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Monday, October 19, 2015

WHY I WEAR A SEATBELT

the donkey hay barn
 
A friend of mine hit a tree with his Chevy pickup dead center the front bumper at 70 mph without seatbelt. The motor was pushed back almost to the seat with transmission under the seat. The air bag knocked him out. He woke lying on the seat with the gear shift lever in his hand, separate from the transmission. Totally wrecked his truck and he survived without a scratch. Ever since then, he has been an advocate for not wearing a seatbelt. The wreck occurred when he was carrying in the back of the truck a big, heavy front-end loader for a tractor. He took off racing with a friend. In the excitement of the race, he forgot about the weight. He went around a curve, the front-end loader in the back fell over and radically changed the truck's center of gravity in an instant. The shift caused the right front tire to leave the road, which pulled the rest of the truck off the road into the locust that remained in place. He has not convinced me I don't need a seatbelt.
 
the donkey hay barn
 
I grew up in the 1950s when there were no seatbelts. I remember seeing car races on television where the drivers wore seatbelts. It seemed reasonable to me that we needed seatbelts in cars. A lot of times people drove as fast as on a nascar track then, and when they wrecked, bodies were slung like shrapnel from an exploding grenade. I never wanted to fly through the windshield face first, nor fly out a door that suddenly vanished. In high school, 1959, a guy a year ahead of me had graduated and, like high school graduates, friends tend to hang together during the first summer they're out of school. One night he with a carload of his buddies went to a bar where he had an altercation with the man working the bar who pulled a shotgun on him and told him to get out. He drove his 57 Plymouth with his friends in the car back to his house to pick up his shotgun and go back to create a problem. Drunk out of his mind, of course. In Wichita, Kansas, where all the roads are straight lines.
 
the donkey hay barn
 
He crossed a river bridge going over 100mph when he lost control and the car wrapped around a huge oak tree trunk just a few feet from the bedroom window of the people sleeping in the house nearby. Killed his friends. He was thrown from the wreckage. The driver's side door wrapped around his body and kept him safe as they flew, slid, bounced and rolled down the highway. He survived, but it wrecked his life utterly. I was dating his sister at the time and she filled me in on the details of the event. I knew a guy here in Alleghany who, several years ago, left the road in Glade Valley in a curve, too drunk to even stand up. The road on the left side had a bank that went almost straight down to a meadow with cattle. He went through a power pole twelve feet above the ground, breaking it in half, and woke up lying on the hood next to his 12 year old nephew, also on the hood. No seatbelts. Both survived without a scratch, though he lost his driver's license for life, and the car was totally destroyed. It was a good car too. I hated to see it die.
 
the donkey hay barn
 
I'm recalling my friend Jean who once made fun of me using a seatbelt when I told her I was not going to start the car until she fastened her belt. She said she didn't use a seatbelt. I told her you do now or we're not going. She said, "Are you afraid of dying?" Like it's unusual to fear death. I said it's not dying that's the problem. Chances are, if something happens, death will not be the outcome. I told her of a time I had to leave the road over somebody passing a line of cars in my lane. That's happened more than once. I said when you leave the road, it's bumpy, really bumpy. I don't want to be thrown all over the inside of the car, lose control and hit a tree. A seatbelt keeps me in place when something unforeseen happens. I want to be in place to avoid losing control. I think she got it. She wore one afterwards. Old man Tom Pruitt, who, by the way, cut the trees and built the barn in these pictures, also never wore a seatbelt, drove his pickup over meadows like it was the road. I used the belt to keep my head from getting bashed over and over by the truck's roof. It was soon after NC passed a law requiring seatbelts. Tom asked, "You use your belt on account of the law?" I said, "Yes," though I was considering the vertebrae in my neck. The law never entered my mind.
 
the donkey hay barn
photos by tj worthington
 
 
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