The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Native Critter

By John Winfield Spangler © 1991

Issue: October, 1991

My oldest brother, Paul, had retired from the Army. He decided to move his family including wife Edith, children Faye and Danny, back to Roanoke from Northern Virginia. My brother David had agreed to drive the large U-Haul truck for him, and brother Jonathan and I rode up with Dave to lend a hand. It was the summer of 1972, shortly after I returned from Washington state.

On the way up we hit wet, foggy weather, which contained just enough drizzle to mess up the windshield, and require use of the windshield washer. After we turned off Interstate 81, toward D.C., Dave started laughing, and told us this story:

One of his previous jobs had been driving a tractor-trailer for Malone, and one day he was introduced to a new man. He was told to show him the best truck route into D.C., as the other man would be following him in another rig. Thus, they started north, and when they got to the area we were now in, the fog was terrible.

They weren't making as good a time as Dave had hoped, and he decided to pull off the road to visit with Mother Nature, when he could find a wide shoulder. He saw one, slowed some more and pulled off on the right side of the road. The new man pulled off on the left side, and the fog drifted in between the two rigs. A few minutes later the new man pulled out suddenly. His rig disappeared in the fog, to the sound of clashing and scraping gears.

"Where the heck does he think he's going?" Dave mumbled to himself. "He's supposed to be following me!"

About ten miles down the road he found his "pupil" at a truck stop. Due to the inclement weather, the place was well patronized by other drivers. The trainee had just pulled up his trouser legs to examine two badly barked (skinned) shins, when Dave arrived.

"What the heck was that all about?" Dave asked him.

"Didn't you see that thing?" The man demanded.

"What thing?" Dave said.

"Why THAT thing!" The man answered this time. "I was doing what I stopped to do, when I looked up and saw this giant head looking down at me out of the fog. I couldn't find the step, and dragged myself back into the cab by grabbing the steering wheel. That's how I skinned my shins."

The other drivers broke into howls of laughter; some even rolled around on the floor, holding their sides. One of them finally took time to tell him about the little theme park back up the road called "Dinosaur Land," where they had just happened to pull off. The new man seemed to resent the fact that everyone was laughing at him, and grew surly.

"What did you think it was?" he was asked.

"How the hell was I supposed to know what y'all might have running loose up here in these mountains?" He grunted. "I've never been out of the state of Alabama before in my life!"

Shortly after Dave finished telling the story, we passed "Dinosaur Land." The fog wasn't so bad here and we could see the huge man-made animals very well. One stood rather close to the road and was no doubt the one the truck driver had seen. I could understand the man's fright, and doubt that I would have stopped only ten miles away.