Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Driving with Miss Doozie

I brought my buddy Dann down with me and planned to practice on my parents' 1966 Volvo manual shift sedan. The very same Volvo we'd bought in Canada in 1966, had driven across the Atlantic in 1971, had stuffed with our family of eight and driven around Naples, had now ended up with us in British Honduras. Old and bulbous, but good. Why buy a new car when the old one will do the job?

Of the two highways in the country, the Hummingbird Highway going North to South, and the Western Highway going ... yup, you guessed it -- West to East, we set out west along the Western Highway with no particular destination, just so I could practice driving in a straight line with very little traffic to worry about. I forgot about the fact that a flat surface is also a requirement for the inexperienced driver.

The road rolled out unbending in front of us, shoulderless through the swamplands on either side, whimsically changing its surface from dirt to gravel and back to dirt again, with an occasional, inexplicable length of heavily pot-holed asphalt. Fifteen miles out (= a hundred in bad-road miles), the car began weaving back and forth all on its own for no reason whatsoever -- like a fish -- in a random act of car-ness which I later learned is known as fish-tailing. My attempts to correct each swerve by instinctively steering in its opposite direction proved the opposite of helpful, as did the unintelligible instructions yelled by Dann from the passenger seat. Wider and wider went the swerves until, like a frog to the lily pad, the car hopped sideways off the road and plopped into the deep mud.

We immediately sank halfway up to the doorhandles and all I could do was sit there staring ahead of us at the bog and launch a royal navy fleet of super annoyed sounding words. Dann muttered something about watching my language, which further annoyed me -- like who was he to talk -- but when he succeeded in directing my attention out my window, I understood his concern. A face looked in -- a concerned face. A woman's face with brown hair pulled back in a bun and tucked into a small white bonnet; a benevolent face, the face of a person undeserving of being anywhere in the vicinity of such profanity.

"Can we help?" she was asking, leaning down to us.

Beyond her on the road I could see the vehicle she'd stepped out of: a horse cart. With horse attached. Was it one horse, or two? I don't remember. These were the Mennonites, seen frequently around Belize in those years -- the ones known as the Horse & Buggy Mennonites, and the others known as the Rubber Tire Mennonites. Both were helpful, industrious, self-sufficient people who kept to themselves and tread light on the earth.

She peered in while I sat there trying to answer the question. Could they help? I didn't know. How many horses does it take to pull a car out of the mud?

to be continued........

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At 5:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

a cliffhanger! Or in this case, a mudstucker! I can hardley wait for the next posting - I never heard this story before, Kate!

At 9:28 PM, Blogger Dale said...



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