Uncle Hickory made a New Year's resolution. He swore he would quit drinking. He had been driving while he was drunk and had one of the biggest scares of his life. He claimed the angel of death had come for him. He was trembling as he told us about it.
He had been to a New Year's eve party, and the celebration was quite lively. There were many kinds of alcohol, and Uncle Hickory was hard pressed to find one he didn't like. He sampled all of them, from the lightest beer to the hardest vodka. Of course, he claimed he only had a little of each.
Once the old year had rolled away, and everyone had toasted the new one, it was time to head for home. Uncle Hickory wobbled his way to his car, feeling happy and light, hardly noticing the cold at all.
It had snowed heavily the previous two days, and, while they had been celebrating, the wind had kicked up, causing huge drifts. Uncle Hickory's old car plowed through the drifts, sliding back and forth as he went.
"Suddenly the road smoothed out," Uncle Hickory said, "and the car quit bucking and sliding. That was when it happened. I was traveling carefully along at about 30 miles per hour when I saw him approaching in my rear view mirror. He was floating toward me, all draped in black, closing the distance between us quickly."
Uncle Hickory shook visibly as he continued. "I knew who he was, and I knew he was coming for me. Even though it was slick and dangerous, I gunned the engine. I reached 50 miles per hour, then looked in my rear view mirror. The gap between us was still getting smaller."
Uncle Hickory took some deep breaths, trying to calm himself. "As he was almost on my bumper I put the pedal to the floor, rather to die from a wreck than to have that ghostly demon take me away. The speedometer climbed to 80 then to 90. I looked straight ahead, afraid to take my eyes off of the road. Finally, I glanced in my rear view mirror and no longer saw him. I felt a surge of relief flood over me when..."
Uncle Hickory paused, the blood draining from his face as the memory came back. We all leaned forward anxious for the rest of the story.
"Just at the moment I thought I'd lost him," he continued, "there was a knock on my window. I turned, and there he was right by my door. I looked at my speedometer, and it said I was going over 100 miles per hour, and still he stayed right there. I knew at that point I only had one chance."
"What?" we asked.
"What?" he responded. "I'll tell you what. I slammed on the brakes and then tore my way across the car and out the passenger side. I plowed through the snow and across the field, running for the light of a house I could see in the distance. I never looked back until I made it safely there. Once inside I looked over my shoulder, and he was gone."
A few days later, Bart, a friend of mine, stopped to visit with me. "By the way, how is your Uncle Hickory?"
"He's okay," I answered. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I was driving home New Year's day after working the night shift, and I saw his car off the road, stuck deep in a field. I got out to check on him, and the closer I got the harder he gunned his engine. When I got right up beside his car, I knocked on his window. When I did, he screamed and tore out the other side of his car and took off running across the field."
Bart paused, the concern showing in his face. "I tried to catch up to him, but I've never seen anyone run that fast, and I finally gave up. I just wanted to make sure he made it home safely."
"He did," I replied. "But if we keep this just between you and me, he just might stay sober."