Saturday, May 28, 2011


I cannot bring myself to compose a complete personal history, so the next best thing might be to tell stories from my past. Some personal histories are so dry! I hope this will be a litt-a-bit easier to read.

During the late spring of 1959, I found myself running around at 6:30 or 7:00 a.m., getting ready for school in Monticello, Utah, 55 miles away. We were acting a bit crazy, as the school year was almost over. I can't for the life of me remember why I was tearing around with Frank Long at that outlandish hour when he was not in school.
Maybe he had just gotten off graveyard shift at one of the mines.I guess he was lonely. He had graduated a year earlier from some high school in central Utah. I didn't know him too well. He had stories to tell. He had tossed up an outlandish hook shot from midcourt at the buzzer to win a game for (Salina?)High.

Jay Lish, Jim McTaggart, Ralph Ramstetter,Jimmy Dennison and I were planning to run to school that day in Jay's old '48 Plymouth. (Later owned by Eddie Burton.) Frank said, "ride with me at least as far as La Sal Junction." I thought about it and said, "naw, if I did that I would (A) have to wait for them at the junction, or (B) not get a front seat." I really don't remember why I bailed out of Frank's car.

We headed out while the school bus was loading up with high schoolers. Jay was a speedy guy, but I don't remember us being in a hurry. Jay looked in his rear view mirror and shouted, "here comes Frank". That Plymouth was no slouch, but Frank was in a '51 Mercury. We stepped on it. We were soon doing 80 or 90 miles per hour, just short of the turnoff to the mining district where most of us lived. Frank must have been doing 110 or even 120 as he started around us. That Mercury was a piece of work. It was faasst.

His left wheels just barely got off the pavement. At a lower speed this would have been no problem. But he couldn't correct. He went into the barrow pit (who coined that silly phrase, "barrow pit" anyway?) He slammed into the berm (another silly word) containing the turnoff.He went airborne for a bit, then landed on the highway not more than 15 feet in front of us. But he was sideways to us. I saw - for an instant - the panic on his face. Then, he was gone in a cloud of dust.

It took 200, maybe 300 feet to stop. We went running. It must have been a windless day, because we ran into the cloud of dust, unable to see anything. We found the demolished Merc. No one knows how many times it rolled, but it ended up on its wheels. We couldn't find Frank. I was afraid he might be under the car. We could never have rolled that big monster over onto its side. We went running around, screaming, "Frank". Someone said "he's over here". He had been crushed by the car.

He was breathing, but he had an ominous pink fluid on his lips. (Sorry for being a bit graphic, but you knew this was coming.) He soon stopped breathing. The school bus came by. The driver jumped out to see if he could help. He jumped back into the bus to get the kids away from that gruesome sight.

Carloads of miners came by, heading for work, all of them jumping out to try to help, then sadly moving on. We stood there in silence. I couldn't help noticing the perfect clear blue sky. Frank's brother and grandmother soon arrived from the trailer court where they all lived. Seeing Grandma's face was a terrible moment.

After surveying the scene, the brother, (Jack?) (My memory fails) went over and sat on the running board of his old pickup truck. After a while he had some words for us. But not many. He clenched his fist and said "if I ever catch any of you speeding, I'm gonna....".

It took two hours for a Highway Patrolman to arrive. I knew the local fuzz, but I cannot remember whether it was Claude Lacy Or another guy. Ahh, my wonderful memory. I'm glad I am getting this all down. My friends would now all say, "no, it happened this way, or this way" but I haven't seen any of them in fifty years. The Patrolman sent us on our way. We wanted to stay and help get Frank into an ambulance or hearse, but we followed instructions.

As we walked into the high school at about noon, we told the principal that we had to go to the Highway Patrol office to file reports. Principal Burr told us to report and then take the rest of the day off. All the way down to the office, we worked frantically to make sure our stories jibed, I.E.,"Oh no, we weren't speeding. Oh, no, Frank wasn't speeding". We were interviewed separately. None of us were sentenced to 20 years for lying. The cops weren't dumb. They were just not interested in prying the truth out of us. Or maybe someone TOLD the truth, satisfying the interrogator.


Brian said...

Wow, that's horrific.

Redhoodoos said...

I'm so glad you're getting these memories written down. I can't believe some of the stories I learn about your life. Love reading them. Sorry this happened to you and I'm so glad you didn't get into his car.

Utah Tourist said...

EEKKK... thats a story to tell in a junior high assembly. Pre-Teen
soon to be drivers !