Every November at this time I inevitably pause from some activity and recall the events that took place in Freeport, Texas, in 1969.
It all started when I had just entered my first year in college. Many of my classmates from High School had joined me at what we thought would be the beginning of the best time of our lives. I had already established my daily routine of classes, meetings and above all the social endeavors that enter into the lifestyle of campus life.
The person who always seemed to be by my side, during every significant event of my life, was my childhood friend. We had been through 12 years of school together, involved in sports, and helped each other through the troubled times of our youth. What can I say, this was my best friend and we both knew how improbable it would seem to be without that companionship.
Charlie had suffered through the separation of her parents at the age of 12. She had the most dynamic personality and face of any woman that I think I will ever know, and yet, with all of her charm all she had ever been was my best friend.
It was the weekend after Thanksgiving that Charlie called and asked if she could return to school with me when she finished her visit with her mother. I gladly said yes, because it was such a long boring drive I thought that it would be pleasant to have the company.
It was about 5:00 PM on Saturday that I picked her up and started the journey back to school. The trip normally took 6 hours to drive. The whole day had consisted of typical dreary fall weather, with occasional light rain. We were snug and warm as we travelled in my car that had just spent a whole week in the hands of the local mechanic.
We had driven about 2 hours when suddenly I realized that the usually talkative Charlie had not spoken once since we started. As I glanced over I saw that she was asleep, and a second look revealed that she had been crying.
I continued to drive, but with every mile that passed my concern and curiosity grew.
We had just started a 30 mile stretch of barren road which I dreaded the most. It was dark now and as we wove through this remote wasteland, away from the lights of the city, I hoped this would be my last time to drive this route.
Out of the darkness there appeared the eerie red glow of eyes in the roadway as the image of a huge mass emerged under the glare of my headlights.
As I drew closer, it was obvious that the enormous object was not moving. It was a mammoth beast, frozen in its tracks, just as I sat momentarily frozen and unable to move. Neither of us was prepared for this unexpected encounter.
A moment later, I whirled the steering wheel and as the car swerved to dodge the animal, it turned and lurched directly into my path. At that point, I could see the outline of the beast and gauge the enormity of his size. It was a large black angus bull, at least as big as my car.
Before my foot could apply the brakes I felt the smashing impact between the car and the animal. The sensation lasted a split second, but every retrospect of it seems to have been much longer than that.
I woke up nauseated and with a numbness in my arms. As I lay there, I felt the wet warmth of blood oozing down my face amid the fragments of glass.
As realization of what had taken place sunk into my mind, so had the fear of the unknown.
The car was sitting upright but seemed much smaller than before. I tried to open the door, but as I reached for the door latch, the numbness I had felt earlier in my arms turned into severe pain. My arms were broken.
The door was partially open so after several hard kicks, it swung open. Once out of the car I managed to stand up, and turned to find Charlie.
The interior light had begun to shine when the door was opened but would flicker off and on. As I peered into the tangled debris of clothing, books and the car interior it revealed no signs of my companion.
The night seemed to be darker than I had remembered. The only sign of light was the continuing flicker of the car’s interior.
I knew that I needed to find Charlie. As I began to walk through the darkness of the night, my thoughts were only if I could see – if I could just see.
I travelled about a hundred feet when suddenly I stumbled and fell. The impact was softened as my body fell across the beast. It was wet and hairy, but before I could get off I could feel the body’s mass as it faintly rose and fell. Whatever it was it was big and breathing. The sudden aroma of cow dung, convinced me of its identity. As I lay there contemplating the outcome of this horrible series of events, I realized how vulnerable life really was.
I must have passed out, but when I awoke I found myself in a hospital. There was a nurse standing at my bed and she began to tell me how fortunate I was to be alive.
I tried to ask her about Charlie but she avoided my questions and replied sharply, “You just rest.” In a minute she returned with a doctor who proceeded to tell me of my physical condition. He even had the nerve to laugh and tell me of the number of good T-bone steaks that I had left lying there in the road.
In a minute my parents entered the room. They had a very sober look on their faces, one that I had never seen before. Mother started to cry, and Dad simply walked to the side of the bed and told me how much he loved me. Why did it seem that everyone was avoiding the one thing I wanted to know?
It’s been nearly twenty years since that night. The injuries and scars have healed but the thoughts and memories of Charlie will be a part of me until I die.
I found out after the accident why Charlie had been crying. She had told her mother that she wanted to tell me of her true feelings toward me. She had wanted to share her life with mine. So she did.