Monday, October 1, 2012
The Vanishing Man by Paty Jager
He also would umpire the Babe Ruth tournament in Milton-Freewater, Oregon every summer. As each one of my siblings and I became old enough to drive, he'd take us along. He'd drive over, umpire all day, and we'd drive him home. It was a two hour drive through a mountain pass. But it was the end of summer and the only unsavory conditions would be rain.
The summer it was my turn to drive, I rode over with Louie, sat reading a book while he worked all day at the tournament, and then I slid under the steering wheel to drive home when the game was over. Louie tossed his gear in the back of his hatchback, eased his bulk down into the passenger seat, and asked me to hand him is spit can. He was a true cowboy. He chewed tobacco and everything he owned, car, trailer, clothes, even his horse and dog smelled like the sweet stench of chewing tobacco, so just sitting in one of his vehicles with a can full of spit was enough to gag a person, but we endured because he was fun to be around.
We left Milton-Freewater after dark. Before I even turned on the road that took us over the mountain pass, Louie was snoring in the passenger seat. I was buzzing along(I'm noted as being the lead foot of the family) when I drove into dense fog. A man shuffled across the road. His clothes were torn, his hair long and shaggy. Before I could hit the brakes, I drove through him. My heart pound in my chest and boomed in my ears as I pushed on the brakes.
Louie stirred. "What was it a deer?"
I swallowed and said, "Yeah." How was I to explain I saw/hit a man that disappeared. I slowly picked up speed and stared in the rear-view mirror. The more I tried to visualize the man, I realized he had been colorless, gray, with a light shining around his form.
Years later as I researched the Whitman Massacre, a chill ran up my spine and I have often wondered, could he have been one of the men killed during that ill-fated altercation?