Dimon Kendrick-Holmes: Drunk driver gives family a 'hell house' experience

December 6, 2013 

It seems like a good idea at the time.

We've just spent Thanksgiving on my in-law's farm in the northwest corner of Tennessee. The weather's cold and crisp, the walks through the countryside long with spirited conversation, and for the big meal we've got boiled country ham alongside the turkey and dressing.

Now it's Friday night, and we've just eaten another good dinner that somehow doesn't involve a single leftover. That's when Bess and I decide to pile our family in the minivan and drive back home.

It will take 435 miles and about seven hours, which means we'll be pulling into Columbus around 3 o'clock in the morning.

Which will give us time to catch some shuteye and then unpack and run some errands before the Iron Bowl kicks off.

So we load up and head out, me behind the wheel. We follow U.S. 412 to Jackson, passing through Friendship and Maury and Alamo and Bells.

Then U.S. 45 through Pinson and Selmer and then into Mississippi. At a red light in Corinth, I switch places with my 15-year-old son so he can log some nighttime driving hours.

We roll along U.S. 72 into Alabama, then past Muscle Shoals, where Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, The Rolling Stones, Carrie Underwood and Bob Dylan all put down tracks.

In Cullman, I get a cup of coffee and take the wheel again for the home stretch. I'll be I-65 into Birmingham, then I-20, then U.S. 280 all the way to J.R. Allen.

Bess and the kids float into deep sleep. I listen to old country and classic rock and sports talk.

But it's not that easy. Outside Sylacauga, I find myself behind a young man in a big white pickup. I go to pass him and he swerves into my lane. I yell and Bess and the kids wake up.

Together we watch him veer to the right toward the guardrail, then adjust hard and wander into the left lane and then the grassy median, then adjusting hard to miss a road sign and sailing back to the right toward the guardrail.

Except this time there's a car parked on the shoulder. We scream. The punk in the truck swerves and misses.

We call 911 and give him some room. For more than 10 miles, he keeps weaving back and forth, one near miss after another.

It's like being in one of those hell houses that churches set up at Halloween to scare teens into living right. In this one, a drunk kid is driving his F150 at 80 miles an hour on cruise control, and we're going to watch him kill himself and probably a bunch of other people.

But when a red light appears in Alexander City, he somehow notices and stops and then blue lights swarm from all directions. It's over.

And it's a miracle. That word will be tossed around a lot in another 15 hours or so, but this really is one of them.

And I'm thankful my four children -- three of them teenagers -- get to see it.

I didn't have to add anything. The message is clear: For heaven's sake don't drink and drive, and be careful out there.

Contact Dimon Kendrick-Holmes, executive editor, at dkholmes@ledger-enquirer.com

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