The Death Road
When LB’s daddy and I lived in our shack in Montezuma County, our landlords were these two dredlocked hippies. The dude was a Phish-loving, former Deadhead who was hiding out in Colorado under a fake name. His main squeeze was a blonde chick who inhereted the property from her brother after he was busted running a meth lab out of the house.
The property consisted of 3 dead trees, a dry pond, a broken dock, a clothsline, a main house and two cabins. The dude pretended to be a real caretaker for the property, while his girlfriend worked at the Absolute Bakery in Mancos. His handyman skills were less than exemplary, spending most of his day knocking back bottles of Captain Morgan and beer.
About 80% of the time, dude was a nice guy. He thought it was frickenHilarious that both of us had lived in Vermont and ended up in Colorado, and he thought my pregnant belly was “the essence of womanhood.” Besides the fact he was on the lam, hippie dude was pretty cool to a young couple who had only been screwed over by an endless line of beaurocratic landlords. But he would get ” bad feelings” about things, start twitching and act generally paranoid. He would also say things like “The highway from Mancos to Durango is the death road, man. I’m telling you, people DIE on it all the time.”
When I got into my 3rd car wreck while pregnant, I was driving home on the “death road.” It was about 11 pm, and I had just gotten off my shift as a delivery driver at Pizza Hut. Living in Colorado, you learn to deal with driving on dangerous roads. We may not have to worry about drive-by shootings, car jackings, or freeway driving, but “Acts of God” are a daily occurrence. Blizzards, mountain passes, hail, wildfire, deer, bear, and elk are probably something that every driver in Colorado has experienced while on the road.
I drove my car for a living, so I wasn’t what you would call a “meek” driver. I had driven my car from New Orleans to Los Angeles in the last year, so I was practically at home in the front seat, my pregnant belly snug behind the wheel. Sadly, my carefree days of driving were about to be over.
A few minutes later I was spitting glass, blood and animal hair out of my mouth. The windshield had shattered, and one of the elk’s ears had landed in my backseat. Some drivers had stopped and called 911, so I sat on the side of the road and cried my little pregnant eyes out until the ambulance came.
It took me a long time to feel comfortable driving that 35 miles of highway again. Luckily my car was totalled, so I didn’t have to force myself to get behind the wheel any time soon. As for my landlord, he eventually turned himself into the police after he got drunk and pulled a gun on someone at a party they were throwing. I always think about his words though. The Death Highway.
Recently, a kid who was in my little sister’s 6th grade class was killed in a motorcycle accident. Seems like there is an accident-related death almost every weekend in La Plata County, whether it be on the road or someone hiking in the back country. Just makes you that more humble and thankful for the life you get to experience everyday. Those hippie words still ring in my ears sometimes.