“I know a short cut!” my Dad would shout in triumph.
And the rest of the carload – Mom, two brothers, one sister, and me – would, in unison, tremble and shudder. A short cut meant only one thing: Dad was lost and we were doomed.
We frequently went for “Sunday drives” with Mom packing a loaf of bread and peanut butter. Off we would go in the family station wagon, over hill and dale, paved highway traversed by thousands of cars or rocky road never seen by man or machine in centuries. It didn’t matter – it was a short cut.
I remember once traveling up a road that could scarcely be defined as a legal mode of transportation, narrow, barely wide enough for the family wagon. Traversing up and up and zigzagging and back ending and tail whipping to the highest reaches of the earth, the car lumbering and laboring like a breathless elephant, suddenly Dad would decide this wasn’t a road at all and then proceed to back down with the sheer drop to the earth far, far below and a rock face spearing the sky on the other side. Dad would steer the monster behemoth car precariously close to the edge. We’d hold our collective breath, clamp our eyes tight shut, and PRAY!
Twice, we went on “short cuts” through uninhabited frontier and ended up in gullies, formed from some recent flash flooding, so that the “road” disappeared into a black, inky, gooey muddy mire that Dad would bravely plow through because he knew it was only a minor detail – until – well, the wheels stopped turning because they were essentially enveloped in a cement like gunk. We’d all get out and push the car while Dad steered. One of those muddy abysses was at least a mile long surrounded by watery swamps on either side tempting the car as Dad fishtailed, zigged, and zagged and finally landed on firm soil.
Many road trips later, I grew up, moved out, had a couple children, and teamed up with my Significant Other. When the boys were about 10 and 11, Lovey decided he wanted to go for a Sunday drive and look for grouse. We traveled towards Chewelah, all the time he is telling us tales of his grouse hunts with his dad, when he veers the car left to a side road, while exclaiming, “I know a short cut!”
Déjà vu set in. I shuddered. Closed my eyes tight. And PRAYED. We were even in an old classic Dodge station wagon, a big black hulking thing. The road started out paved, then turned to gravel, then turned to a wagon train trail, with grass growing knee-high up the middle of the “road.” And then pretty soon it was only a couple of trails, leading up, up, up into the clouds, the proverbial drop off cliff on MY side, the road getting, if possible, NARROWER, still going up, when we reach a “bump” in the road which made you feel like you were going to launch into outer space – where you couldn’t see where you were going to “land.” And the road immediately started to go down, bumpy and jarring – huge boulders in the way – we jumbled and dumbled our way down when we finally came out onto a forest road that branched in two different directions. Lovey took the left route and we ended up on a highway outside of Ford, Washington.
We found no grouse in this little adventure – however, when we reached the highway (alive), the forest road had a sign: “Grouse Trail Road.”
And that’s my last “short cut.”