Monday, February 15, 2010

The Day Mama Pea (and the Lamb Chops) Got Thrown Out of the Car

We moved from Illinois up here to Minnesota the summer our daughter turned two. Our first winter, we were living in an uninsulated trailer and ill prepared for the bitterly cold weather. It also snowed a lot and the mile and a half gravel road to our homestead which was primarily uphill from the main road was snow-packed and icy for many months. Not only was it a challenge to get up the road that winter, but also exciting going down because of the twists and turns and slipperiness.

One day I had to make a town run. I had a long list which included grocery shopping and stopping at the laundromat to wash and dry clothes.

When we relocated that previous summer, we brought animals with us. We moved two dairy goats, a donkey and our dog. Our chickens came, too, but they made the trip in the freezer. The freezer also contained as many vegetables as I'd been able to put up from our Illinois garden that summer. That we had a garden at all that year was a miracle since we made a total of nine round trips moving our animals, household items, farm machinery and tools. Each trip was twelve hours and six hundred miles one way. My mother wanted to keep our daughter that summer, but we insisted she stay with us. The little kid was an excellent traveler and had more miles on her odometer than most two year olds by that fall.

Anyway, back to the freezer. We had friends in town who generously offered to let us store our full freezer in their garage since we had no electricity on our property.

Whenever I went to town, I would stop for a visit with these friends and bring home a shopping bag full of food from the freezer.

I had gone to town early that frigid morning because I wanted to be home at noon time to give fresh (unfrozen) water to the animals. Also, our daughter was still taking a long nap in the afternoon so I wanted to get her fed lunch before putting her down for her nap.

She and I were heading home in our Volkswagen Beetle a little before noon with a very full car. My Little Chickie (Chicken Mama to-be) was belted into the passenger seat next to me. This was (prehistoric times) before car seats for toddlers were required and common. The back seat was stuffed nearly to the roof with several baskets of clean laundry, bags of groceries, books from the library, miscellaneous shopping, frozen goods from the freezer, etc. Luckily, I had left the dog at home (she was thirteen at the time) because it was so cold, and I knew I might not have room for her after stocking up.

I stopped at the foot of our side road to get the mail out of our mailbox which was on the main road. Then I did something stupid. I didn't put my seat belt back on for the mile and a half trip to our homestead.

I was most likely going a little faster than I should have been. I was singing at the top of my lungs and trying to keep Little Chickie singing with me so she wouldn't fall asleep before we got home. We were about half way there when I hit a slick spot and did a 180° turn on the road. Then the car started sliding sideways toward a fairly steep ditch which was (good thing) filled with snow.

We had been having trouble getting the driver's door of the car to shut securely because of ice build-up somewhere in the latching mechanism. As the car slid sideways toward the ditch, the door flew open. Then I did something else stupid. Mother's instinct I suppose, but I let go of the steering wheel and turned in my seat to grab Little Chickie. She, being securely belted in and wearing approximately four layers of clothing, a snowsuit, a hat, a hood, a scarf, boots and two sets of mittens, didn't budge. But I went backwards out the open door trying to stop myself by spreading my legs. I had a very large, colorful bruise the whole length of both outer thighs so I knew I made an attempt to keep from being thrown out.

I was so fortunate that I landed in the snow about three feet from where the car landed at a 45° angle in the ditch. I remember scrambling through the waist high snow on my hands and knees to reach Little Chickie still securely belted in her seat.

I said, "Are you all right?"

She gave me a look that said "what the heck did you just do, Mama?" and replied with a little nod of her head, "Yeah."

Well, with no little effort I got her unbelted, out of the car and stood up on the road. Then I realized half of the contents of the car were strewn around in the snow-covered ditch. I spent a while picking up and throwing back into the car everything I could dig out of the snow. Then we began our trek home.

It was slow going (and cold!) while I was carrying Little Chickie and even slower when I had to put her down to walk for a while. But eventually we made it home, I gave her a little lunch and she immediately went down for her nap. (Nothing like a brisk hike in the fresh air to poop a little one out.)

I called the nearest garage with a tow truck and asked if he could come pull the Volkswagen home. Later that afternoon when he came in the yard, he said after extricating the car from the snow, he noticed various objects underneath where the car had been in the ditch. The dear man took the time to gather all he could find. He said it was like a treasure hunt . . . a package of lamb chops, frozen peas, a pot roast, corn, a chicken, beans, various pieces of (clean) underwear, and a box of pretty much smashed crackers.

Unbelievably, because the car landed in deep snow, it didn't even have a dent. The door, although bent back against the front wheel, was repaired and worked fine after that. I had nothing but the bruises, and my little trussed up, well-padded passenger didn't suffer any harm at all.

That was the first and last time I ever slipped driving up and down that road for the next fifteen winters. I may have made a couple of bad mistakes, but I did learn from them.


Jennifer Jo said...

Love the title. Love the story. I can just see you sliding backwards out of the car...

Sparkless said...

Wearing a seat belt always should be your first lesson!

Jordan said...

Wow, you're a good storyteller! If you have the urge sometime, I'd love for you to tell the story of your dairy goats, why you got 'em, what you did with the milk, how long you had 'em and why you eventually got rid of them (that is, if you don't still have them).

Chicken Mama said...

This is one of my all-time favorite stories, Mom. Thanks for telling it. :) Now, how about the child-abuse by blackflies? ;)

I think this episode of The Good Ol' Days probably explains, too, why I #1, love car trips (the many IL-MN-IL trips that summer) and #2, have no worries about walking home on a deserted dirt road when I go into the ditch in the winter!

Erin said...

You should have seen my husband come running when I announced from the other room "Hey, it's another one of Mama Pea's stories!" Love it! We had VW Beetles too growing up. I remember no car seats, and my mom used to put my baby brother all bundled up in the way back hatch over the engine, she said it lulled him to sleep, now I'm wondering if it wasn't carbon monoxide, LOL! I don't know how they did it with 3 kids fighting in the little backseat. They still have their first VW they got when they were married in '69, a yellow convertible, now completely restored. Oh, back to the story! I am amazed that you usually wore your seatbelt, back then it seemed nobody did. The lamb chop comment made me shudder, however... when I was younger, my friend's mom was in an accident on an icy highway and it was frozen meat they said that killed her by flying out of the grocery bags in the back and impacting on a tiny vulnerable spot on the back of the head. Very sad, and so I must say that maybe it was a good thing you were tossed out of the car! Thanks for the nice coffee/story break during our remodeling today! Keep them coming! Now I know why Chicken Mama seems like such a strong gal: skiing in the dark, wolves, and Volkswagens, oh my! P.S. now you will HAVE to write about the black flies someday, LOL

Mama Pea Quilts said...

Hi, JJ - Thank you. I truly had no memory of "exiting" the car. I remembered turning to grab my daughter but didn't know how I went out of the car until the bruises appeared on my legs.

Hi, Sparkless - You are so right! I have never, ever gone without a seat belt again, I promise.

Hey, Jordan - Thank you, ma'am. I will tell about our goats some time soon. No, no goats now. We've been goatless for many years . . . but still think and talk about getting them again.

Hey, Little Chickie - No, no, never the "child abuse by blackflies" story. Makes me look WAAAAY too bad!

Oh, Erin, dear - It truly must be awfully boring around your house to get excited about one of my stories! I think the reason why that little accident wasn't any worse was because I actually wasn't going very fast (couldn't in the VW on that road!) and everything happened rather slowly.

Okay, okay! I'll tell the black flies story . . . soon. But don't hate me because I was a bad mother.

P.S. Sorry, everyone, about posting these comments with the "wrong" blog sign in. But I don't feel like retyping all of the above.

Jo said...

Goodness! I bet your heart was beating a mile a minute after that.

How long did you go without electricity when you first moved up there? I'm amazed by people who are able to do that. Part of me wishes I had the opportunity (with time to prepare, of course!) to try it sometime, but the other part says it would be a disaster!

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Jo - We lived without grid power for 12 years. We started pretty crudely with Coleman camping lanterns and old-fashioned kerosene lamps. Next came some pressurized Coleman lanterns that burned kerosene. Then Aladdin lamps, next gas lights. We bought a little 110V Kohler DC generator that we ran regular incandescent bulbs off of but that didn't work for any appliances. Our big break-through came when we were able to purchase some telephone company batteries and an old 3000W Onan diesel generator. We ran that generator one day a week which charged up the batteries enough so that we had a good, workable system of 12V fluorescent lights for lighting.

We didn't have running water but I still say I'd rather do without that than without electricity. For all of the 12 years, we kept upgrading the lighting situation as we could and it actually was very good once we had our own efficient system set up. It just took a while!

Our early years up here were hard, no doubt about that. But we learned a lot and could now probably take care of ourselves under some pretty primitive circumstances if we had to. Best of all, we raised a beautiful, self-sufficient daughter who isn't afraid of hard work and can handle just about any situation thrown her way.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

My first thought was "she was driving a VW Beetle on snowy roads??" I slid off the road last winter in a 4WD pickup truck!! (In my defense the anti-lock brakes went crazy, and then all four wheels :) Thank goodness for ditches full of snow!

That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger (and smarter!) You are lucky that none of the groceries became dangerous projectiles and that the car didn't land on you! A walk home after that probably seemed like a piece of cake.

(As an aside, you must shake your head every time there is a story about a family getting lost and stranded using a GPS on a logging road. You would no doubt have a survival kit in the trunk...)

beth said...
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beth said...

You tell a good story Mama Pea! :)

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Beth - Lies. All lies.

(Thank you!)

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Jen - As far as me driving a non-4-wheel drive VW . . . you have no idea how unprepared we were when we moved up here. (Young and stupid?) We wanted so desperately to be here, took a 50% cut in salary to do so, and had nothing but guts and determination going for us. Now I won't venture out of the driveway without the capability of 4 wheel- drive vehicle . . . and that's in the summertime.

I did learn quite a few lessons from that little mishap (which could have turned out so much worse), believe me. And, yes, anyone who values their life up here carries a survival kit in the car. My husband gets kidded all the time that his kit no doubt contains a good-sized wall tent, wood burning stove, and 6 months worth of food and reading material.

Katidids said...

What a memory! Can you imagine how suprised the tow driver was to find all your things?

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Katie - I was just so thankful that he took the time to dig around and find all of the miscellaneous packages and clothes!