Ah, heck, Halloween’s coming. I think I’ll toss out a ghost story and call it good….
In the neck of the woods where I grew up is a hill known as Breakneck. In the horse-and-wagon days it earned that name because the road carved into its steep slope could be treacherous. A tomato-canning factory operated at the bottom, and it was said the horses sometimes fell and broke their necks when laden wagons pushed too hard on them.
Places where trouble (and maybe tomatoes) tends to brew will inspire a few stories … none of them particularly pleasant. Even after the factory shut down and automobiles began replacing equestrian roving, Breakneck’s reputation didn’t fade.
One night a fellow drove his Model T Ford (or its equivalent) down Breakneck hill. Well, almost….
His horseless carriage got a flat tire. Now this was on a dirt road in the early 1900s, but dirt is an imprecise description. The Ozark hills are eroded mountains, so we’ve got plenty of rocks, one of which might have been the culprit that caused the flat.
And in those days you didn’t just swap the flat tire out with a spare. You removed the inner tube from the outer tread of the damaged tire, aired up a new tube with a manual pump, and put the whole caboodle back together again.
Our hapless motorist was in the middle of pumping air into the tube when another gentleman walked past him. This in itself was a bit startling, since he thought he was all alone. As he looked up, the gentleman calmly told him, “Good evening.”
But there was something very wrong with this gentleman.
He was holding his head in his hands. No, his hands weren’t raised to cradle his cranium. Instead, he was toting his noggin at waist level, much like carrying the biggest tomato you ever saw.
The gentleman continued trudging past and disappeared into the night….
I was never told the details about what speed our traveler employed, but he proceeded to pack the tube, the pump, the tire and the jack back into his car. He then drove home on the rim. Not the scariest ghost story you’ve ever read, but odds are the next time you get a flat tire during the night on some quiet back road, this gentleman, or a tomato, just might come rolling out from the back of your memory … so Happy Halloween!