Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



All of My Friends

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Low (Prairie) Flying



Add a dashboard, seat, steering wheel, and dust and this is our  steed!

Marty had a dune buggy.
Actually, it had once been a car. But it had been stripped down to the basics. Wheels. Frame. Seats. Motor. And a steering wheel.
Now it was a dune buggy.
That baby could go.
Just not on any conventional roads.
Marty would take us flying across the prairie at speeds beyond . . . what we should have been travelling.
But we were safe.
Marty had firm hands on the wheel.
As long as there was ground beneath us, all was well.
And that's where my story gets interesting . . .
It was a beautiful ssummer day.
The sun was high and hot. The air shimmered. The crickets and bugs were sending up a steady chorus. There was a haze of dust hanging in the still, dry air.
Perfect 'low flying' weather.
Marty had piled Michelle and I into his buggy for a ride.
Okay, I have to admit that the use of the word 'into' is a bit of a misnomer.
'Onto' would probably be more accurate.
I was in the middle. Marty on my left, steering wheel firmly in hand. Michelle on my right, casually slumped back in the seat, one foot propped up on the dashboard.
Oh, right. We also had a dashboard.
Back to my story . . .
We were flying across the prairie just to the west and north of Marty's family farm, talking and laughing and generally enjoying the wind in our faces.
The field stretched out smooth and green in front of us.
Marty stepped on the gas and we all felt the exhilaration of speed.
Then, quite suddenly, a . . . ditch . . . opened up in front of us.
Oh, not just a little ditch.
An irrigation ditch. 30 feet across and a good 20 feet deep.
More of a canal than a ditch, really.
Huh. Where did that come from? And, more importantly, how were we going to avoid it when it carved its way straight across the field before us from fence to fence.
And when we were travelling at upwards of 45 miles per hour.
You're right.
We couldn't.
We didn't.
We launched off the west bank in a graceful arc.
Now the Dukes of Hazzard would have made it.
Evel Kinevel would have made it.
Even Barney Oldfield would have made it.
But three farm kids in a souped-up, stripped-down 'dune buggy'?
Not a chance.
We hit the opposite bank just below the lip still doing 45 miles per hour.
It's funny just how many thoughts can race through your head in the split seconds between launch and land. I remember thinking that Marty really was taking us flying.
Cool.
Then . . . crunch.
The buggy stopped instantly, of course, and slid down to the bottom of the canal.
We sat there, stunned for a moment.
And then the moaning started.
I was fine. I just thought I should point that out.
Something to note - when getting involved in an accident in a dune buggy, the middle position is the safest.
Moving on . . .
Marty and Michelle . . . weren't.
Fine, I mean.
Marty had broken his beloved steering wheel with his chin, splitting it open to the bone.
His chin, I mean.
Michelle was even worse off.
The foot that had been so casually propped up on the dashboard had been driven back by the force of our crash and dislocated her hip.
She was in . . . considerable . . . pain.
Marty put a hand over his chin and ran to the farmhouse a quarter of a mile away for help.
It was up to me to pull Michelle up out of the ditch.
Okay, it probably would have been easier . . . and wiser . . . to call an ambulance and wait for professional help, but we were kids of the country, raised to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.
We acted first.
And thought after.
Slowly and painstakingly, I turned Michelle onto her uninjured side. Then I pulled her up the steep bank. One step at a time.
Step, step. Pull.
Step, step. Pull.
She must have suffered agony throughout the entire ordeal, but she said little.
As we were nearing the top, Marty pulled up in his family's car.
Between the two of us, he and I managed to pull Michelle into the back seat. Then, Marty drove us to the hospital.
Funny that it never occurred to any of us to feel alarm when we again saw Marty with a steering wheel in his hands.
Go figure.
He got us there safely.
This time, professionals maneuvered Michelle out of the car and onto a stretcher.
By this point, I'm quite sure she appreciated their expertise.
And their drugs.
Her hip was restored, though she had to suffer through traction and treatments for months afterwards.
Marty was sewn back together and sports a sexy scar on his chin to this day.
I emerged unscathed.
A few days later, I was flying across the prairie with Dennis in his dune buggy.
Some people never learn.

10 comments:

  1. I am beginning to think you led a charmed life ... did you realize how lucky you were at that time? ... maybe not, if you were back at it within days!

    I've heard of dune buggies, but not in Canada. Pretty neat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely realize it . . . now. Sigh. I think we survived mostly because of ignorance. You know the saying about fools and children?

      Delete
  2. Wow, I got some goosebumps there wondering if everybody was okay. I can't believe you got right back on another one! Brave! Reminds me of the go-cart my dad and brother built when I was a kid. It's amazing we never got seriously injured on that thing (in the days before helmets were required for just about everything too).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I so often look back and think, 'How did we survive?' AND without helmets or anything . . .

      Delete
  3. Who could pass up the chance to fly....on the ground?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh wow. Major wince when I read the part about the injuries!!

    The things we did as kids on the prairie/farm for fun, eh!? And you are so right....we just never seemed to learn. Or maybe we did, but showed it in other ways.

    Great story. I agree with Jenny. Did you realize how lucky you were? ; )

    Here I sit in a leg brace, after being hit by a truck two weeks ago, while out riding my bike here in the city. Leg broken in three places, knee all messed up, and other knee as well. I am looking to up to a year of surgeries, wheel chair life and hospitals. My very active life has come to a dead halt. Hard to take.....but it's given me time to think a LOT! I really didn't realize how lucky I have been up to this point. Almost 50 years and no broken bones. Now look at me. Crazy. ; S

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do realize how lucky I was . . . now.
      But oh, Lynn, I'm so sorry to hear about your accident! How horrifying! Oh, I do hope they can fix you! I will add you to my prayers . . .

      Delete
  5. Oh boy, I sure remember that one. I built the one that Dennis had. It didn't run very well for me but Dennis' dad was a much better mechanic. Had I kept it, I'm sure that Mom would've shot me to keep me from driving it. Those cars suddenly became grossly unsafe (but still fun).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, I can't imagine a better mechanic that you! They were grossly unsafe. But I guess the fact that we were completely ignorant of the that fact kept us safe . . .

      Delete

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