Thursday, September 22, 2011

Circling The Globe

     September began, as all Septembers do, with it's frenetic influx of activity. The beginning of a new school term ushered in new schedules, new books, new assignments, and  new activities. After just a few weeks of all this newness, we needed something old, so Mom, Sissey and I headed to the ancient hills of the Appalachian mountains. It was to be a quiet weekend of lazy, coffee mornings and meandering, afternoon drives.
     Our only mission was to find the whereabouts of a backwoods cult that lived deeply embedded in the smokey blue forests-- a group we had studied in one of Sissey's classes and that had piqued our interest. We knew the general direction of this hillbilly clan and were hoping to find the locale of their intensely private, close-knit, and incestuous compound for no other reason than we wanted to satisfy our curiosity by seeing where they lived. So on Saturday, we headed for the forest, driving cautiously around twists and turns, taking only one wrong road before finally finding the landmark Sissey's professor had given us: several rickety trailers meshed together, with a toilet perched on top  as a smokestack. This curious sight marked the beginning boundaries of the compound. We had found the clan.
      A man-made mountain of decaying cars, rusting bikes,  and a dilapidated school bus formed a formidable fence around the entrance to the community. A few pick-up trucks blocked the dirt drive, where several barefoot children were passing a puppy back and forth as they ran through the dust. The paved road ended here, and our only option was to turn around in the drive-- which was occupied by unfriendly and glaring characters who neither returned our hesitant waves nor our nervous smiles-- or to keep on driving down the dirt road that headed into the hills.  I wasn't about to ask this crew to move over so we could  make a three-point turn, didn't want them to think we had come just to stare, so with a timid wave, we headed on down the dirt road as if that had been our original destination all along.  Having no idea where we were going, I just prayed that a trunk load of buckshot would not be  our only communication as we cautiously crept past the clan. 
      The road was now rutted, unpaved, and desolate, but  power lines  ran along it's edges, and we figured it would eventually lead us to some civilized place. After about an hour of driving deeper and deeper into the woods, I admit I became a little nervous about our ultimate destination.  I had been secretly praying that we weren't headed into a hillbilly trap, a hidden gorge where curious gawkers vanished, never to be seen again, and kept reassuring Sissey that , yes, I did know where we were , and yes, this was a real road.  We kept following those power lines, my only plan being to keep moving forward  until we came out somewhere, which in the philosophy of mountain driving usually works. Eventually, my theory tested true, and the dirt road became gravel, which turned into a rough macadam, and finally, a certified, Department of Transportation "Stop" sign loomed at the crossroads ahead.   I put on my blinkers and turned right toward paved roads, yellow lines, and houses. We actually passed a car at this point, and I muttered a quiet "Hallelujah" as I knew we were back on the road to civilization.
      Once an adventure is safely endured, it gets into your system and you want to repeat it, so the next morning, hankering for another bumpy drive, we decided to take a detour on the drive home and wander through an area known as "The Globe." For those uninitiated in backwoods touring, there are many mountain communities quietly tucked into the nooks and  crannies of lumbering hills, reachable only by rough trails of dirt and gravel.  These drives through canopies of elms and oaks, among groves of rhododendrons and mountain laurel, past trickling streams and secret waterfalls, around hairpin turns that leave your stomach on the curve ahead--these are the drives you want to experience in the mountains, these are the drives we would seek out on our weekend get-aways, these are the drives that beckoned to our city-souls. So with pimento cheese sandwiches packed on ice and our suitcases loaded into the car, we decided to take the road less travelled on our journey home from the hills. That Sunday morning, we had set our sights on circling "The Globe."
     When we left  home on Friday, we had packed lightly for our quick weekend trip, grabbing just the essentials needed for two days travel. Some things had been forgotten, but we ran to the Walmart in Boone and picked up the essential undergarments, the only trouble being the pack of underwear I grabbed included not just the appropriate and proper shade of white but also one pair of hot pink cotton panties. Scandalous, I agree, but sometimes you just have to live on the edge.  That morning, as we had packed to head home, Mom was horrified to realize she had to wear those "horrid pink panties," and as she dressed, said, "I certainly do hope nothing happens to me while I'm wearing these!" I laughed at her as I loaded the bags into the car, eager to get on the road and start our last adventure of the weekend, not really concerned that my mother was dressed in the pantaloons of a tart. I just wanted to get started on our trip to "The Globe," and I certainly didn't expect anything to happen.
     We drove slowly down the parkway until reaching the turn that would take us into the thickly wooded area, bumped off the asphalt onto the washboard road, and started the trek down into the Wilson Creek Gorge.  It was a beautiful, crisp morning and as the sunlight filtered through the thick growth of trees, it left a dappled pattern of yellow light against dark green leaves. We "oohed" and "ahhed" as we drove, pointing out waterfalls, patches of iron weed and Joe-Pye, an occasional burst of early fall foliage. We passed not a single car, not a solitary soul, not one hint of the outside world.  It was a perfect drive on a perfect Sunday morning.
      About halfway down into "The Globe," Moma suddenly gasped and said she had a terrible pain in her hip, the same hip she had broken in May.  She rubbed the affected area and I slowed down a bit to ease the bumpiness of the drive.  Several seconds later, she again gasped and said the pain was terrible and she needed to get out and stretch her leg.  I found a spot on the road where I could ease the car over without tumbling down into the ravine, and we got out. She walked towards the back of the car, gazed over the edge of the mountain as she stretched, commented on some trash someone had tossed down the hill, then suddenly,  gasped again and grabbed onto the back of the car.
      "I don't feel well," she groaned as I rushed to her side.
       "Moma, what's the matter, what's wrong?" I asked.
      She moaned again, " I don't feel well at all," and she slumped further forward. 
      I grabbed her under the arms and tried to pull her towards the front seat of the car.
      "Moma, come on, let's get you seated in the car, " I cried, frantic as I tried to move her forward. She was dead weight, not budging an inch, and slumping further and further onto my shoulder.  I tried to hold her upright, but suddenly, her head flopped rearward, her eyes rolled back, and she crashed to her knees.
     "Sissey, call 911!" I screamed, my hands shaking so hard the skin almost fell off.
      "I'm trying!" she cried, "But we don't have a signal.'
      "Keep trying, keep trying!" I hollered, as I held onto Moma and tried to feel for vital signs.
      "Oh Sissey, she's not breathing! I think she's gone. Moma's dead!" I yelled, panic-stricken and frightened as I tried to hold her up.
      We were alone in the woods and I was holding what I thought was my dead mother in my arms.  I just wanted to curl up and die with her, not knowing what to do. I couldn't move her, couldn't lift her into the car by myself, couldn't let go for fear she would tumble down the side of the mountain, couldn't get a signal to call 911, couldn't get to Sissey's walker to get her out of the car, couldn't even think as to what to do next.  It was at that exact moment we saw the first sign of human life since we had turned onto the godforsaken road that led into "The Globe." A mountain man in a pickup truck appeared out of nowhere, an angel in a Ford with a white mustache.
      "Help! I need help!" I screamed as I flagged him down with one hand.
        He stopped in the middle of the road, rolled down the window, and slowly said, "Can I hep ya?"
       "Yes, yes, help me, help me! I don't know what's wrong with my mother."
       He strolled over to the car, took a look at my still unconscious mother, and drawled out in a slow mountain voice, "Do ya think it mite be sumpin' she et?"
      I couldn't help but stare at him, slack-jawed and stunned.
       "Hell no it ain't sumpin she et," I wanted to scream at him,  but afraid to anger the only hope for help we had, I frantically answered instead, "No sir, I don't think it's something she ate. I'm afraid she might have had a stroke or a heart attack. Please, help me get her up."
        He calmly lifted her into the car, then told me, "You'd better turn on 'round and head back up the road, cuz thare ain't nuttin down thatta way."
       Like a bolt of lightening, we tore out of the holler in Mom's little Buick, still trying to get a cell signal, searching for the paved road, crying and yelling and full of panic. By the time we got to the top of the mountain, Mom had opened her eyes and started talking. By the time we reached the road to Blowing Rock, she was back to her old self.
        "I am not going to the hospital," she protested when I told her where I was headed.  "I just want a cold co-cola and to get back home."
       "You're going to the hospital, Moma. You're going."
        "Well, I'm not going to one up here. You'll have to take me to Charlotte."
        I didn't care which hospital we went to, as long as she remained conscious until we got there.  I barrelled down  Highway 321 with shaking hands and a heavy foot, not caring if the police pulled me, actually sort of hoping they would, just wanting to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. I had one hand on the steering wheel, one hand on my cell phone making frantic calls, one eye on Moma and the other on Sissey in the back seat.  There had to be angels in that car as we made that mad dash down the hill, but I was focused on one thing and one thing only: get Moma to the hospital, and get her there fast.
        About halfway there, perhaps thirty minutes outside of Charlotte, Moma calmly turned to me and said, " I knew something would happen to me in these panties. Beth, you're going to have to pull over on the side of the road.  I am not going there in this pink underwear.  Stop a minute so I can change."
      I looked at her and yelled, "Oh No! You've had a stroke!"
      That was the only explanation  I could think of. She had to be incoherent, delusional to think I was going to stop for a wardrobe change.  I was driving at the speed of light to get her to the hospital as quickly as possibly, hopefully before she lost consciousness again, and she wanted me to pull over so she could change her underwear?
       We made it to the hospital in a little under an hour, with no stops for the pink panties. I  grabbed a wheelchair and rushed Mom into the emergency room, where my sister and Dad were already waiting. The nurse whisked her off to begin assessing her situation, check her vitals, and place her in an examining room. It wasn't long before the doctor entered our crowded little cubicle.   The very first thing Mom said when he began to examine her was, " I am just so embarrassed over this pink underwear," as if he really cared what his previously comatose patient was wearing beneath her hospital-issue cotton gown.  I sweetly looked over at her and said, "Moma, I've got your black thong in the bag. Would you like that?"
     And that was the last we heard of the pink underwear.
     After two days of testing, the only thing the doctors could determine was that Mom had experienced some kind of vaso-vagal syncope. In other words, she fainted-- out colder than a dead possum on a country road-- possibly a result of bumping down old mountain roads on her recently replaced hip, possibly caused by pressure on a nerve and a drop in blood pressure. Whatever it was, she had swooned like a professional and had definitely fainted.
     But one thing was for sure. It def-nit-ly warn't sumpin she et.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Beth! I have just found your blog and THOROUGHLY enjoyed reading this story. I am so glad your mom is okay! Your writing is great - have you thought about writing a novel? Please check out Jessie's blog I recently created at Hope to see you guys soon!