When my grandson was little, probably about three, he was on an errand with his other grandmother. They were stopped in traffic and a truck was in the lane next to them. “That truck’s been to the country,” the apple of our eye said. Other grandmother looked out the side window to see it was covered in red clay from the underbelly to almost the level of the windows.
To him, red clay meant the country. It still does. The last few days of July, I had quite an adventure in the country. It involved a lot of red clay.
I had gone to the country to take care of a little business and piddle with some honey-dos I’d been putting off for a while. My early departure from home didn’t happen. I got bogged down with last minute issues involving my current book. So, by the time I crossed Horse Creek bridge and turned onto County Road 41, it was late. I was anxious to get in and settle before nightfall, to crank down the air conditioner so the place would cool enough for sleep.
Usually I go the long way around. It’s paved for all but about a hundred yards from my front porch and, I have a white car. But, as I said, it was late. I wanted to be there already. After weeks of rain the car needed a good wash anyway, I reasoned.
Fifty yards in, I knew I was in trouble. The car slowed of its own volition as the tires became so caked in red mud they couldn’t get traction. As I tried to maneuver to the middle of the road, hence higher ground, the mud had different ideas. I was on a trajectory toward the ditch and the woods beyond. Flooring the gas pedal and turning the wheel to correct for my slide did no good. I came to a stop, tried to reverse. The result was a slide even closer to the ditch. There would be no rocking back and forth to break free.
What to do? Fortunately, I had noticed a vehicle at the lone house just after the turn onto County Road 41. The people who own the house don’t live there, they just visit back and forth from Louisiana to do a little gardening, and, I expect, enjoy the quiet of country life. They would be my salvation, I decided.
I turned on the blinkers and turned off the ignition, my car balancing on the very edge of the road and nosing the dense vegetation. When I opened the door to get out I realized my second problem. I was wearing flip flops. Now, that’s not an uncommon thing for me to do ten months out of the year. But as I surveyed the red clay beneath my open door, I knew they would become part of the roadbed if I stepped out in them.
Well, I’m a country girl and I confess that when I’m home and inside, I’m usually barefooted. So, I slipped off my flip flops and stepped ankle deep into the mud. I was wearing what a dear friend used to call high water britches, known as pedal pushers in my youth, and today called cropped pants.
I took my purse that contained my phone and locked the door, hazard lights flashing. My reasoning for taking the purse was that maybe I wouldn’t look so threatening if I arrived on a stranger’s doorsteps, barefooted, my feet caked in red mud, and pounded on their door. Who knows how my mind came to that conclusion. I guess I wasn’t thinking too rationally at that point.
The red clay sucked to my feet like a slug on the bowl of my water fountain. I kicked and scrubbed my feet against the grass of the neighbor’s yard to little avail. I found a twig and was able to pry a little of it from between my toes. In the end there was nothing for it except to walk across their front porch, muddy feet and all.
So, there I stood, knocking on their door, my nice designer handbag on my shoulder (yes, I confess, that is my weakness, lovely handbags), my high water britches, and my bare feet covered in mud up to my ankles.
Although I woke the lady of the house from her afternoon nap, she was very kind. She let me use her cell phone to call my brother. My cell phone doesn’t work up there. (No, Verizon, I can’t hear you now.) And, bless her heart, she never batted an eye at my attire.
Just as I got my sister-in-law on the phone, I heard a vehicle turn onto the dirt road and come to a stop, obviously blocked by either my car or the good sense not to attempt to go around it.
I hobbled back to road as quick as my bare feet and the red clay would permit to find none other than the county commissioner surveying the situation. I was informed that the road had just been graded and a new culvert put in to correct the issues the neighbor was having with access to his driveway. The commissioner tried to hook my car to the cattle catcher on the front of his truck with a chain he had but the hook wouldn’t fit. The rope he had in the bed of the truck was old and didn’t hold up to the weight of my car and the unrelenting grip of Marengo County red clay.
The neighbor came to help on his four-wheeler and about that time my brother and nephew arrived. My brother got behind the wheel, red clay caked boots and all, and the others pushed until we broke free. We pretty much hydroplaned until we reached my front porch for fear of settling once again into the roadbed.
My brother was quick to tease me as we waited for my nephew to follow behind us and pick him up. I’d lived away from the country too long, he said, I didn’t know how to drive on the dirt roads anymore. After a bit we started wondering where my nephew was. Finally, he pulled into the driveway. The county commissioner had gotten stuck in the same spot and they had had to pull him out of the mud with the Jeep.
Lessons learned. Follow your better judgment, and when you don’t, be sure no one has a camera to record the results. More importantly, don’t let anyone tease you that you don’t know what you’re doing. It may be true but all of us have lapses once in a while and we should be allowed to let them, like sleeping dogs, lie.