of the skid. I looped twice around the middle of the street and tipped over onto the passenger’s side of the car.

I still remember so clearly the images though my windshield. Everything was at the wrong angle. So wrong. My ancient seatbelt had held, although it had spent the last several weeks coming unfastened at random moments without my consent. I noticed the telephone poles and trees lining the road. I marveled at my luck at ending up smack in the middle of the road, and not split by any one of the numerous tall targets. My headlights, now creating a vertical line instead of the usual horizontal, beamed down the road, alerting oncoming drivers of my dilemma. I pondered how I would get out of the car. How I would get all four wheels back on the ground.

I became aware of voices a moment later.

“Are you OK?” A head appeared near the windshield. My door was opened by several hands and arms. They continued to hold it open as I literally climbed out my door, now facing upwards. I stood in the middle of a small crowd, made up mostly of slightly older boys and girls, all breathing hard from running down a long dirt driveway to get to me.

Howard asked me again, “Are you OK?”

I was. I told him so. I wasn’t crying. I was overwhelmed and possibly in slight shock. He sat me down on the side of the road and called the other young men to him. Moments later they broke their huddle and surrounded my car, checking for glass and blown tires. Amazingly, the car was in relatively good shape. Nothing serious broken. The tire rack had taken the brunt of the weight. All the tires appeared to be whole.

Following Howard’s lead, they grabbed my car and pushed. Creaking and banging, they lifted my car upright. It bounced on the heavily scraped tires.

“Can you drive?” Howard asked.

“I think so.”

“Good! How about giving us a ride back to my party?”


The crowd opened my doors and grabbed on tight. I restarted the engine and we bounced down the dirt driveway to Howard’s house. I dropped them off (all 15 of them or so) and thanked Howard and his friends for their incredibly timely assistance. I drove home and burst into tears.

I never saw Howard again. He drowned on July 2nd while celebrating the Fourth of July weekend at the Colorado River.

Over 200 people attended his memorial at his house, the favorite gathering place for he and all his friends. At least 50 people spoke of his kindness. Howard was willing to stop whatever he was doing to help whoever needed him. He was a mechanic and a construction foreman. He built houses, repaired cars for free, and appeared to be ever-ready to crack open a beer with his buddies, just to talk.

I wasn’t one of Howard’s friends, but he helped me just the same.

Posted by Ensie at July 12, 2004 08:35 PM


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