A Rain Slick Mountain Road Accident and a Ghost That Saved Me
The picture above shows the way highway 40 between Paintsville and Williamsport, Kentucky, looks today. You are looking at the Williamsport base of "Two Mile Hill," which is a steep curving two-mile stretch of an eastern Kentucky mountain road.
On a drizzly Sunday morning in 1961, I was driving alone down that slick country road to visit a girl friend. I was driving my Father's new Volkswagen beetle and wasn't completely familiar with how it handled. Coming around that curve, I ran off the road to the right against the side of the mountain, gunned the car to get out of the ditch, slid across the road on muddy tires and plunged off the cliff to the left. This was in the early 60's and the guardrail was not there yet.
The car rolled down the hill, hit a rock outcropping, and went airborne for about 50 feet and landed tires down in a small creek at the bottom of the ravine.
I got out and checked everything. I had a lot of small cuts from broken glass but I could still move everything. I realized that getting up the hill to the road was going to be difficult. The scene looks about the same today as in '61 except there were no cell phones, EMS, 911, houses close by, or even any traffic on the road.
I reached down to grab a tree sapling to help me up the cliff and something wet poured down my face. I wiped it away and realized it was blood. I reached to the top of my head and could feel my skull. The collision with the rock had thrown me forward on the car's rear view mirror and lifted my scalp which was hanging down the back of my neck. I pulled the flap back in place, wiped the blood on my pants and tried again to get up the cliff.
I turned my head to the right to keep blood from covering my eyes and saw something I had never been able to see in all my trips down that road. It was a small frame house sitting off the road at the end of a small dirt driveway. It was only visible from where I was in the gully. I saw movement through the blood covering my eyes and realized a man was sitting on the edge of the small porch and smoking a cigarette. He stood up and moved toward an old car that was in the dirt driveway. It was a nondescript car that looked to be from the late 1940's.
As I tried to pull myself up the embankment, his car suddenly appeared on the side of the road directly above me. Evidently he had backed out of the driveway and down the main road. He rolled down the passenger side window and leaned out to say, "If you can get up here, I'll take you to town to the hospital". He didn't offer any other help.
I did make it up the cliff and climbed in the car. He was about 40 years old, thin and wearing a tan shirt, slacks and a fedora. As he started the 20-minute drive to town he said, "You are losing a lot of blood. I saw this in the war, and if you don't stop the bleeding you'll die. Take my jacket and hold it over your head and press down hard". That's all he said on our drive until we got to an intersection at the city limits. He obviously knew his way around because he asked, "Which hospital do you want to go to?" I told him the Clinic because my mother had worked there. He knew exactly how to get there and pulled up in front and said, "I can't get out of the car, can you make it in OK?" I told him I thought I could, gave back the jacket; and as I left his car, he pulled away.
I don't remember much else except I did make it in and got 55 stitches across my scalp and spent a few days in the hospital including receiving quite a bit of blood.
This is where it starts to get weird. When I got home from the hospital my Dad suggested we go back to the wreck scene and give the guy a few bucks since I had probably bled all over his car. The house was not visible from the road but we found the little dirt drive that led off the main road. We pulled off but couldn't drive down the driveway because it was grown up with months of weeds. We walked up to the house which looked like it had not been occupied for years. There was no sign of life at all. No footprints in the mud, no cigarette butts or anything.
This is where the story ends. Over the past 60 years I have tried to decide what really happened that day. Why couldn't the guy get out of his car? What was he doing at that abandoned house just at the right time? If I saw his car parked in the driveway, how did weeds grown up there in just a few days? Why did a person who knew how to stop my bleeding just happen to be where I needed him? Since no one in the area of the wreck knew who this fellow was, why was he there?
Several people to whom I have told this story have suggested answers. Maybe he couldn't get out of the car because he was wanted by the police. Maybe he was just passing through and stopping to rest and maybe relieve himself (not an uncommon practice because there were no gas stations or any store open for many miles). Maybe he couldn't get out of the car because he was crippled although he didn't seem to have any trouble using a standard shift. Maybe I just thought the car was in the driveway because I had a pretty serious head injury.
I do know for sure that without this angel or ghost or whoever he was, I would not be here to write this story.