Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Long Relaxing Drive and a Bad Highway Accident

Yesterday, my wife and I decided to take another long drive. We left a little after 10:00 am, so it was a bit of a late start. Our destination was irrelevant to us, so we let the car decide. Apparently, the Bastard likes certain parts of northeast Texas, so it drifted northeast from Dallas, taking the back roads of Dallas County and getting only as far as eastern Collin County (adjacent to Dallas County) by about 11:30.

As we were passing through the tiny community of Blue Ridge, my wife sensed a "downtown" area. She loves to look at the tiny downtown areas of towns that once attempted to grow up and be big towns and she sensed that Blue Ridge might have a downtown. So, I followed her directions and made a right at the light, then an immediate right at the next street and, bam, there we were outside of Cattleman's Cafe. There were many cars and trucks parked outside the place, so we decided to give it a try for lunch.

Tiny is a good description of Cattleman's Cafe. There are probably only ten tables in the place and three or four booths. We spotted a booth and seated ourselves. Two older ladies (lots of grey hair, anyway) acknowledged us and brought us menus in short order. As I'd expect, chicken fried steak was prominently featured on the menu and, in fact, the menu claimed that D Magazine had once awarded the "Best of Dallas Award" to its chicken fried steak. So, both of us decided to give it a shot. I'd give it a 6 on a 10-point scale, which is pretty competitive with most places that serve CFS. The batter was too thick and not crispy enough, making it a bit doughy, but it was tasty. I suspect the place was given an award because it looks like the kind of place you'd hope would serve the real thing. The people were generally nice, but I think the near-Dallas location has taken its toll; there was not a true country hospitality about the place and the people. All in all, though, I'd go back.

From Blue Ridge, we headed east and north, taking in the sites of Wolfe City (Hunt County), Ladonia (Fannin Country), Pecan Gap (also in Fannin County), and Roxton (in Lamar County), which is only about 18 miles from Paris, Texas.

By mid-afternoon, we found ourselves in Cooper, Texas (Delta County). As usual, my wife directed me to circle the town square (where, in the middle, sits a huge gazebo instead of a courthouse) so we could get a sense of what the place was like. Almost immediately a sign advertising home-made ice cream caught my eye and I asked my wife (knowing the answer before I asked the question) if she'd like to stop and get some. We parked in front of Miller's Drugstore and went inside to investigate. An older woman, probably in her mid to late seventies, was the only person in the place, other than a young woman and her daughter who were served and left right after we walked in. The woman was talkative and more than willing to share that Miller's had been there since 1930, but the building had been there since 1919, she said. My wife ordered a cherry phosphate and I had a root beer float. The woman chatted with us as she made them, saying she made all the ice cream they sold in the store...both vanilla and chocolate. She said her hands are very strong because of all the scooping she does and, despite some damage to her right hand not long ago, she is "about the best there is" at scooping ice cream.

I finished my root beer float in short order and decided to throw caution to the wind and order something else. She claimed to make the best limeade on earth, so I ordered one which was very good, but probably not the best one on earth (though I didn't tell her). I'm sure she would have delighted in regaling us with the history of the store and of the town, but we had to hit the road. Before we left, though, we did learn that she visits the doctor in Paris about three times each month and tells him every time that she's healthy and doesn't need him, but he insists she come back.

From Cooper, we began a slow trek back toward Dallas, deciding at some point to drive south along back roads until we got to Interstate 30 or a road that parallels I-30. We got to the Greenville area, found the parallel road, and headed west. The road was almost on top of 30, so when we had the option of getting onto 30 or dodging back north to get on the side-road again, I decided to get on 30 instead of being near enough to watch it.

Just seconds after we got on the feeder road, we saw red lights just ahead of us on I-30 and saw a van in the middle of the freeway, laying on its side. The accident obviously had just happened, as we saw people just coming to a stop behind the van and saw people running toward it. I pulled to the side and jumped out to see if there was anything I could do. There were probably 8-10 people there already, with one guy taking action by trying to climb onto the top of the vehicle (actually, the right side of the vehicle) so he could get inside and turn off the ignition. I helped him climb on top and he jumped inside the vehicle. The vehicle was still running and white smoke was pouring from the top. As he jumped inside, a woman who was talking to the driver (who was pinned in his seat) started screaming that man inside was crushing the driver's arm. It turned out she was concerned, but the driver did not seem to be in pain.

The front windshield was smashed but still intact and someone slid his hand inside the side window from below and punched the window several times to open a hole. Then, he and a wrecker driver who had stopped started ripping away the windshield; it's a good thing they had leather gloves on. I was standing to the side of van by that time, pushing against it so all the action wouldn't cause it to roll over on its top. I covered my eyes with one hand and held against the vehicle with the other; tiny slivers of glass were spraying all over as the guys ripped the windshield off. By that time, a sheriff's deputy had arrived and was calling for help (which was already on its way, thanks to a dozen or more people calling 911). As the fire trucks and ambulances neared the area, I backed away from the van, knowing that I would just be in the way if I stayed there. The guy inside the van was the only passenger I could see and he confirmed he was alone. I don't think he was in any pain, though I don't know whether he was hurt; he could have been in shock and just not known the extent of his injuries. He did not seem to be trying to get out of the vehicle and I don't think he could have had he tried.

I got back in my car and made my way around the stopped vehicles and entered the highway just ahead of where the highway was shut down by the accident. As we headed west, I noticed slivers of glass all over my shirt and then I could feel glass in my hair as I brushed it back off my forehead with my hands.

Not five miles later, we came across another accident that shut the far left lane of three lanes on the highway. It appeared that a car had hit a large dog, which was lying dead on the side of the road. It looked to me like the driver had swerved sharply to avoid the animal, but had hit it with the front right side of the car, which was badly banged up. A police officer was already there and the traffic was moving to the right side of the roadway and going around the accident.

By the time we got back home, I felt drained. Seeing the immediate aftermath of the first accident really ruined my sense of elation about the day. And if it ruined my day, I can only imagine what it did to the guy who was pinned inside the van as I left him in the care of people who were better equipped than I to help him.


YourFireAnt said...

I know what she means about the downtowns. I go for this stuff too.


KathyR said...

Wow. What a day! Good on you for helping out. Hope the guy was ok.

I haven't had a root beer float in about a million years.